What happens BEFORE ngondro?

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Hazel
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What happens BEFORE ngondro?

Post by Hazel »

I have heard ngondro mentioned a lot and I know plenty of examples of what the practices are specifically, but one question I'm wondering is when in my journey I should seek this out and HOW to seek it out.
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Könchok Thrinley
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Re: What happens BEFORE ngondro?

Post by Könchok Thrinley »

Hazel wrote: Thu Jan 07, 2021 9:36 pm I have heard ngondro mentioned a lot and I know plenty of examples of what the practices are specifically, but one question I'm wondering is when in my journey I should seek this out and HOW to seek it out.
Well, you find a teacher qualified to give you the transmission and ideally instructions.
“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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Brunelleschi
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Re: What happens BEFORE ngondro?

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Taking refuge.
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Hazel
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Re: What happens BEFORE ngondro?

Post by Hazel »

Könchok Thrinley wrote: Thu Jan 07, 2021 9:37 pm
Hazel wrote: Thu Jan 07, 2021 9:36 pm I have heard ngondro mentioned a lot and I know plenty of examples of what the practices are specifically, but one question I'm wondering is when in my journey I should seek this out and HOW to seek it out.
Well, you find a teacher qualified to give you the transmission and ideally instructions.
Do I just ask? At what point in that relationship? What should I be clear on first?

There is a Geshe I feel very drawn to, but I've attended only 4 or so talks of his at this point. He is the main instructor at a FPMT center so presumably Gelug. Not sure how schools differ about these things.
Brunelleschi wrote: Thu Jan 07, 2021 9:38 pm Taking refuge.
The formal ceremony? I have not had an opportunity for that and with the lockdown it is seeming unlikely. I really wish I had the chance.
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Re: What happens BEFORE ngondro?

Post by Könchok Thrinley »

Hazel wrote: Thu Jan 07, 2021 10:30 pm
Könchok Thrinley wrote: Thu Jan 07, 2021 9:37 pm
Hazel wrote: Thu Jan 07, 2021 9:36 pm I have heard ngondro mentioned a lot and I know plenty of examples of what the practices are specifically, but one question I'm wondering is when in my journey I should seek this out and HOW to seek it out.
Well, you find a teacher qualified to give you the transmission and ideally instructions.
Do I just ask? At what point in that relationship? What should I be clear on first?

There is a Geshe I feel very drawn to, but I've attended only 4 or so talks of his at this point. He is the main instructor at a FPMT center so presumably Gelug. Not sure how schools differ about these things.
Yes, he is a geshe so he is a gulgpa. If you feel drawn to him, then go for it. You can ask him about it. Gelugpas have their own way of doing ngondro. There are no samayas or anything coming from it and if you see he is a good teacher or you feel you want to make this sort of connection with him, then no problem.

It would especially be wonderful if you have this access to see him more often (after pandemic) so he can answer questions/ give further instructions.
Hazel wrote: Thu Jan 07, 2021 10:30 pm
Brunelleschi wrote: Thu Jan 07, 2021 9:38 pm Taking refuge.
The formal ceremony? I have not had an opportunity for that and with the lockdown it is seeming unlikely. I really wish I had the chance.
Not strictly necessary, but it depends. It is definitely good to have a formal ceremony. You might also ask him about that.
“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.
PeterC
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Re: What happens BEFORE ngondro?

Post by PeterC »

Hazel wrote: Thu Jan 07, 2021 10:30 pm
Könchok Thrinley wrote: Thu Jan 07, 2021 9:37 pm
Hazel wrote: Thu Jan 07, 2021 9:36 pm I have heard ngondro mentioned a lot and I know plenty of examples of what the practices are specifically, but one question I'm wondering is when in my journey I should seek this out and HOW to seek it out.
Well, you find a teacher qualified to give you the transmission and ideally instructions.
Do I just ask? At what point in that relationship? What should I be clear on first?

