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Heruka Vajrasattva vs. Vajrasattva

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Heruka Vajrasattva vs. Vajrasattva
Answer
5/16/16 8:43 PM
I'm trying to understand what the difference is between regular, plain-Jane Vajrasattva and Heruka Vajrasattva. I've heard Heruka translated as both "heroic" and "wrathful". I know that in Lama Yeshe's book Becoming Vajrasattva, he specifically describes Heruka Vajrasattva practice. I had a hard time getting into the book and am still lost on the distinction.

According to the wikipedia article on Herukas, Vajrasattva's wrathful forms are Vajrakilaya/Vajrakumara. When I do an image search on these guys, I get results for both the wrathful deities and "standard looking" Vajrasattva. So I'm also trying to understand which visualization would go with the Heruka Vajrasattva practice.

Another point I could use clarification on is whether Heruka Vajrasattva practice is usually undertaken after experience with a more standard version of the practice, or if there are those who begin the wrathful aspect.

RE: Heruka Vajrasattva vs. Vajrasattva
Answer
5/17/16 9:29 AM as a reply to Shamadhi Sam.
Is the book's description of Vajrasattva peaceful or wrathful? If it's peaceful, is it possible that Lama Yeshe or his translator (assuming he had one) simply liked to use the term heruka instead of yidam or diety? Does the book include a full sadhana to do the practice?

RE: Heruka Vajrasattva vs. Vajrasattva
Answer
5/17/16 11:47 AM as a reply to Shamadhi Sam.
For what it's worth, you can get a Vajrasattva empowerment, practice instructions and a sadhana text for it fairly easily from any number of courses given by good Tibetan lamas. I can recommend one that's in Upstate NY in July, if you're interested.

RE: Heruka Vajrasattva vs. Vajrasattva
Answer
5/17/16 5:14 PM as a reply to Jigme Sengye.
So it seems like the sadhana listed in Lama Yeshe's book is almost identical to the ones listed in general Vajrasattva practice. The only change I can see is that in the 100-syllable mantra, the translator has used the word Heruka to replace several of the words, such as "bhagavan". Just out of curiosity, who is the lama you had in mind?

RE: Heruka Vajrasattva vs. Vajrasattva
Answer
5/19/16 3:47 PM as a reply to Shamadhi Sam.
I was thinking of the ones from the Palyul monastery. They have an annual dzogchen course in Upstate New York in July and early August, with empowerments on weekends. They give Vajrasattva and Padmasambhava empowerments every year so that people can do ngondro, along with a few others. See http://retreat.palyul.org/weekend-retreats-at-Palyul-Ling for the schedule. It's a 45-minute drive from Binghampton. If you just want the empowerment and are close enough to drop by for an afternoon, you could just ask them for the exact date of the Vajrasattva empowerment.

Also, Khenchen Tsewang Gyatso Rinpoche who is one of the Palyul teachers travels around the US and Canada quite a bit. He tends to give empowerments so that people can't make it to the retreat can do ngondro. There are a lot of traveling lamas who also do that and there are also other retreat centers that have lamas who give empowerments for Vajrasattva.

RE: Heruka Vajrasattva vs. Vajrasattva
Answer
5/19/16 5:25 PM as a reply to Jigme Sengye.
Jigme, thanks for the info!

RE: Heruka Vajrasattva vs. Vajrasattva
Answer
5/20/16 2:02 AM as a reply to Shamadhi Sam.
howdy,
Vajrasattva is a primary purification practice and is considered a 'peaceful" diety practice.  Herukas are considered 'wrathful'.  Each works on different emotional aspects. 

Looking at the different forms should give you a little insight into the level each is working on.  Vajrasattva is young, healthy, traditionally attractive and white in color.  Easy on the eyes, emotions, generally someone you would like to have as a pal.  Herukas on the other hand can be of different colors but come across as more threatening.  Certainly powerful but inviting more of a respectful relationship that that of the standard Vajrasattva.

Usually the more pleasant version is the first meditation given to an acolyte and in a simple form, not with consort.  Each addition of either complexity or direct subject as well as additional details of the meditation (mantra, adornment etc.) have symbolic meaning and are designed to work on different emotional levels and are generally introduced in a sequence leading to more complexity as ones skills increase.

Herukas are scary.  Facing these archetypes allows one to face aspects of ones own mind which are not often intentionally sought out.  Becoming familiar with ones' reactions to scary things encourages equanimity and deepens ones understanding of emptiness on levels other than just the perfect, friendly, idealized baby-step path we would all like the spiritual path to emulate.

tom

RE: Heruka Vajrasattva vs. Vajrasattva
Answer
5/20/16 5:12 PM as a reply to tom moylan.
Tom, thanks for your thoughts, I appreciate the feedback! You always seem to have insightful info in regards to Vajrayana practice. I was just curious if I could ask about your background in the area. Thanks again.

