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Authentic faces: Reflections on purification

Saccanama has heard Vajrasattva’s bell calling him to understand his personal innate purity, and is on a return journey to reconnect together with his personal stainless nature.

At first of the Purgatorio, the second nice canticle of Dante’s Divine Comedy, Dante and Virgil emerge from the darkness of the Inferno to see “the tender tint of orient sapphire.” It’s daybreak, and Venus, “the stunning planet kindling love in man,” lights up the japanese sky. To the West lie the 4 stars of the 4 cardinal virtues. As they
proceed in direction of the mountain they’re to climb on their pilgrimage, the 2 males cease:

Once we had reached a spot the place the cool shade
allowed the dew to linger on the slope,
resisting some time longer the solar’s rays,

my grasp positioned each of his widespread fingers
gently upon the tender grass, and I,
who understood what his intention was,

provided my tear-stained face to him, and he
made my face clear, restoring its true coloration.
as soon as buried beneath the grime of Hell.
(translated by Mark Musa)

After they attain the shore, Virgil plucks a reed with which to gird his pilgrim and one other springs up instantly as an alternative.

For anybody who has learn the Inferno, or certainly suffered their very own “torments of hell,” these photos are a reduction. They evoke the expertise of rising from nice struggling. Daybreak, the washing of Dante’s grime-stained face within the early-morning dew, and the re-growth of the pilgrim’s reed set the tone for the subsequent part of Dante’s nice journey. For me they’re additionally a western counterpart to the meditation on Vajrasattva, which like Dante’s epic, enacts a journey of purification.


My reference to Vajrasattva goes again to a time after I was staying at Guhyaloka, a mountain retreat heart in Spain the place I used to be getting ready for ordination into the Western Buddhist Order (now the Triratna Buddhist Order). A part of the retreat centered on confession of breaches of the Buddhist moral precepts. We spent our evenings reciting the chapter on confession within the Sutra of Golden Mild and burning our confessions in entrance of the shrine, normally amongst aromatic cuttings of juniper bush. Such confession is a method of purification by which we will free ourselves of the affect of greed, hatred and unawareness, which obscure our true nature.

Might the Buddhas watch over me
With minds attentive.
Might they forgive my faults
With minds given over to compassion.
On account of the evil carried out by me beforehand,
Even in a whole lot of eons,
I’ve a troubled thoughts,
Oppressed with wretchedness, hassle and worry.
With an sad thoughts,
I regularly worry evil acts.
Wherever I’m going
There is no such thing as a enjoyment for
me wherever.

I confess all of the evil beforehand carried out by me.
And I confess all my current evil.
For the longer term,
I undertake to retrain
From all acts evilly carried out.
(‘Sutra of Golden Mild’, trans. RE Emmerick)

We additionally chanted the 100-syllable mantra of Vajrasattva, and this took the expertise of purification on to a deeper stage. I had been ailing earlier than I arrived within the mountains however, following this era of purification, my well being deteriorated additional and my thoughts was assailed by unresolved points from my previous. But, by these difficulties, Vajrasattva appeared to preside over the valley, trying down on me with compassion, one way or the other guaranteeing a return to peace and purity if I may place my belief in him.

  Within the picture of Vajrasattva, Buddhism teaches that an unique, undefiled purity resides inside our minds.   

Vajrasattva is alleged to have a bond with all beings that connects us all to a state of beginningless, unique purity. Certainly, Vajrasattva — the pure-white, 16-year-old prince, sitting on a pure-white lotus made of sunshine — is a picture of our personal purity. Within the picture of Vajrasattva, Buddhism teaches that an unique, undefiled purity resides inside our minds.

One thing in us stays untouched by our unethical actions as a result of it has not entered the world of time and area, with its inevitable compromises and limitations. This undefiled important nature is symbolized by the vajra, the diamond thunderbolt of actuality, which resolves all opposites — particularly the opposition of the unenlightened and the Enlightened thoughts.

Deep inside us is one thing as clear as diamond and as highly effective as thunder. The vajra can be the essence of Vajrasattva, whose title means ‘the diamond-being’, and in his proper hand, near his coronary heart, the younger prince holds a golden vajra. Our personal nature, just like the vajra, can be non-dual.

To ponder Vajrasattva, then, is to hunt to understand this undefiled nature and return to a pure, immaculate state. However we should first hear the decision of that state and so the prince holds a silver vajra-bell in his left hand that rings to awaken us from our slumber.

