Ngondro as a complete path to enlightenment

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FiveSkandhas
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Ngondro as a complete path to enlightenment

Post by FiveSkandhas »

Hello.

I've heard it from a number of sources that Ngondro can serve as a complete path to enlightenment, rather than being thought of merely as "preliminaries."

I am curious if you yourself, or anyone you know of, has decided to practice Ngondro this way, devoting themselves to it completely as a self-contained path and never receiving higher transmissions, teachings, etc. Have there been any famous historical figures known for a devotion to "Ngondro only"?

Just curious about this perspective. I think it would be a noble path indeed, and a singularly humble one. I think in many if not most beginners' minds, there is an at-least-subconscious tendency to be offput by the "preliminary" label. (Not to mention the physical stress of all the prostrations, etc.). Many may seek to "rush through this odious task so I can get to the good stuff higher up." Thus, to embrace Ngondro as a single lifetime practice would involve a deeper understanding of what it is, and a kind of wise humility that would be very refreshing and inspiring.
"One should cultivate contemplation in one’s foibles. The foibles are like fish, and contemplation is like fishing hooks. If there are no fish, then the fishing hooks have no use. The bigger the fish is, the better the result we will get. As long as the fishing hooks keep at it, all foibles will eventually be contained and controlled at will." -Zhiyi
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Könchok Thrinley
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Re: Ngondro as a complete path to enlightenment

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FiveSkandhas wrote: Tue Dec 29, 2020 1:01 am Hello.

I've heard it from a number of sources that Ngondro can serve as a complete path to enlightenment, rather than being thought of merely as "preliminaries."

I am curious if you yourself, or anyone you know of, has decided to practice Ngondro this way, devoting themselves to it completely as a self-contained path and never receiving higher transmissions, teachings, etc. Have there been any famous historical figures known for a devotion to "Ngondro only"?

Just curious about this perspective. I think it would be a noble path indeed, and a singularly humble one. I think in many if not most beginners' minds, there is an at-least-subconscious tendency to be offput by the "preliminary" label. (Not to mention the physical stress of all the prostrations, etc.). Many may seek to "rush through this odious task so I can get to the good stuff higher up." Thus, to embrace Ngondro as a single lifetime practice would involve a deeper understanding of what it is, and a kind of wise humility that would be very refreshing and inspiring.
It definitely is true that it is a complete path, however I do not know anyone practicing "ngondro only". But Tsongkhapa comes to mind as a famous example of someone who refined his enlightenment by doing "ngondro". If my memory serves well he achieved enlightenment by doing mandala offerings. There are even stories of some practitioner achieving rainbow body through mandala. Anyway, the fact is that by practicing ngöndo you can gain realization and especially if your teacher gives you mahamudra/dzogchen instructions to apply while practicing ngondro.

Another great aspect of ngondro is that it can be easily "practiced" in our daily lives too. There are instructions in Patrul Rinpoche's "Words of My Perfect Teacher" for such inclusion from refuge up to guru yoga.
“Observing samaya involves to remain inseparable from the union of wisdom and compassion at all times, to sustain mindfulness, and to put into practice the guru’s instructions”. Garchen Rinpoche

Formerly known as Miroku.
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FiveSkandhas
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Re: Ngondro as a complete path to enlightenment

Post by FiveSkandhas »

Könchok Thrinley wrote: Tue Dec 29, 2020 1:18 am
FiveSkandhas wrote: Tue Dec 29, 2020 1:01 am Hello.

I've heard it from a number of sources that Ngondro can serve as a complete path to enlightenment, rather than being thought of merely as "preliminaries."

I am curious if you yourself, or anyone you know of, has decided to practice Ngondro this way, devoting themselves to it completely as a self-contained path and never receiving higher transmissions, teachings, etc. Have there been any famous historical figures known for a devotion to "Ngondro only"?