RE: Heruka Vajrasattva vs. Vajrasattva
Answer
5/23/16 2:57 AM as a reply to Shamadhi Sam.
Hi Sam,
I am not an adept in Vajrayana.  I spent a few years of my early practice studying and meditating under the Kagyu Tibetan lineage.  I was meditating on my own and got to that place where it was clear to me that I needed the direction and wisdom of a formal path.  In the german town I was living in the "Diamond Way" center was the loudest voice and I went there.

I had already done a lot of reading up and absolutely DEVOURED their library.  The first book I read was by Kalu Rimpoche and this brought a new, congeled, perspective on what I thought was my own invented cosmology.  I was immediately hooked on the comprehensive and rationally cohesive story of Buddhism.

The "Diamond Way" however, was dissapointing to me.  It was and is led by Lama Ole Nydhal. He is a Dane who spent time in India in the 60's and studied under The 16th Karmapa. He was the first western student of that extremely talented and enlightened master.

He is a classic example of what Daniel describes in MCTB as a 'Jet Set Guru'.   I don't want to sound demeaning here at all.  Ole Nydahl has brought more westerners to Buddhism than any single teacher I would guess. One can find fault with his teachings and methods but his dharma activity is really astounding.  He has found a formula whereby his charisma and organizational talents combine to sell his brand of Vajrayana in the west.

In my case, I found the acolytes with whom I had contact far too cultish.  Within a short period I found that noone in the sangha was reading / studying, which was my bent.  They were given particular meditations to do and they did them.  There was way too much emphasis on the "Guru" for my taste.  Note that this is a central and essential aspect of all Mahayana schools, but it approached cult levels IMO and encouraged no interest in self study or basic investigative methods.

As my disillusionment grew so did my search for another teacher.  I found my way to a poorly publicized Kagyu center under the guidance of Shamar Rinpoche.  He passed away a couple of years back very suddenly but he was an excellent practical teacher.  He was actually the most senoir member in the Kagyu lineage and a very down to earth man.

He recognized that most of the westerners that were coming to him were not at all prepared in the basics of meditation (shamatha, vipassana, basic buddhist concepts etc.) and that to simply give them complicated visualization practices were conterproductive.  This put off some people who wanted the advance teachings but scored big with others.  He wasn't fancy and didn't want to be call "your holiness" and eschewed all of the pomp.  He once told me: "Vajrayana is for people like Milarepa, there aren't many Milarepas out there."

He meant that to do Vajrayana practices well, one has to have a talent and aptitude for them and I agree.

So this attitude impressed me.  I received instructions which were much more Theravadan in nature and these helped me immediately and immensely.  There are still some practices I do with visualizations and mantras and they are powerful.  In fact my interest has been peaked again lately and I may be doing more given my current perspective.

You seem to be drawn to Vajrayana.  I think this alone is a good enough reason to explore it.  You might be a Milarepa.  The Tibetan forms of Buddhism are fascinating, full of really interesting characters and deep lessons.  My problem ( my personal problem) with it was the cultural and political overlays to the basic teachings.  There is much emphasis on secrecy and heirarchical structures that go against my grain. 

The effort of untying of those knots were eventually too burdensome for me to continue on that path.  If you can put them in perspective and realize that the depth of the teachings is where the real gold is hiding then it might just be the way to go.

peace

tom

RE: Heruka Vajrasattva vs. Vajrasattva
Answer
5/23/16 11:09 PM as a reply to tom moylan.
Tom,

Thank you for your detailed and thorough response. You seem to be expressing a frustration that several others on the DHO have faced when interacting with Tibetan lineages/Vajrayana teaching, in regards to the secrecy. Really makes me wonder what a "smart approach" to these teachings might entail, for someone of a pragmatic bent.

-SS

RE: Heruka Vajrasattva vs. Vajrasattva
Answer
5/24/16 6:14 AM as a reply to Shamadhi Sam.
Hi Sam,
Theses days we have choices as to where what and how we study as never before.  This multitude of choices can bring with it confusion, or frustration, as you mentioned.  The ability to 'dharma shop' is a really positive thing. 

There was a time when I wrestled with the stress between my own 'desire to become enilightened' and the strictures that those traditions put on some teachings. 

I ended up deciding for myself to move away from the more esoteric teachings to simpler practices / teachings which resonated with me.

Strangely, or perhaps not so, I find myself attracted to the Vajrayana traditions again.  The teachings and practices are very powerful in that they actively engage all aspects of one's mind.  Some of the prerequisites are a bit odious and it is important to have a skilled teacher both for the practical details of the differents meditations and the core function of handing the steering wheel to your teacher / guru.

