This book is an edited transcript of Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s teachings at a three-month Vajrasattva retreat held at Land of Medicine Buddha, Soquel, California, from February 1 to April 30, 1999. Venerable Marcel Bertels led the retreat.
About 125 people participated in the three-month retreat, seventy-five of them full time, including twenty nuns and monks. In addition, Rinpoche offered weekend public talks, which were attended by many people from outside of the retreat. The Vajrasattva initiation on February 6 and the long life puja and Amitabha initiation on April 30 were attended by about 250 people.
Rinpoche’s teachings during these three months were essentially of three types: the weekend public teachings, which tended to be discourses two to three hours in length; teachings at special events, such as a light offering meditation, two long life initiations, a Medicine Buddha puja preceding a jang-wa ceremony for the dead, and an animal liberation ceremony; and teachings during Vajrasattva retreat sessions, at which Rinpoche would often arrive unannounced and proceed to explain various parts of the practices being done at the time. Rinpoche’s eagerly awaited drop-ins were more frequent during the first part of the retreat—before he went to India for two weeks in March, to attend the Gelug conference in New Delhi organized by the FPMT—and the long discourses became more frequent after Rinpoche’s return.
Rinpoche expressed his happiness with the retreat several times. For example, on February 9, Rinpoche explained one of the purposes of the retreat and why he was explaining the practices:
“One point I want to emphasize is that my purpose in telling you how to do this and that meditation or prayer is to educate you about how to guide a Vajrasattva retreat. If somebody later asks you how to do a Vajrasattva retreat, you will know what to explain to them. It’s an education in how to do Vajrasattva meditation in order to make it effective. Doing Vajrasattva retreat is not simply about reciting the mantra and saying some prayers. It is about making the practice effective for your mind, making it the quickest, most powerful way to transform your mind. You are learning how to make the Vajrasattva meditation-recitation the most powerful purification. It’s an education in how to guide a Vajrasattva retreat, so that you, both sangha and lay people, can teach others how to do Vajrasattva retreat in the future. As well as this, you are learning how to do Lama Chöpa, or Guru Puja, in an effective way. The arrangement of the prayers helps you do the practice effectively.”
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