Just curious about this perspective. I think it would be a noble path indeed, and a singularly humble one. I think in many if not most beginners' minds, there is an at-least-subconscious tendency to be offput by the "preliminary" label. (Not to mention the physical stress of all the prostrations, etc.). Many may seek to "rush through this odious task so I can get to the good stuff higher up." Thus, to embrace Ngondro as a single lifetime practice would involve a deeper understanding of what it is, and a kind of wise humility that would be very refreshing and inspiring.
It definitely is true that it is a complete path, however I do not know anyone practicing "ngondro only". But Tsongkhapa comes to mind as a famous example of someone who refined his enlightenment by doing "ngondro". If my memory serves well he achieved enlightenment by doing mandala offerings. There are even stories of some practitioner achieving rainbow body through mandala. Anyway, the fact is that by practicing ngöndo you can gain realization and especially if your teacher gives you mahamudra/dzogchen instructions to apply while practicing ngondro.

Another great aspect of ngondro is that it can be easily "practiced" in our daily lives too. There are instructions in Patrul Rinpoche's "Words of My Perfect Teacher" for such inclusion from refuge up to guru yoga.
Thank you for this information.

By the way, is it permissible to start Ngondro without a teacher/empowerment/guru? I'm guessing "no." If not, is there anything even more basic yet part of the Vajrayana that one can do before making a connection with a teacher or receiving a transmission/empowerment?

Again, I'm guessing "no," but I thought I'd ask anyway.

My understanding is that Vajrayana of any sort, including preliminaries, always necessitates a guru and a transmission/empowerment of some kind. I would assume vows and Bodhicitta are also basic necessities.

But how about the recitation of "Om Mani Padme Hum"? In practice, millions of people say this the world over with no empowerment.
Also, some have said that "front generation" sadhana-like practice of beings like Medicine Buddha, Vajrasattva, and Shakyamuni, where one does not imagine oneself as merging with the yiddam, are permissible for anyone. Any thoughts?
"One should cultivate contemplation in one’s foibles. The foibles are like fish, and contemplation is like fishing hooks. If there are no fish, then the fishing hooks have no use. The bigger the fish is, the better the result we will get. As long as the fishing hooks keep at it, all foibles will eventually be contained and controlled at will." -Zhiyi
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Re: Ngondro as a complete path to enlightenment

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The four uncommon Ngondro are tantric practices, they involve the same principles as other tantric practices, and always include "the basics of refuge, Bodhicitta, dedication.

IME the context in which this is said is the same as the context of any Buddhist practice in the Tibetan tradtion...and is basically a way of saying that all practices including these elements are a "complete path"...ymmv.

The common Ngondro- the Four Thoughts of course are foundational, and can (and AFAIK should) be practiced by anyone who wants to. Those usually come before uncommon ngondro in gradual presentations.
By the way, is it permissible to start Ngondro without a teacher/empowerment/guru? I'm guessing "no." If not, is there anything even more basic yet part of the Vajrayana that one can do before making a connection with a teacher or receiving a transmission/empowerment?
There are unrestricted Tara and Chenrezig practices out there, and I have seen a few teachers, as well as have been given permission myself to start a Ngondro prior to any empowerment. I think it varies greatly from teacher to teacher and school to school, but generally there is at a lung transmission involved, to the best of my knowledge.

All my teachers who have addressed it have said chanting the six syllable mantra without empowerment is fine, and is a great thing to do. Chenrezig mantra is pretty typically unrestricted in its standard form.

So yeah, there are things you could do theoretically, but ngondro is really something done under the instructions of a teacher anyway, typically. A typically "non tantric" formula I've seen is refuge/bodhicitta, some meditation, chanting six syllable mantra, dedication.
"...if you think about how many hours, months and years of your life you've spent looking at things, being fascinated by things that have now passed away, then how wonderful to spend even five minutes looking into the nature of your own mind."

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Re: Ngondro as a complete path to enlightenment

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Johnny Dangerous wrote: Tue Dec 29, 2020 1:43 am The four uncommon Ngondro are tantric practices, they involve the same principles as other tantric practices, and always include "the basics of refuge, Bodhicitta, dedication.

IME the context in which this is said is the same as the context of any Buddhist practice in the Tibetan tradtion...and is basically a way of saying that all practices including these elements are a "complete path"...ymmv.