I think that its important to know that these teachings are always built on a base of hinyana teachings.  If you are a tibetan lad starting off on a dharma journey the first years of your education are spent on shamatha and vippasana.  They are also encultrated into the heirarchical mindset which fosters the guru / acolyte mindset.  Additionally the language they grow up with is the language in which they are taught.  This is not a trivial point.  The written Tibetan language is literally based on the dharma.  Many of the concepts are integrated directly into the language structure.  This adds a layer of abstraction for the non-native student which can be confusing.

In any case, its fascinating and beautiful and interesting as all get out.  Have some fun with it and much success.

tom

edit to inclide this cool link and explanation of heruka

RE: Heruka Vajrasattva vs. Vajrasattva
Answer
5/24/16 2:20 PM as a reply to tom moylan.
Tom, thanks for the link, just sent you a message.

RE: Heruka Vajrasattva vs. Vajrasattva
Answer
5/25/16 1:52 PM as a reply to Shamadhi Sam.
Sam, I have no idea of how much of a practice you have and for all I know, you've done tons of samatha and vipassana are perfectly suited to starting a vajrayana practice in order to take your practice further. I won't assume anything, though.

Vajrasattva is part of ngondro, which are the preliminary practices of Vajrayana. As I'm sure you know, these are the 100,000+ repetitions of prostrations, mandala offering, the Vajrasattva long mantra and guru yoga. These are accompanied by a lot of chanting. I did the month-long ngondro retreat at the Palyul retreat center in 2003 and went back for two of the later parts of the seven-part dzogchen course (I have not learned Togyal and Treckchod as I didn't return for those parts of the course). Besides for ngondro, it's all secret practices and all of them, including ngondro are very powerful if done right and can be problematic if done wrong. If you're interested in learning about ngondro, the general perspective of Vajrayana practice and Vajrasattva in the context of ngondro, I highly recommend that you read Patrul Rinpoche's book The Words of my Perfect Teacher (there's also an unrelated movie by the same title, it's not that) which is the standard book that lamas in the Nyingma tradition tell students to read about ngondro. You'll need the actual teachings and empowerments to do ngondro as a whole, if that's what you'd like to do. This will be a powerful base for further Vajrayana practice.

In some traditions, secrecy may be a serious obstacle to learning. In the part of the Nyingma tradition that I learned from, they'll happily teach you the core secret practices of tsa lung and dzogchen if you take their class on it. The problem is the practices actually pile up too fast and the practice commitments to very advanced practices can become overwhelming. These practices are very effective if done right and can be problematic if done wrong (and if one is honest with one's lama, they can recommend how to fix practice problems). While it is not necessary to do vipassana and samatha before doing Vajrayana, I put my Vajrayana practice on hold in 2007 and switched to qigong, vipassana and samatha to get a proper grounding in good silent meditative practice with the intention of later going back. Having done years of silent meditation and month-long vipassana retreats, I now do see where ngondro would be beneficial to my practice, whereas before my understanding of how it would help was mostly just intellectual. I'm slowly inching back towards going back to Vajrayana, contacting my old teacher and very, very carefully and slowly getting back into it properly, time permitting (and doing it properly is very time-consuming).

If you are about to take the plunge and start a Vajrayana practice of any kind, it's important that you know in advance that it's a devotional religion. The practice can't be separated from the devotional aspects. The other thing is that it is really important to be clear on the extent to which you're capable of follwing the samaya commitments before you commit to them. Vajrasattva is the mechanism for fixing samaya breakage, but as part of fixing one's samaya, you're supposed to make a commitment to improve your observance of samaya. This is important not just because it's a devotional religion, but rather because it's a devotional shamanic religion. Doing Vajrayana involves dealing with spirits. Doing the practice isn't a purely private affair. Your commitments are to the lamas and to the lineage, most of which is dead or wasn't human to begin with. At best, not observing the samayas means that the practice ceases to work. Observing samaya properly is not easy and frankly I'm not sure I fully understand how to do it.

Samatha and vipassana don't have samaya. Doing ngondro gives you a very good meditative base, too. Coming to Vajrayana and starting ngondro with no prior meditative experience (or minimal prior experience) is fine and ngondro is supposed to give you a meditative base. The catch is that you're diving into the deep end of commiting to something. I did that, did it poorly due to a lack of discipline, put it on hold (which is a very problematic thing to do if you're doing Vajrayana) and went back to the basics (vipassana and samatha, which I think underlie all Buddhist meditative techniques), which have been extremely worthwhile, but which also require hard work and occasionally a lot of aggravation.

RE: Heruka Vajrasattva vs. Vajrasattva
Answer
5/26/16 1:09 PM as a reply to Jigme Sengye.
Jigme, thanks for you thoughts.