October 14, 2016

A few words on what is called purification in Buddhism.

You asked about Buddhist purification a couple of days ago, and it set me thinking. This term is usually used in the Tibetan Tradition, although it is part of all Buddhist traditions.

I mentioned the Four Opponent Powers, and I’ll be sending you some things by Lama Zopa that I have.

When this comes to mind, I always immediately think that those teachings need some adaptation for Westerners, and I’ll try and include a couple of definitions and comments later in this little note.

The question is already there, when we use the word ‘purification’ – ‘What is purified?’ In Buddhism, as you know, they talk about the three root causes of suffering, or the three poisons, as greed, anger, and ignorance, with the main cause being ignorance – both as wrong views and as obscured consciousness.
vajrasattva purification in Buddhism

Anger, and everything that stems from it, is purified by love; greed, or attachment is purified by non-desire, by, renunciation, by letting go, or by right desires (having wisdom and compassion) and generosity; and ignorance is purified by wisdom.

In the Theravada, the Four Foundations of Mindfulness Sutra begins, ‘There is this one way, to the purification of beings, to the alleviation of suffering, to the establishment of Peace, and that is the Four Foundations of Mindfulness’ (or words to that effect). Mindfulness, collectedness, and insight practices are what accomplish this.

In the Tibetan Tradition, they have one way of formulating teachings called ‘The Ground, Path, and Fruition’. The Aspiration Prayer for the Attainment of Mahamudra, has a verse that says,

The ground of purification is the mind itself, indivisible cognitive clarity and emptiness.
That which purifies is the great vajra yoga of Mahamudra.
What is to be purified are the adventitious, temporary contaminations of confusion,
May the fruit of purification, the stainless dharmakaya, be manifest

If we think about it, when we make some change, or improvement, there is something similar, or identical to what I described in the notes on the different levels of mind.

For example, we could say that patience purifies impatience, generosity, stinginess, zeal, laziness, and so on.

A counter – current can be raised, and can cancel out the old habit energy, or at least lessen it. Maybe sometimes letting something be is best.

Om Mani Padme Hum 


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