The preliminary practices are sometimes enumerated as five or nine:
Prostrations: These are done to the 35 Buddhas, together with reciting their names and the confession prayer.
Vajrasattva (Dorje Sampa) mantra: This is done with the Vajrasattva practice and visualization.
Refuge: This is reciting "Namo Gurubhya, Namo Buddhaya, Namo Dharmaya, Namo Sanghaya" while visualizing the field of positive potential.
Mandala offering: This involves reciting the refuge and bodhicitta prayer and the mandala offering verse, while visualizing offering the entire universe and everything beautiful in it to the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha.
Guru Yoga: This is meditating on the inseparability of the Buddha's mind, our spiritual mentor's mind and our mind, together with visualization and mantra recitation.
Dorje Khadro (Vajra Daka): Imagining black sesame seeds as the negativities of ourselves and others, we offer them in a fire to the mouth of the fierce deity Dorje Khadro, who swallows them with pleasure as if they were nectar.
Water bowls: This is offering water bowls to the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, together with visualization.
Tsa-tsa: This is making clay or plaster images of the Buddha.
Samaya Vajra (Damtsig Dorje) mantra: This is reciting the mantra of this Buddha together with visualization.
Traditionally these practices are done 100,000 times, with an extra 11 percent to make up for any mistakes we may make in doing them. The number itself is not important. As one lama put it, "It's 100,000 opportunities to do the practice once with full concentration and faith." The number gives us a goal to work towards and a sense of accomplishment when we have reached it. However, it is essential not to become "business oriented", always calculating how many we've done in what length of time and then how long until we're done. It's also important not to compare the number we've done with that of our Dharma friends. We are not in competition here, and we are not trying to fulfill a quota set by an outside authority. Doing the preliminary practices is about transforming our hearts and minds. If we don't try to do this, then it doesn't matter how many recitations or offerings we've done, for we're still locked in our old ways of competition.
There are various ways of doing the preliminary practices. Some people do a little of each practice every day. What is more common is to select one practice to emphasize, either doing a retreat with four sessions of that practice each day or doing some of that practice each day while living one's regular life, until 100,000 are completed. With our teacher's guidance, we select one of the preliminary practices to focus on, and in this latter way, do the practice each day usually in the morning and/or evening before or after work. It is helpful to have a group of Dharma friends who also are the doing the practice and meeting together once a week or so to practice and share experiences. http://www.thubtenchodron.org/PrayersAn ... actice.htm