I’ve heard that bell a number of instances in my life. I heard it at Guhyaloka within the shrine room with the burning juniper and the sound of the Vajrasattva mantra operating by my thoughts. Earlier than that, not lengthy after I had fallen ailing, I had dreamed I used to be bitten by a toxic snake and was mendacity in mattress in a pure white therapeutic room. Sunshine streamed by the home windows and a person and girl have been taking care of me. Though my life had been at risk, there was an environment of security and rejuvenation within the dream, which mirrored the approaching months of my life as I recovered from my sickness. Vajrasattva was there within the whiteness of the room.

  One thing in us stays untouched by our unethical actions as a result of it has not entered the world of time and area…   

I additionally heard the bell in an growing consciousness of my very own lack of wholeness. There appeared no depth or which means to my life and I felt alienated from all that was good. I used to be struck by the perennial Buddhist story of creating a return journey. Within the White Lotus Sutra a younger prince who had been banished from his homeland slowly comes to understand that he’s misplaced and, with assist from his father, returns to his nation and his royal heritage. In some ways, that is the underlying fantasy of Vajrasattva — the sense of creating a return journey to find the pure nature that lies deep inside us.

This fantasy is enacted within the mantra of Vajrasattva. Certainly, the mantra tells the story of the return journey in concise type, beginning with the bond that already exists between Vajrasattva and oneself. It praises him because the defender of mankind and the guarantor of our true nature, who stands beside us with a deep love for who we actually are. As we understand Vajrasattva’s presence, we draw nearer to him, purifying ourselves; and we start to understand that we’ve by no means really been defiled. A terrific shout of pleasure erupts from inside. We’re free. Worry and evil are banished and Buddhahood is ours.

Om! Bond of the Adamantine Being.
Protector of my important nature.
Might your unshakable knowledge be my surety,
Your diamond nature ever stand on the seat of my being.
Be robust for me in instances of battle and self-doubt.
Let me understand the enjoyment of effort directed with a pure motive.
Let me understand the bliss of your unstained nature, which is not any nature.
Let me understand nice love which flows all through the universe
Let auspiciousness attend all I do.
Let your good nature come up spontaneously inside me.
Let there be no considered separation or impurity.
Let the chain of previous ideas be damaged perpetually.
Let my thoughts understand directly its good beginningless purity.
The laughter of the unchained thoughts echoes perpetually.
The whole lot is blessed with Buddha-mind.
Liberate me. O you diamond-centered and jewel-adorned.
Embody me, O you who’re past all area and time.
Imagine in my honest efforts
Destroy all doubt.
Dispel all ignorance and darkness together with your diamond-centered mild.
O Nice Hero of the common bond, let all worry be destroyed

(The 100-syllable Vajrasattva mantra, a free rendition by Dharmachari Ananda)

The return journey can be the sample of Dante’s Divine Comedy. The three nice canticles of the Comedy symbolize the three principal phases of that journey. Firstly, as Dante awakens to seek out himself misplaced in a darkish wooden, there’s the attention of fragmentation and alienation and all of the dreadful penalties of such a state. Secondly, rising from Hell on to the slopes of Mount Purgatory, there’s the journey to the Backyard of Earthly Delights, in the midst of which the pilgrim is progressively purified. Lastly, in an ascent by the heavens, there’s the fruit of purification, a deepening unification with one’s true nature in ever better visionary expertise and bliss. We might be alienated from our purest nature and act with growing unskillfulness, or we will transfer in direction of it, purifying our minds of defilement. We are able to in the end develop into united with it.

  Vajrasattva is alleged to have a bond with all beings that connects us all to a state of beginningless, unique purity.   

The decision to purity has additionally come to me by faces. I noticed one such face on the coronary heart of Roman Catholicism, though its educating of unique sin is the antithesis of the Buddhist educating of unique purity. Amid all of the grandeur and triumphalism of St Peter’s Cathedral within the Vatican, there’s a statue by Michelangelo: the Pieta. A life-size Madonna holds the physique of the lifeless Christ in her arms, her face conveying a way of utmost love and sweetness. Taking a look at that face and realizing my very own makes an attempt to visualise the face of Vajrasattva, I felt that Michelangelo had possessed a imaginative and prescient of purity far past my very own. I turned away as tears welled up in my eyes.

An previous Zen koan asks: ‘What’s your unique face?’ There is no such thing as a proper reply to this query – that’s the level of a koan. However a method of answering it is likely to be to look by the love and sweetness within the face of Michelangelo’s Virgin to Vajrasattva’s face. We would additionally look to Virgil, standing on the shores of Mount Purgatory, washing the tears and dirt of the woe-filled world from Dante’s face, and restoring its true coloration with the early morning dew.

Contact with Vajrasattva can have this impact, too: restoring our magnificence, making us pure and serving to us to know our personal true nature. With this imaginative and prescient and information, our return journey could have lastly been fulfilled.


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