The common Ngondro- the Four Thoughts of course are foundational, and can (and should) be practiced by anyone who wants to. Those ususally come before uncommon ngondro in gradual presentations.
By the way, is it permissible to start Ngondro without a teacher/empowerment/guru? I'm guessing "no." If not, is there anything even more basic yet part of the Vajrayana that one can do before making a connection with a teacher or receiving a transmission/empowerment?
There are unrestricted Tara and Chenrezig practices out there, and I have seen a few teachers, as well as have been given permission myself to start a Ngondro prior to any empowerment. I think it varies greatly from teacher to teacher and school to school, but generally there is at a lung transmission involved, to the best of my knowledge.

All my teachers have said chanting the six syllable mantra without empowerment is fine, and is a great thing to do. Chenrezig mantra is pretty typically unrestricted in its standard form.

So yeah, there are things you could do theoretically, but ngondro is really something done under the instructions of a teacher anyway, typically.
Thanks, this was helpful.

I live in a country in which any sort of valid Vajrayana empowerment, lung, transmission, etc. is almost impossible to get. Every once in a great while a famous teacher will visit and give a public transmission but not for a number of years now. I've always been interested in learning and doing a simple low-level tantric practice but the rarity of the opportunities for connection plus the severity of the vows have kept me a bread-and-butter Mahayana practitioner. Which I don't mind. But I have long been drawn to visualization and would love to master a simple sadhana and add it to my practice routine before I die. One would be enough.
"One should cultivate contemplation in one’s foibles. The foibles are like fish, and contemplation is like fishing hooks. If there are no fish, then the fishing hooks have no use. The bigger the fish is, the better the result we will get. As long as the fishing hooks keep at it, all foibles will eventually be contained and controlled at will." -Zhiyi
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Re: Ngondro as a complete path to enlightenment

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FiveSkandhas wrote: Tue Dec 29, 2020 1:57 am
Johnny Dangerous wrote: Tue Dec 29, 2020 1:43 am The four uncommon Ngondro are tantric practices, they involve the same principles as other tantric practices, and always include "the basics of refuge, Bodhicitta, dedication.

IME the context in which this is said is the same as the context of any Buddhist practice in the Tibetan tradtion...and is basically a way of saying that all practices including these elements are a "complete path"...ymmv.

The common Ngondro- the Four Thoughts of course are foundational, and can (and should) be practiced by anyone who wants to. Those ususally come before uncommon ngondro in gradual presentations.
By the way, is it permissible to start Ngondro without a teacher/empowerment/guru? I'm guessing "no." If not, is there anything even more basic yet part of the Vajrayana that one can do before making a connection with a teacher or receiving a transmission/empowerment?
There are unrestricted Tara and Chenrezig practices out there, and I have seen a few teachers, as well as have been given permission myself to start a Ngondro prior to any empowerment. I think it varies greatly from teacher to teacher and school to school, but generally there is at a lung transmission involved, to the best of my knowledge.

All my teachers have said chanting the six syllable mantra without empowerment is fine, and is a great thing to do. Chenrezig mantra is pretty typically unrestricted in its standard form.

So yeah, there are things you could do theoretically, but ngondro is really something done under the instructions of a teacher anyway, typically.
Thanks, this was helpful.

I live in a country in which any sort of valid Vajrayana empowerment, lung, transmission, etc. is almost impossible to get. Every once in a great while a famous teacher will visit and give a public transmission but not for a number of years now. I've always been interested in learning and doing a simple low-level tantric practice but the rarity of the opportunities for connection plus the severity of the vows have kept me a bread-and-butter Mahayana practitioner. Which I don't mind. But I have long been drawn to visualization and would love to master a simple sadhana and add it to my practice routine before I die. One would be enough.
There are a ton of Lamas giving live online transmission these days. Garchen Rinpoche does them pretty regular, Tara Mandala does lung transmissions, can't think of anyone else immediately offhand but they aren't uncommon. If I remember right even HHDL has done some Chenrezig empowerment accessible via livestream. If you were looking for a "basic" or fundamental Tantric practice, Chenrezig would be a common one. That said, you really want to receive empowerment from a teacher you like - one that excites you, whos teaching and presence you find inspiring. So that's kind of the preliminary, rather than just finding a random online empowerment.
"...if you think about how many hours, months and years of your life you've spent looking at things, being fascinated by things that have now passed away, then how wonderful to spend even five minutes looking into the nature of your own mind."

