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Vajrasattva (Vajra Hero, Tib. dorje sempa) "Dorsem" is the buddha of purification.  As the  "action" or karma protector, he also manifests the energies of all Buddhas. 

Kagyu tantric practitioners focus upon Vajrasattva, in the above form as 'Solitary Universal Ruler.'  Here the deity is an aspect of buddha Vajradhara.  The lions that appear in some representations at the base of the deity's seat show he shares the essential nature of Shakyamuni buddha.   

According to Ven. Bardor Tulku, Mahapandita Naropa was an embodiment of Vajrasattva.

Vajrasattva (Japanese:  Kongosatta) is white, with one face and two hands and resembles a youth of 16.  Half of his long wavy black hair is gathered on top of his head, the rest curls down his back and around his shoulders.  He is seated on a moon disc on a white lotus with his torso gracefully curved to our left in the dancer's pose.  His legs are crossed in the vajra position. In his right hand he holds a gold vajra to his heart and in his left, at his hip he holds a silent, ie. upturned, bell.  He is lavishly dressed in fine green and red silk garments and is richly adorned with gold and jewels as befits a prince -- with  crown, hair ornaments, earrings, bracelets, 3 necklaces, anklets, etc.

His face is gentle, and luminescent.   The whole radiates as a rainbow.

  • 19th century tangka, with Jeff Watts' notes, in which dark blue rays emanate from the deity's form creating a nimbus of gold adorned with wish-fulfilling jewels.

Contained in the heart of the deity is the 100-syllable mantra which practitioners recite at least 100 000 times as one of the four preliminary practices. 

The invocation mantra is:  OM VAJRA SATTVA HUNG

There are at least two other widespread forms of the deity:

Alone   (as above.)

  • With consort, Vajragharvi (Tib. Yum Dorje Nyemma Karmo) 19th-century Nyingma

and there is also a Red Vajrasattva Nyingmapa practice associated with long life.

Join the Prayer4Peace project: texts for Vajrasattva practice according to Jamgon Kongtrul the Great.


Om, Vajrasattva:

Samayam anupalaya.

Vajrasattva, teno patishta.

Ardho me bhava.

Sutokayo me bhava.

Supokayo me bhava.

Anurakto me bhava. 


Sarva siddhi me prayaccha.

Sarva karma succha me

Chittam shreyam kuru. 


Ha Ha Ha Ha Ho


Sarva Tat'hagat'ha Vajra 

Ma me muńcha, Vajri bhava,


Ah, Hung, P'heh! 


O Vajrasattva: 

Guard and protect my commitments.

O Vajrasattva, help me be strong. 

Be my constant support.

May I ever be pleasing to you.

May you ever be happy with me. 

Hold me in your affectionate regard.


Help me attain all sublime accomplishments. 

Help me to act virtuously always,

and to purify my mind. 


Hum! [invocation to and delight in, the Five Buddha Families and symbolizes: care,  compassion, joy, equanimity.]

O Lord, 

Vajra of All Tathagathas,

Never abandon me, Eternal Vajra,

Great Embodiment of commitment.

[So might it be, So might it endure, So might it remain.] 


So Jong or Confession

Any practice of Vajrasattva is related to the practices of confession (Tib. so-jong) and purification as present in all Buddhist traditions.

The Words of My Perfect Teacher by Patrul Rinpoche is the most popular text on the  Preliminary Practices of Vajrayana Buddhism.  The section on "meditating on the teacher as Vajrasattva to cleanse all obscurations" teaches 

1. How obscurations can be purified through confession.

The main obstacles that prevent all the extraordinary experiences and realizations of the profound path from arising are negative actions, obscurations and habitual tendencies. "Obscurations" means factors of negative emotions and conceptualizations that cover and obscure our Buddha nature.  Just as the surface of the mirror has to be cleansed to allow forms to be reflected in it, so too our obscurations have to be eliminated to allow realization to appear like a refection in the mirror of the Ground of all.  The Conqueror [Buddha Shakyamuni] taught countless methods of purification for this purpose, but the best of them all is meditation and recitation related to the teacher Vajrasattva.

Any negative action can be purified through confession:  "there is no harmful act that cannot be purified through confession".  However "purification only takes place when you confess sincerely in the right way" that is by first arousing bodhicitta -- that is, focusing with pure intention the desire to aid sentient beings to attain enlightenment without exception.  This True Aspiration is, in itself,  a purifier of  all past misdeeds.

The Four Powers

1. The Power of Support -- you can take Vajrasattva as your support.  But, you can also take any spiritual friend or teacher, or any representation of the Buddha. You can just imagine yourself sitting in front of the Buddha and feeling his unconditional kindness beaming to you.  . . . you can imagine your dark deeds leaving you as black tar and dissolving, and the wisdom and compassion pouring in as light from Buddha.

2. The Power of Regret -- this comes from a true feeling of remorse for all negative actions done in the past. You feel remorse and, concealing nothing from the Buddha, confess them with strong regret, for nothing can be purified without strongly felt regret.

3. The Power of Resolution -- remembering the faults, resolve never to commit them again, even at the cost of our life.

4. The Power of Action as Antidote -- offset the negativities through accomplishing as many positive actions as you can.  These can range from the symbolic, such as doing prostrations; psychological, such as rejoicing in the merit of others, or actual, from putting out water for wild animals in your neighborhood, donating to charity and helping others in practical ways.   Or ...

"One day a meditator, a disciple of the peerless Dagpo Rinpoche, told his teacher that he felt regret when he remembered that he had once made a living from the sale of sacred books. 

