Since time without beginning, throughout our whole series of lives in cyclic existence, we ordinary beings have been accumulating the two kinds of obscuration, along with habitual tendencies, and we now have a great many of them in our stream of being.
Because of them, the path to liberation and omniscience is obstructed, and, in particular, during the main practice, experiences and the wisdom of realization are prevented from forming properly in our minds.
These interruptions and obstacles are the result of our past negative actions and downfalls related to vows. Furthermore, it is said that from breaking the Secret Mantra Vehicle commitments, many unpleasant things will happen to us in this life, we will meet with obstacles on the path, and we will go directly to the Diamond Hell, as we read in the tantras:
The diamond ogre will suck the blood from your heart,
You’ll have a short life, with much illness, the loss of your wealth, and fear of enemies;
And in the truly horrendous Hell of Ultimate Torment,
For ages you’ll endure the most unbearable pain.
So because of the enormous benefits and risks involved, should the slightest breach occur, it must be parted from immediately.
Actions motivated by the three poisons comprise (1) mental actions (which are not given physical or verbal expression directly), and (2) physical and (3) verbal actions (which are actually expressed).
For all actions, though, it is the thought that comes first. As it is said,
Because it makes the world go dark,
Mind is the root of the poisons.
All through our beginningless series of lives, we have unknowingly and imperceptibly gathered a mountainous burden of negative actions and downfalls, including the different kinds of negative actions described earlier in the chapter on cause and effect, the host of faults and downfalls that we have committed in transgressing the three kinds of vow [the vows of individual liberation, Bodhisattva precepts, and Mantra-Vehicle commitments], deeds and downfalls we have induced others to do, those we have rejoiced at and praised, and so on.
Added to all these are the negative actions and obscurations we have accumulated in this present life on account of most of our thoughts and deeds being exclusively influenced by the three poisons. Thus it has come about that we have never managed to escape from the sufferings of cyclic existence.
Now, if we keep these faults secretly hidden away, the seed of the negative actions will combine with the water and manure of deceit, and they will grow bigger and bigger.
But if we recognize them as faults and without hiding them, we declare them to someone else, they will cease to grow and will become weaker. This is what we call “sealing the action with the truth” [because of the truth, the action is finished with].
Negative actions can be purified by intensely regretting and parting from them, and if we are diligent in this, we will have no difficulty in purifying our negative actions and downfalls completely.
Such purification entails, on the one hand, an acknowledgment (“I have committed such-and-such a fault”) and, on the other hand, a parting, with our minds in a state of longing caused by intense regret.
Full of wonder and respect for those who do not have such faults, and ashamed and disheartened by the faults you have committed, declare them sincerely, praying from the depth of your heart, “Look on me with your compassion and purify these actions.” All this is what is meant by “parting.”
If you part from them with heartfelt regret, there are no actions that cannot be purified by virtue of the essential fact that they are without intrinsic existence. As we find in the sutras,
He who did, for many kalpas long,
The greatest and most terrible evil deeds,
Will, by parting fully from them once,
Be cleansed of every single one.
And in Letter to a Friend: Those who formerly were careless
But then took heed are full of beauty,
As is the moon emerging from the clouds,
Like Nanda, Angulimala, Darshaka, and Udayana. [By regretting and changing their ways, they were each able to attain a high level of realization.]
The Method for Purifying Negative Actions
We read in the Sutra of the Teaching on the Four Powers:
Maitreya, if a Bodhisattva possesses four powers, all the negative deeds he has gathered will be completely overwhelmed. What are these four? They are (1) regret, (2) action as an antidote, (3) the power of restoration, and (4) the power of the support.
Accordingly, to part from negative actions one must have all four powers. When they are all present, even a heap of negative actions as high as Mount Meru will be purified by parting from them genuinely once.
The Power of the Support
While the Three Jewels, the Three Roots, and all the infinite Buddhas are certainly the best support in general, here the particular support is he who is praised as the Teacher Vajrasattva [refers to Vajrasattva inseparable from one’s root teacher].
On the absolute level, the Bhagavan Glorious Vajrasattva is the great embodiment of the infinite adornments – the body, speech, mind, qualities, and inexhaustible activities – of all the Buddhas of the past, present, and future; he is the perfect essence of the single family of the Great Secret.
On the relative level, when he first aroused the supreme bodhichitta, he made the following prayer: “Simply from hearing my name, may beings who have committed crimes with immediate retribution and those who would fall into the Great Diamond Hell as a result of their Mantra Vehicle commitments having become deteriorated, broken, disintegrated, and torn apart be immediately purified of their negative actions and obscurations. May I remain in the midst of those wrongdoers and, dispelling all their obscurations, bring them to the highest liberation.”
The strength of this pledge was such that he instantly purifies the greatest negative actions and downfalls, even those that are extremely difficult to purify.
His very essence, his mantra, is known as the Hundred Syllables of the Tathagatas. By changing a few of the names, it becomes the hundred syllables of infinite deities, such as the Heruka mantra, and Vajrasattva is therefore praised in numerous tantras and transmissional texts as the Great All-Pervading Lord of all the Buddha families, both with regard to the deities and the mantras.
He is the supreme heart essence, the treasure that all who have entered the Mantra Vehicle and follow the pith instructions hold in common.
This, then, is the power of the support – to visualize the Teacher Vajrasattva truly present, to take refuge in him with one-pointed respect, and, never forsaking bodhichitta, to reflect on the meaning of the mantra.
The Power of Action as an Antidote
This entails performing positive actions as antidotes to negative ones. In this case, it refers to the essential points of visualizing the deity, reciting the mantra, concentrating on the negative actions and obscurations being washed away, and so on.
The Power of Regret
This is to give rise to intense remorse for the negative actions one has performed in the past – as if one had taken poison.
The Power of Restoration or Resolution
This is the firm resolution to refrain from negative actions in the future, even if one’s life is at stake.
Source: Based on Rinpoche, Dudjom. A Torch Lighting the Way to Freedom (pp. 203-204). Shambhala. Kindle Edition.by