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Re: Ngondro as a complete path to enlightenment

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Johnny Dangerous wrote: Tue Dec 29, 2020 2:06 am
FiveSkandhas wrote: Tue Dec 29, 2020 1:57 am
Johnny Dangerous wrote: Tue Dec 29, 2020 1:43 am The four uncommon Ngondro are tantric practices, they involve the same principles as other tantric practices, and always include "the basics of refuge, Bodhicitta, dedication.

IME the context in which this is said is the same as the context of any Buddhist practice in the Tibetan tradtion...and is basically a way of saying that all practices including these elements are a "complete path"...ymmv.

The common Ngondro- the Four Thoughts of course are foundational, and can (and should) be practiced by anyone who wants to. Those ususally come before uncommon ngondro in gradual presentations.



There are unrestricted Tara and Chenrezig practices out there, and I have seen a few teachers, as well as have been given permission myself to start a Ngondro prior to any empowerment. I think it varies greatly from teacher to teacher and school to school, but generally there is at a lung transmission involved, to the best of my knowledge.

All my teachers have said chanting the six syllable mantra without empowerment is fine, and is a great thing to do. Chenrezig mantra is pretty typically unrestricted in its standard form.

So yeah, there are things you could do theoretically, but ngondro is really something done under the instructions of a teacher anyway, typically.
Thanks, this was helpful.

I live in a country in which any sort of valid Vajrayana empowerment, lung, transmission, etc. is almost impossible to get. Every once in a great while a famous teacher will visit and give a public transmission but not for a number of years now. I've always been interested in learning and doing a simple low-level tantric practice but the rarity of the opportunities for connection plus the severity of the vows have kept me a bread-and-butter Mahayana practitioner. Which I don't mind. But I have long been drawn to visualization and would love to master a simple sadhana and add it to my practice routine before I die. One would be enough.
There are a ton of Lamas giving live online transmission these days. Garchen Rinpoche does them pretty regular, Tara Mandala does lung transmissions, can't think of anyone else immediately offhand but they aren't uncommon. If I remember right even HHDL has done some Chenrezig empowerment accessible via livestream. If you were looking for a "basic" or fundamental Tantric practice, Chenrezig would be a common one. That said, you really want to receive empowerment from a teacher you like - one that excites you, whos teaching and presence you find inspiring. So that's kind of the preliminary, rather than just finding a random online empowerment.
Thanks. I'm aware of Garchen Rinpoche and have perused his various websites at some length.
I agree with you about going beyond "random online empowerments." I also take all the commitments very seriously and think that many of the practice commitments are quite heavy so it behooves me to take as much time as possible before committing to anything at all.

I have a wonderful Mahayana teacher who I feel deeply connected to, so perhaps that is enough or one lifetime. I still struggle with the content of the five basic Mahayana lay vows...saddling myself with serious tantric commitments and guru devotion is not something to be undertaken lightly.

By the way, speaking of Garchen Rinpoche, it seems the following is a kind of "open" visualization teaching, but the wording is ambiguous; it is difficult to know what exactly is required, who can practice it, and what the practice commitments are, if any:
https://garchen.tw/English/News/NewsInPage/27
It is a striking practice because his language suggests it is suitable for almost "anyone," but there is just enough uncertainty to keep me wary.
"One should cultivate contemplation in one’s foibles. The foibles are like fish, and contemplation is like fishing hooks. If there are no fish, then the fishing hooks have no use. The bigger the fish is, the better the result we will get. As long as the fishing hooks keep at it, all foibles will eventually be contained and controlled at will." -Zhiyi
Malcolm
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Re: Ngondro as a complete path to enlightenment

Post by Malcolm »

FiveSkandhas wrote: Tue Dec 29, 2020 1:01 am Hello.

I've heard it from a number of sources that Ngondro can serve as a complete path to enlightenment, rather than being thought of merely as "preliminaries."