There is a Geshe I feel very drawn to, but I've attended only 4 or so talks of his at this point. He is the main instructor at a FPMT center so presumably Gelug. Not sure how schools differ about these things.
Brunelleschi wrote: Thu Jan 07, 2021 9:38 pm Taking refuge.
The formal ceremony? I have not had an opportunity for that and with the lockdown it is seeming unlikely. I really wish I had the chance.
A ceremony is actually helpful for a lot of people. It's an important milestone. A lot of lamas will probably arrange something over a VC if you ask nicely.

I personally think people should start ngondro as soon as they have considered and accepted a teacher and that teacher has given them broad direction on the major practice they should eventually work on. But before you do that, there's never any downside in doing shamatha and the brahmaviharas (or tonglen of some kind). It's always helpful to have some basic proficiency in shamatha at the outset, because it makes your mind more stable; and if you read the stories of the 84 mahasiddhas, pretty much all of them received and practiced the four immeasurables. These are things you can learn from anyone, or from a book even.
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Re: What happens BEFORE ngondro?

Post by fckw »

Well, before ngöndro you might want to engage in lamrim or related forms of shamata & vipashyana practices. They are an excellent preparation for any higher meditation system.
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Re: What happens BEFORE ngondro?

Post by SilenceMonkey »

Könchok Thrinley wrote: Thu Jan 07, 2021 10:34 pm
Yes, he is a geshe so he is a gulgpa. If you feel drawn to him, then go for it. You can ask him about it. Gelugpas have their own way of doing ngondro. There are no samayas or anything coming from it and if you see he is a good teacher or you feel you want to make this sort of connection with him, then no problem.
I wonder what the gelukpa way of ngondro is... I know there is a gelukpa tantric ngondro for the vajrayana practices, which is paralleled in other traditions. It seems Geluk tradition has a set of 900,000 accumulations instead of 400,000 or 500,000.

https://studybuddhism.com/en/advanced-s ... -practices

But I've also heard that often teachers in Geluk tradition will have students do study as ngondro for tantra. Lam Rim, madhyamaka, etc...

I don't get the sense that the Geluk tradition means the same things as other traditions when they say the word "Ngondro." Instead of 400,000 or 500,000 accumulations for tantric practice, I get the sense they use it in the general sense of "preparation" or "what one does before" a certain practice. In that sense, Lorig and Tarig are often the ngondro for debate. Abdhidharma study is ngondro for madhyamaka. etc...

If you're looking for tantric ngondro, it might be good to keep in mind that not every geshe has studied or practiced tantra. They have to go to a special school to learn these things.
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Re: What happens BEFORE ngondro?

Post by Schrödinger’s Yidam »

He is the main instructor at a FPMT center so presumably Gelug. Not sure how schools differ about these things.
Generally Gelugpas don’t start people out with Vajrayana practices, which includes NgonDro. There’s lots of general Mahayana teachings. That can be a good thing.

Also I don’t think they stress NgonDro much. They do have a version of it, but it much much longer, and NgonDro is extremely long to start with. I think they just start with Chenrezig, or something like that.
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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: What happens BEFORE ngondro?

Post by Hazel »

Schrödinger’s Yidam wrote: Mon Jan 11, 2021 3:26 am Generally Gelugpas don’t start people out with Vajrayana practices, which includes NgonDro.
Then who introduces people in that tradition to Vajrayana? I may misunderstand your statement.
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Re: What happens BEFORE ngondro?

Post by karmanyingpo »

Hazel wrote: Mon Jan 11, 2021 4:05 am
Schrödinger’s Yidam wrote: Mon Jan 11, 2021 3:26 am Generally Gelugpas don’t start people out with Vajrayana practices, which includes NgonDro.
Then who introduces people in that tradition to Vajrayana? I may misunderstand your statement.
I think senior Gelugpas who have had training in Vajrayana and the appropriate transmissions and empowerments and qualifications would introduce people to Vajrayana practices.

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Re: What happens BEFORE ngondro?

Post by Ayu »

Hazel wrote: Mon Jan 11, 2021 4:05 am
Schrödinger’s Yidam wrote: Mon Jan 11, 2021 3:26 am Generally Gelugpas don’t start people out with Vajrayana practices, which includes NgonDro.
Then who introduces people in that tradition to Vajrayana? I may misunderstand your statement.
It's not completely fixed how to proceed. Different teachers recommend different things.
Getting familiar with the Lamrim is a good first step. Start with meditation as well. Some basic practice like observing the breath or any other shamata practice.

