Chaz wrote: I'll be asking permission to begin Ngondro practice in the Spring. I don't think my beliefs will be questioned at that time, either. You think they should? If people shouldn't take Refuge if their beliefs aren't in line with some doctrine, then they shouldn't be allowed to take them in the first place. They should be quizzed for orthodoxy. Did you have to submit to such a quiz when you took Refuge? Do you think it right that people should be forced to submit to such an examination?
I doubt your beliefs will be questioned Chaz, however usually a teacher will assume you have made diligent efforts at study and reflection of the basic tenets of Buddhism before you take these deeper and deeper steps into the tradition. When you take refuge in the Dharma, this is ultimately in your own primordial wisdom mind, but relatively it is in the teachings of the Buddha as it passes down to us in unbroken lineage and written in the sutras and tantras. Many of these directly or indirectly refer to transmigration and rebirth. There is very good reason for this. By taking refuge, you are also taking refuge in this. It would be more beneficial to try to understand why it is important, why it is an essential aspect of Dharma, of reality- then to simply doubt it out of habitual deference to a scientific-materialist tendency in our culture at this time. You've said that you believe in rebirth, but that you don't think it's very important and part of that sense of it being unimportant is your own teachers not making it much of a focus in your course of study. Well if you have not yet begun Ngondro yet, perhaps this is why. When you receive more advanced and deeper teachings eventually in Mahayoga (Vajrayana), you will inevitably end up receiving teachings on the six Bardos of existence, and then rebirth will be a main point of focus. I don't know what Ngondro text you will be using, but usually in the Ngondros I am familiar with, transmigration is also a point of contemplation. I am fairly confident after some extensive period of seriously practicing the Ngondro, your feelings about the importance of rebirth will probably shift dramatically. Best of wishes with your practice, BTW. Ngondro is a profound and wonderful commitment. May it benefit all.