I am curious if you yourself, or anyone you know of, has decided to practice Ngondro this way, devoting themselves to it completely as a self-contained path and never receiving higher transmissions, teachings, etc. Have there been any famous historical figures known for a devotion to "Ngondro only"?

Just curious about this perspective. I think it would be a noble path indeed, and a singularly humble one. I think in many if not most beginners' minds, there is an at-least-subconscious tendency to be offput by the "preliminary" label. (Not to mention the physical stress of all the prostrations, etc.). Many may seek to "rush through this odious task so I can get to the good stuff higher up." Thus, to embrace Ngondro as a single lifetime practice would involve a deeper understanding of what it is, and a kind of wise humility that would be very refreshing and inspiring.
The main practice of Tibetan Buddhism is guru yoga, which is part of a “ngondro.”

There is no higher practice in Buddhadharma than guru yoga. But in order to practice guru yoga, an empowerment of unsurpassed yoga tantra is required.
"Nonduality is merely a name;
that name does not exist."
—Kotalipa
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Re: Ngondro as a complete path to enlightenment

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Malcolm wrote: Tue Dec 29, 2020 2:36 am
FiveSkandhas wrote: Tue Dec 29, 2020 1:01 am Hello.

I've heard it from a number of sources that Ngondro can serve as a complete path to enlightenment, rather than being thought of merely as "preliminaries."

I am curious if you yourself, or anyone you know of, has decided to practice Ngondro this way, devoting themselves to it completely as a self-contained path and never receiving higher transmissions, teachings, etc. Have there been any famous historical figures known for a devotion to "Ngondro only"?

Just curious about this perspective. I think it would be a noble path indeed, and a singularly humble one. I think in many if not most beginners' minds, there is an at-least-subconscious tendency to be offput by the "preliminary" label. (Not to mention the physical stress of all the prostrations, etc.). Many may seek to "rush through this odious task so I can get to the good stuff higher up." Thus, to embrace Ngondro as a single lifetime practice would involve a deeper understanding of what it is, and a kind of wise humility that would be very refreshing and inspiring.
The main practice of Tibetan Buddhism is guru yoga, which is part of a “ngondro.”

There is no higher practice in Buddhadharma than guru yoga. But in order to practice guru yoga, an empowerment of unsurpassed yoga tantra is required.
Thank you, simple and to the point. This more or less accords with how I understood things to be.
"One should cultivate contemplation in one’s foibles. The foibles are like fish, and contemplation is like fishing hooks. If there are no fish, then the fishing hooks have no use. The bigger the fish is, the better the result we will get. As long as the fishing hooks keep at it, all foibles will eventually be contained and controlled at will." -Zhiyi
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Re: Ngondro as a complete path to enlightenment

Post by karmanyingpo »

Malcolm wrote: Tue Dec 29, 2020 2:36 am
FiveSkandhas wrote: Tue Dec 29, 2020 1:01 am Hello.

I've heard it from a number of sources that Ngondro can serve as a complete path to enlightenment, rather than being thought of merely as "preliminaries."

I am curious if you yourself, or anyone you know of, has decided to practice Ngondro this way, devoting themselves to it completely as a self-contained path and never receiving higher transmissions, teachings, etc. Have there been any famous historical figures known for a devotion to "Ngondro only"?

Just curious about this perspective. I think it would be a noble path indeed, and a singularly humble one. I think in many if not most beginners' minds, there is an at-least-subconscious tendency to be offput by the "preliminary" label. (Not to mention the physical stress of all the prostrations, etc.). Many may seek to "rush through this odious task so I can get to the good stuff higher up." Thus, to embrace Ngondro as a single lifetime practice would involve a deeper understanding of what it is, and a kind of wise humility that would be very refreshing and inspiring.
The main practice of Tibetan Buddhism is guru yoga, which is part of a “ngondro.”

There is no higher practice in Buddhadharma than guru yoga. But in order to practice guru yoga, an empowerment of unsurpassed yoga tantra is required.
Howdy Malcolm. My own teacher told us to practice guru yoga without empowerment, just lung. Can you help me to understand why there is this apparent discrepancy? I would ask my teacher but he is probably busy and not easily accessible directly. Thanx.