"Print books," the Master told him.  So he set to work, but found that his work got him involved in many distractions. Disillusioned, he went to see his teacher.

"Printing these texts brings up too many distractions," he said. "Is it true that no method of confession is more profound than remaining in the essential nature?"

The Dagpo Rinpoche was delighted and told him he was perfectly right. "Even if you have committed negative actions as colossal as Mount Meru itself," he said. "They are purified in one instant of seeing that nature."

The visualization of Vajrasattva, and indeed all phenomena, arise from the unaltered state and return to it.  

"There is indeed no deeper way to cleanse oneself of past misdeeds than to meditate on bodhicitta and to maintain the flow of the unaltered state." 

And so no matter what practice one does, that is the essential point.

We may want to end our purification/confession with this prayer:
"I have heard the beneficial instructions, but have left them as words. I have practiced them a little, but have been fooled by distraction.  Bless me and all phantom beings like me, that we may extract the essence of the generation and perfection phases."

~ j. s. to the kagyu email list

BB to the Kagyu email list:

We . . .  come across Dorsem [Dorje Sempa] quite a bit on a daily basis, usually on one of these occasions:

1. At the beginning and end of a sadhana or other Dharma event. At 
the beginning so as to purify our stream of mind so as to enter the 
mandala with the right mind-set, becoming ready to engage in whatever we are about to one-pointedly and fully. At the end, so as to confess and make amends for whatever omissions or mistakes we have committed during the main part out of delusion, obscuration or inattention.

2. As a part of the Fourfold Ngondro, the purposes of which are to accumulate tremendous amount of merit, purify all negative karmic stains and "test out the water" of the Tantras.  Though it is by all intents and purposes a complete practice in and of itself, it does enable one to engage in the so-called "higher practices" free of obstacles from the outside and inside (i.e., wrong views and improper clingings).

In both of these cases, the Dorsem that we visualize and the corresponding 100-Syllables are usually of the Yoga Tantra type, which comes out of, among others, the Tattvasamgraha Tantra, where he is clearly identified as the Lord of All Mandalas and the Five Buddha Families, supplication to whom is the same as supplication to any particular deity. It is partly on this basis that the purification purposes are accomplished. In this case he is visualized as being of the peaceful and sometimes singular form, as opposed to the semi-wrathful form that is in the Anuttarayoga Tantra, especially in connection to the Mother Tantras like Cakrasamvara. 
The 100-Syllables are also sometimes substituted with names and phrases to be adapted to individual practices, e.g., instead of "Vajrasattva," it might be "Yamatanka" or "Padmatanka."

Whereas Lord Shakyamuni was the nirmanakaya that taught the sutras, Dorsem was the sambhogakaya aspect that taught the tantras. The highest teachings of Dzogchen and Mahamudra are said to have flown directly from the dharmakaya Samantabhadra, who manifested in the form of [Vajradhara] Dorje Chang, for Samantabhadra is formless and neither moves nor stirs. All these three aspects are, of course, never separate and ultimately there is not any difference between the sutras, tantras and mahamudra. 

3. So, why would such an important figure of the Tantras be practiced on almost as, those with less than pure vision might suspect, a  subsidiary role? He is not, for there are many practices, especially in the Anuttarayoga Tantras, that actually focus on Dorsem as the main yidam.  This is especially true as far as the Nyingmapas are concerned -- one of their main root tantras, which in fact is the basis for almost everything that comes from the Kama [kamtsang] (long "oral") tradition, is the "Magical Net," in which Dorsem is the main yidam.  In more practical terms, Dorsem is the focus of practice in Terdag Lingpa's tradition, Karling's shi-tro, and as one of the Three Roots in some Nyingthig systems.  I am of course not privy to the details of these highly-esoteric practices.

So, like many of the folks out there, I run to Dorsem when I have done something bad, the rule being that one should reflect on one's deeds, speech and thoughts during each of the six sessions of the day and, if necessary, do Dorsem to get purified before the vow-breakage or stain be beyond repairs.   It is important to do so right away because, even though in the ultimate sense these stains and so on are illusory, incidental and temporary, if we let them stick around without recognizing them as stains, they do add to our collection of karmic tendencies, making it more possible for us to repeat the same and cling to them as real. 

When done with the proper motivation ("for the sake of all sentient beings,") visualization (clear perception of Dorsem and the flow of purifying nectars,) conviction (that one really is confessing past wrongs and is resolving to never repeat them) and dedication of merit, Dorsem purification can prevent the stains from fostering into something more serious, create the causes for ripening conditions that exhaust these karmic stains without too harmful an impact, and accumulate wisdom and merit that ultimately will lead to our realization of the empty nature of these stains and the samsaric deeds that produce them.

Purification is NOT penance -- in fact, since the way karma is said to work, once karma is accumulated, it sticks until it is exhausted by ripening or until it is rendered dispensible by virtue of one's attainment of Enlightenment, there is simply nothing that can be done to reverse or undo it. Even a lot of good karma is not an antidote per se for negative karma -- they are simply two different things that are not like the debits and credits of an account balancing each other out.

The "Higher Vows" that many Vajrayana practitioners have taken, as it was pointed out before, are easily broken.  Therefore, Dorsem should never be far from one's mind in order to make amends, as nothing is more important than keeping vows intact in Vajrayana. . . .  ."

May we attain the stage of Vajrasattva and place all sentient beings in the stage with us!" ~ BB

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