I know two gelug teachers who have a different approach with Ngöndro. One of them neglects Ngöndro to a certain extent. The other teacher emphasizes on Ngöndro's benefits, encouraging us to do it. But it is really only preliminary for Tantra meditation. There's a lot to learn before. Lamrim is vast and deep.

I know students of that second teacher who do not practice HYT and they don't accumulate Ngöndro as well.

And: if you want to learn Vajrayana or not, can be your own decision as well. At the end you are the creator of your path. The teacher only points with his finger to the direction.
For the benefit and ease of all sentient beings. :heart:
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Re: What happens BEFORE ngondro?

Post by Schrödinger’s Yidam »

Hazel wrote: Mon Jan 11, 2021 4:05 am
Schrödinger’s Yidam wrote: Mon Jan 11, 2021 3:26 am Generally Gelugpas don’t start people out with Vajrayana practices, which includes NgonDro.
Then who introduces people in that tradition to Vajrayana? I may misunderstand your statement.
Generally their approach is Vajrayana, but only after years of Sutrayana as preparation. Different teachers take different approaches though in that regard.
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: What happens BEFORE ngondro?

Post by Bristollad »

If you look to the FPMT, probably the main Gelug organisation in the West, their education program starts off with Discovering Buddhism, which has 13 study modules and one special integration experiences module:

"Undertaking intensive practices of purification, a ten-day lamrim course/retreat, and three Nyung Nä retreats creates the inner conditions needed to gain the realizations of the path to enlightenment. The purification practices entail 100,000 prostrations to the Thirty-Five Buddhas and 100,000 long Vajrasattva mantras (two of the nine traditional preliminary practices). The ten-day lamrim course/retreat can be done on one’s own or at some FPMT centers, including Kopan Monastery in Nepal. A Nyung Nä is a two-day fasting practice related to the buddha of compassion. It can be done at many FPMT centers, especially during the month of Saka Dawa, which falls in May-June. This module can be started at any time in the program but is best started early on, such as after the module All About Karma, as it takes some time to complete."

https://fpmt.org/education/programs/dis ... -buddhism/

The programme of study is expected to take around 2 years if followed at a Dharma centre. Additionally, as people develop a relationship with a particular teacher, they may request and be given particular practices to do. Lama Zopa Rinpoche seems often to suggest making tsa-tsas as an additional practice - anything from tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands. My first teacher (who was not from the FPMT but was a Gelug Geshe) used to suggest people do mandala offerings, 4-armed Chenresig or Tara praises if they wanted additional practices to work on.

Next in the FPMT education programmes are the Basic Program and the Masters Program, both of which include study modules dealing with tantra. At the Basic Program level, it is introductory material, explaining the different classes of tantra and so on. In the Masters Program, there are two modules on tantra and an appropriate empowerment is required before they can be studied.

It is common for empowerments to be given by senior visiting Gelug teachers rather than by the centre teacher. As has been mentioned, not all Geshes will have studied at one of the Tantric colleges. At the FPMT centre where I study, there are two geshes. The senior one does not give empowerments nor like to teach the tantra modules. The junior one does. For the Master Program, the junior one was still happy that the centre requested the Ganden Tripa to come and give the empowerment. However, he normally gives and leads a HYT empowerment and retreat each summer.
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Re: What happens BEFORE ngondro?

Post by karmanyingpo »

Bristollad wrote: Mon Jan 11, 2021 5:47 pm The senior one does not give empowerments nor like to teach the tantra modules. The junior one does. For the Master Program, the junior one was still happy that the centre requested the Ganden Tripa to come and give the empowerment. However, he normally gives and leads a HYT empowerment and retreat each summer.
Do you know why the senior one doesn't like to teach the tantra modules? Is it a comfort level thing despite having qualifications to teach that, or is he just not qualified in tantra even if he is in sutrayana?

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Re: What happens BEFORE ngondro?