KN
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Re: Ngondro as a complete path to enlightenment

Post by Malcolm »

karmanyingpo wrote: Tue Dec 29, 2020 3:15 am
Malcolm wrote: Tue Dec 29, 2020 2:36 am
FiveSkandhas wrote: Tue Dec 29, 2020 1:01 am Hello.

I've heard it from a number of sources that Ngondro can serve as a complete path to enlightenment, rather than being thought of merely as "preliminaries."

I am curious if you yourself, or anyone you know of, has decided to practice Ngondro this way, devoting themselves to it completely as a self-contained path and never receiving higher transmissions, teachings, etc. Have there been any famous historical figures known for a devotion to "Ngondro only"?

Just curious about this perspective. I think it would be a noble path indeed, and a singularly humble one. I think in many if not most beginners' minds, there is an at-least-subconscious tendency to be offput by the "preliminary" label. (Not to mention the physical stress of all the prostrations, etc.). Many may seek to "rush through this odious task so I can get to the good stuff higher up." Thus, to embrace Ngondro as a single lifetime practice would involve a deeper understanding of what it is, and a kind of wise humility that would be very refreshing and inspiring.
The main practice of Tibetan Buddhism is guru yoga, which is part of a “ngondro.”

There is no higher practice in Buddhadharma than guru yoga. But in order to practice guru yoga, an empowerment of unsurpassed yoga tantra is required.
Howdy Malcolm. My own teacher told us to practice guru yoga without empowerment, just lung. Can you help me to understand why there is this apparent discrepancy? I would ask my teacher but he is probably busy and not easily accessible directly. Thanx.

KN
No empowerment, no guru. Thus is universally understood. I can’t comment on why you’ve been encouraged to practice guru yoga sans empowerment or direct introduction. Perhaps he or she thinks devotion is a sufficient condition for guru yoga. But guru yoga is not simply devotion,
"Nonduality is merely a name;
that name does not exist."
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Re: Ngondro as a complete path to enlightenment

Post by Schrödinger’s Yidam »

Apparently Situ R has said that you can get enlightened doing NgonDro. I can’t source it though.
1.The problem isn’t ‘ignorance’. The problem is the mind you have right now. (H.H. Karmapa XVII @NYC 2/4/18)
2. I support Mingyur R and HHDL in their positions against lama abuse.
3. Student: Lama, I thought I might die but then I realized that the 3 Jewels would protect me.
Lama: Even If you had died the 3 Jewels would still have protected you. (DW post by Fortyeightvows)
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Re: Ngondro as a complete path to enlightenment

Post by Malcolm »

Schrödinger’s Yidam wrote: Tue Dec 29, 2020 4:43 am Apparently Situ R has said that you can get enlightened doing NgonDro. I can’t source it though.
Yes, because it is just gathering the two accumulations capped by the practice of guru yoga.
"Nonduality is merely a name;
that name does not exist."
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Re: Ngondro as a complete path to enlightenment

Post by Schrödinger’s Yidam »

With any practice you can set your parameters in 3 ways: by time (days, weeks, months, etc.), repetition (1k, 10k, 100k, etc.), or by result. By result means you do it until it actually works, however long or little that takes. It could mean doing it for your entire life.
1.The problem isn’t ‘ignorance’. The problem is the mind you have right now. (H.H. Karmapa XVII @NYC 2/4/18)
2. I support Mingyur R and HHDL in their positions against lama abuse.
3. Student: Lama, I thought I might die but then I realized that the 3 Jewels would protect me.
Lama: Even If you had died the 3 Jewels would still have protected you. (DW post by Fortyeightvows)
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Re: Ngondro as a complete path to enlightenment

Post by Schrödinger’s Yidam »

