This is one of the commonest versions of the Vajrasattva Dharani. It is the version used in the Amida Shu Chanting Book...
Om Vajrasattva samaya, manu palaya,
Vajrasattva teno patita, dridho me bhava,
Suto kayo me bhava, supokayo me bhava,
Anurakto me bhava;
Sarva siddhi me prayacha,
Sarva karma sucha me,
Tzitam shriyan kuru hum,
Ha ha ha ha ho,
Bhagavan sarva Tathagata
Vajra ma me muntsa,
Maha samaya sattva
Ah Hum Phat
A dharani is a spell or invocation. It is a way of calling upon an energy, in this case the energy of Vajrasattva. The name Vajrasattva is made up of Vajra, which indicates power, determination, fortitude, or indestructibility and Sattva which means spirit in the sense of courage. It implies a heroic ideal. Vajrasattva is commonly taken as the bodhisattva of purity, the one who can resist all temptation. It can be customary to celebrate Vajrasattva on the first of the month, or at any beginning, as a way of establishing firm resolve.
I have never attempted to translate all the terms in the dharani. However, one should not expect it to make sense as a whole composition. It is more a series of appeals and exclamations that, by concatenation, conjure an effect.
The first four lines pray Vajrasattva to appear before us, give us strength, be pleased with us and support, love and nourish us. The fifth and sixth lines ask that one be granted spiritual power for all occasions and in all actions. The seventh and eighth lines are celebratory of all this happening.
There are some key terms, the first of which is samaya. A samaya is a bond or promise, a kind of contract of loyalty. The Vajrasattva samaya is thus a commitment to live a pure life, pure in body, speech and mind, but especially in mind. Mind is chief. Vajrasattva is a tantric deity and the core meaning of tantra is this, that it is the purity of mind that is supreme. If mind is truly pure, the person can do anything without falling into hate and grasping. Thus, Vajrasattva is often shown iconographically with a consort meditating while sexually joined. The bodhisattva ideal implies being willing to go anywhere and do whatever is needed to assist beings on their spiritual path. What is needed depends upon where they have got to. There is, therefore, in principle no limit to the range of things the bodhisattva might have to do. One thinks here of the stories of Naropa and Tilopa, as examples.
Another key term is sarva siddhi, which literally means “all power”. The pure mind has limitless power. The effect of its actions spread through the world even as far as heaven and hell. We never know how far the effects of our actions spread, but it is a function of the degree of purity of mind. The actions that flow from a pure mind do not feed the flames of samsara and so are unobstructed light. In a more mundane sense one talks of siddhi as spiritual power, the ability to read minds and do miraculous things, but this is a rather gross understanding. The person of pure mind does “read minds” without any particular technique or intention in the simple sense that, not have strong personal cravings, he or she is open to what is going on around them in a sympathetic way and easily resonates with the vibrations stirring in others.
The term vajra has a threefold significance. Firstly, it means a thunderbolt, which is the symbol of divine power. Zeus and Odin are both thunderbolt gods. Secondly, vajra means a sceptre. The sceptre is the symbol of royal power. The king or queen carries a sceptre. The monarch represented unity. Thirdly, a vajra is a diamond. Diamond is the hardest natural substance and thus represents endurance and patience. The diamond is also a beautiful jewel with many facets. Thus the light enters from many directions and radiates out in even more. In every face one can see the universe reflected, yet each time in a unique way.
Participating in Vajra Power
The general import of the last five lines of the dharani is that all the Tathagatha Bhagavats, i.e. the Buddhas, have and are endlessly becoming this vajra nature and that, through the identification brought about by the dharani, the practitioner also comes to share in this unfolding power.
Thus, Vajrasattva practice is a form of invocation of other power such that one seeks to allow oneself to be saturated by it, taken over by it, and flow with it. It is also an implicit recognition of our bombu nature in that this practice has to be endlessly renewed. We are always starting again. In that moment of beginners mind, we innocently receive the grace of the holy being, just like an innocent child. Momentarily we participate in the vast spiritual power of the Tathagatha. Then we get on with our life. After the ecstasy, the laundry. Yet, the moment of connection is not lost nor meaningless. Like a piece of cloth repeatedly dipped in the dying vat one is gradually transformed by a power beyond one’s understanding.