Post by Bristollad »

The senior told me he has no wish to be a tantric guru. He is happier helping people with the simple things (his words).

Most of my teachers have cautioned against people rushing to get the next “greatest” empowerment.
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Re: What happens BEFORE ngondro?

Post by Hazel »

Honestly, I never felt a rush to get into tantra until reading some stuff on this forum about it being the only viable path towards Buddhahood in the degenerative age and something about a guarantee of awakening in X number of rebirths or something... also other general views of it. Also someone mentioning that that's what Tibetan Buddhism primarily was.
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Re: What happens BEFORE ngondro?

Post by Schrödinger’s Yidam »

Hazel wrote: Mon Jan 11, 2021 9:18 pmAlso someone mentioning that that's what Tibetan Buddhism primarily was.
True. TB is mostly Vajrayana. But there are aspects like Zen, aspects like Pure Land, aspects like Therevada, etc.

It can be bewildering to explore. But if you’re into visualizing deities and saying mantras you’re definitely going to get a lot of exposure to that.
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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Hazel
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Re: What happens BEFORE ngondro?

Post by Hazel »

Schrödinger’s Yidam wrote: Tue Jan 12, 2021 1:25 am
Hazel wrote: Mon Jan 11, 2021 9:18 pmAlso someone mentioning that that's what Tibetan Buddhism primarily was.
True. TB is mostly Vajrayana. But there are aspects like Zen, aspects like Pure Land, aspects like Therevada, etc.

It can be bewildering to explore. But if you’re into visualizing deities and saying mantras you’re definitely going to get a lot of exposure to that.
I guess my worry is that I wont ever get there (in this life)....
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Re: What happens BEFORE ngondro?

Post by zerwe »

Hazel wrote: Tue Jan 12, 2021 1:51 am
Schrödinger’s Yidam wrote: Tue Jan 12, 2021 1:25 am
Hazel wrote: Mon Jan 11, 2021 9:18 pmAlso someone mentioning that that's what Tibetan Buddhism primarily was.
True. TB is mostly Vajrayana. But there are aspects like Zen, aspects like Pure Land, aspects like Therevada, etc.

It can be bewildering to explore. But if you’re into visualizing deities and saying mantras you’re definitely going to get a lot of exposure to that.
I guess my worry is that I wont ever get there (in this life)....
Don't worry and don't rush. This is about your enlightenment and learning how to live your life for the benefit of all sentient beings. You have a lot of good answers on here. I would continue to develop your relationship with the center's Geshe. Discovering Buddhism is a great option and, as previously pointed out, there are some preliminary practices within this program of study you can learn about and engage in. I started out having a lot of the same feelings I think you are having now and thought that opportunities simply just would not be there. However, I practiced and made some real aspirations and unbelievable opportunities (more than I ever could have imagined or asked for) arose.

As far as Tantra is concerned, many Geshe's (those who are not authorized to teach Tantra, give initiations, completed the required retreat, etc...) will defer to higher Lamas, but they will give you advice, practices, lung, tri, etc...

If you like and you feel like you have some connection maybe you could write to Rinpoche (Lama Zopa) and ask him for some practices or advice. I would CAUTION YOU, if he does a divination, and gives you "Practices for Life" (Preliminary Practices/Ngondro, instructions, etc...) it is (I would consider) complete, very involved, and should be taken seriously. LZR often gives A LOT of practices. This is a good thing.

In my case, I was given very specific practices, numbers for accumulation, and instructions that did not reflect the typical Gelug Ngondro. However, standard Gelug Ngondro would be a good start if you feel that you have an affinity for this tradition.

There are typically Nine Ngondro practices in Gelug done within a particular Guru Yoga practice (usually Ganden Lhagyama);

Prostrations (35 Buddhas)
Mandala Offerings with
--Refuge and Bodhicitta
Water Bowls
Guru Yoga (Migstema)
Vajrasattva
Samayvajra
Tsa-Tsas
Vajradaka

Here is a link to a good overview on Berzin's site

https://studybuddhism.com/en/advanced-s ... -practices

Best Wishes,
Shaun :namaste:
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