Malcolm wrote: Tue Dec 29, 2020 4:51 am
Schrödinger’s Yidam wrote: Tue Dec 29, 2020 4:43 am Apparently Situ R has said that you can get enlightened doing NgonDro. I can’t source it though.
Yes, because it is just gathering the two accumulations capped by the practice of guru yoga.
:good: :twothumbsup:
1.The problem isn’t ‘ignorance’. The problem is the mind you have right now. (H.H. Karmapa XVII @NYC 2/4/18)
2. I support Mingyur R and HHDL in their positions against lama abuse.
3. Student: Lama, I thought I might die but then I realized that the 3 Jewels would protect me.
Lama: Even If you had died the 3 Jewels would still have protected you. (DW post by Fortyeightvows)
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Re: Ngondro as a complete path to enlightenment

Post by tingdzin »

One can practice ngondro in a variety of ways,from a variety of perspectives. It can become more and more profound, especially if one accumulates the 400,000 more than once. As JD said, the so-called ordinary ngondro, the four thoughts that turn the mind, are really a necessary foundation, but even they become more and more subtle and real the more you sincerely practice. Usually one needs a lung to practice the liturgy for the 400,000, but one can start the practices with just that; although it may be good to get the Vajrasattva empowerment before you do the 100 syllable mantra, none of my teachers has judged that as strictly necessary -- other teachers seem to have different opinions. For the Nyingmapa and Kagyu traditions at least, there is now a considerable literature translated into English describing the nuts and bolts of how to approach the 400,000. On the other hand, just picking up a manual and starting to practice without some sort of connection to a teacher or a lineage may not be too useful and may lead to a decline in interest once the first rush of enthusiasm has died down. The most important thing is that if one makes a commitment to do them, one should fulfill that if at all possible.

At some point an empowerment is necessary, and maybe before you start guru yoga, which, although it is considered to go with ngondro, is actually Vajrayana practice. By the time I got to the point of beginning guru yoga the first time ( I completed the 400,000 in the traditional sequence), I had had empowerments, and maybe my teachers assumed that I had, but none of them asked, so I don't know whether they considered it an absolute necessity in that circumstance. Once you do have a real empowerment coupled with a proper understanding (which is not a static thing but itself becomes more and more profound), then ngondro coupled with guru yoga can indeed be a complete Vajrayana path.

There is, however, a danger in thinking there is a once-size-fits-all procedure -- the above is based on the personal instruction of my teachers, and some may have heard different things.

If the above seems to repeat what previous posters have said, it's because I was writing it while they were replying.
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Re: Ngondro as a complete path to enlightenment

Post by Aryjna »

FiveSkandhas wrote: Tue Dec 29, 2020 1:40 am But how about the recitation of "Om Mani Padme Hum"? In practice, millions of people say this the world over with no empowerment.
Also, some have said that "front generation" sadhana-like practice of beings like Medicine Buddha, Vajrasattva, and Shakyamuni, where one does not imagine oneself as merging with the yiddam, are permissible for anyone. Any thoughts?
As it comes from a sutra (this one https://read.84000.co/translation/UT220 ... html#title), there is no need for a trasmission. I think there are sutras that teach visualization practices, like possibly one or more of the Sukhavati sutras, but I am not completely sure as I have not read them in depth.
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Lingpupa
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Re: Ngondro as a complete path to enlightenment

Post by Lingpupa »

Malcolm wrote: Tue Dec 29, 2020 3:35 am
karmanyingpo wrote: Tue Dec 29, 2020 3:15 am
Malcolm wrote: Tue Dec 29, 2020 2:36 am

The main practice of Tibetan Buddhism is guru yoga, which is part of a “ngondro.”

There is no higher practice in Buddhadharma than guru yoga. But in order to practice guru yoga, an empowerment of unsurpassed yoga tantra is required.
Howdy Malcolm. My own teacher told us to practice guru yoga without empowerment, just lung. Can you help me to understand why there is this apparent discrepancy? I would ask my teacher but he is probably busy and not easily accessible directly. Thanx.

KN
No empowerment, no guru. Thus is universally understood. I can’t comment on why you’ve been encouraged to practice guru yoga sans empowerment or direct introduction. Perhaps he or she thinks devotion is a sufficient condition for guru yoga. But guru yoga is not simply devotion,
I am perfectly confident that Malcolm is explaining things correctly from a certain point of view. If I may indulge in clichés, the fact is however that "on the ground" this dish is "not eaten as hot as it is served".

When I did my first ngondro it was under the system where, apart from special dispensations, we first did 100,000 prostrations, THEN 100,000 Dorje Sempas, THEN 100,000 mandala offerings and THEN went on to guru yoga. Doing this in the course of what is laughingly called a "normal" life this of course took some time, so by the time I got as far as the guru yoga I had (probably in common with most of my contemporaries who had not fallen by the wayside) received a couple of heavy-duty tantric empowerments, so there was no need to give it much thought.

What, however, about those who were given, as their first "personally given" practice, a ngondro in which all four (or five to seven, depending on the counting) are practised as one session from day one? It would, of course, have been clear that a few of those people might have received a serious empowerment, and would have been assumed that all of them (again assuming they didn't fall by the wayside) would receive one or more such empowerments in due course. Many, however, would quite possibly not have received a proper empowerment at all, even for the Chenrezi or Tara that they might have been chanting in their centre. (Aside: I recall that in those days Kalu Rinpoche stressed one of the values of Chenrezi being that since the mani is taught in the sutras, anyone with the right motivation could practice it. He did also, of course, give both "standard" Chenrezi empowerments as well as an empowerment for Chenrezi as a yidam.)

I would be interested, if Malcolm reads this, to hear how he squares this with his view that, if I may paraphrase, no empowerment => no guru => no guru yoga. Is it that the teachers concerned were teaching wrongly? Or was the guru yoga practice involved somehow only of a low-grade? Or was it in some way not a "real" guru yoga? (Alert: the third possibility soon leads to the "no true Scotsman" fallacy.)
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Re: Ngondro as a complete path to enlightenment

Post by Könchok Thrinley »

FiveSkandhas wrote: Tue Dec 29, 2020 1:40 am
Thank you for this information.

By the way, is it permissible to start Ngondro without a teacher/empowerment/guru? I'm guessing "no." If not, is there anything even more basic yet part of the Vajrayana that one can do before making a connection with a teacher or receiving a transmission/empowerment?

Again, I'm guessing "no," but I thought I'd ask anyway.

My understanding is that Vajrayana of any sort, including preliminaries, always necessitates a guru and a transmission/empowerment of some kind. I would assume vows and Bodhicitta are also basic necessities.

But how about the recitation of "Om Mani Padme Hum"? In practice, millions of people say this the world over with no empowerment.
Also, some have said that "front generation" sadhana-like practice of beings like Medicine Buddha, Vajrasattva, and Shakyamuni, where one does not imagine oneself as merging with the yiddam, are permissible for anyone. Any thoughts?
Yup, you need at least lung. Definitely it is worth it to follow some empowerments that happen nowadays online at least. What I would encourage you to do is to look for your lama. And see if you find someone you like and ask them for a lung for ngöndro sadhana. You may have to ask a few times and explain your situation, but lung can easily be given online and everyone agrees on that basically.

Some mantras don't need lung as they come from Buddha or a realized master that lots of people follow indicated it to be the case. Anyway, there is no trouble doing some sadhanas that don't need a lung/empowerment. It could help you find your teacher.
“Observing samaya involves to remain inseparable from the union of wisdom and compassion at all times, to sustain mindfulness, and to put into practice the guru’s instructions”. Garchen Rinpoche

Formerly known as Miroku.
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Re: Ngondro as a complete path to enlightenment

Post by Malcolm »

Lingpupa wrote: Tue Dec 29, 2020 11:02 am
I would be interested, if Malcolm reads this, to hear how he squares this with his view that, if I may paraphrase, no empowerment => no guru => no guru yoga. Is it that the teachers concerned were teaching wrongly? Or was the guru yoga practice involved somehow only of a low-grade? Or was it in some way not a "real" guru yoga? (Alert: the third possibility soon leads to the "no true Scotsman" fallacy.)
No empowerment, no guru, no guru yoga is something that is very clearly stated in the tantras.

I know that in the seventies and eighties, some kagyu and nyingma lamas insisted western people perform a ngondro as prerequisite to receiving empowerments to see how serious they were.

This approach has largely collapsed.
"Nonduality is merely a name;
that name does not exist."
—Kotalipa
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