Mipham Rinpoche Ngondro

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Mipham Rinpoche Ngondro...



Kunkyen Mipham Rinpoche’s “The Luminous Path to Liberation” Khenchen Prachhimba Dorjee Rinpoche This text is based on the teaching of Khenchen Prachhimba Dorjee Rinpoche given at Dharmakirti College in Tucson, Arizona, from March 25 to April 22, 2007. The commentary is supplemented with references to The Words of My Perfect Teacher. All citation references are to this text.

Introduction First, one receives the teaching on rigpa—pure, nonconceptual awareness—and then direct understanding follows. This is the ground and the view of all of the Vajrayana teachings. Then one does ngondro—the preliminary practices. These prepare one as a suitable vessel for the advanced teachings and begin the process of training the mind that leads to enlightenment in just one lifetime. This text divides these practices into three parts: outer, inner, and secret. Just as one teaches “a,b,c” as a foundation for reading, we learn the ngondro as the foundation for all advanced practices. The first of these are the Four Thoughts That Turn the Mind. The purpose is to awaken our motivation towards enlightenment and a commitment to practice, just as one must commit to practice to master a musical instrument. With proper motivation, understanding comes and the rest is easy! When we understand the nature of samsara and nirvana, that is rigpa. Then the three poisons of ignorance, attachment and anger are finished and we attain enlightenment! The outer ngondro is followed by the inner ngondro. We take refuge in the source of the path to enlightenment. We further develop our motivation through bodhicitta—the altruistic intention to achieve enlightenment not just for ourselves, but for all sentient beings. We accumulate merit to solidify our commitment through the offering of the mandala, and purify our body, speech and mind through the deity practice of Vajrasattva. The secret ngondro in this text consists of the three-fold guru yoga practices, the essence of all paths. We receive the blessings of the guru through our openness and devotion to the teacher. This is the most direct and rapid way to progress on the path. OUTER NGONDRO 1. Precious human birth


2. Impermanence 3. Karma 4. Suffering INNER NGONDRO 1. Refuge 2. Bodhicitta 3. Mandala offering 4. Vajrasattva purification SECRET NGONDRO 1. Guru Yoga 2. Yidam Guru Yoga 3. Rigpa Guru Yoga The guidance of a lama is very important in completing these practices. It is traditional to complete each of these 100,000 times (one lak) or more. The exact number may vary depending on one’s experiential understanding. Thus, some lamas recommend these as one’s primary practice for a period of one year. Others recommend following them as a preliminary to other advanced practices every day for the rest of one’s life. The ngondro is followed by generation stage practices following a sadhana—ritual text—in which one develops “pure view”—visualizing oneself and all beings as buddhas, all sounds as mantra, all thoughts as those of a buddha, and all phenomena as a pure buddhafield. This leads into the perfection stage in which the sacred outlook of pure view is completed by working with the subtle energies of the body. Finally, one engages in the perfection phase of Dzogchen—The Great Perfection—in which the nature of mind, our innate Buddhanature, is fully realized through the direct experience of ultimate truth.

OUTER NGONDRO The outer ngondro is divided into three parts: body, speech, and mind. First we clean the body, then our speech and finally, the main practice, our mind (lirung).

Body – Lu Lirung To clean the body, sit in a comfortable position with your back straight. A straight back is the most important aspect of the posture, whether you sit in a cross-legged position or in a chair. This facilitates natural breathing.


We clean the body by using our breath. (You may do this sequence once; but if you have time, repeat this sequence 3 times.) • Inhale naturally, block right nostril with the right index finger, exhale forcefully out the left nostril. Visualize the breath going out as red – the poison of desire. • Inhale naturally, block the left nostril with the left index finger, exhale forcefully out the right nostril. Visualize the breath going out as white – the poison of anger. • Inhale naturally, exhale forcefully out of both nostrils. Visualize the breath as black – the root poison of ignorance. Inhale naturally through both nostrils. When repeating three times, use a stronger breath on last exhale. This purifies our channels (tsa), winds (lung), and drops (tigle). Then all bad karma (li), 3 poisons (nyön), and subtle obscurations (wachak) are all finished and we are left with naked rigpa. •

Conclude the practice by placing the thumbs at the base of the ring fingers, and then fold two middle fingers of each hand over, leaving index and little fingers pointed out. Cross your arms like Vajradhara. Then quickly extend your arms out until your hands are on your knees like Avalokiteshvara. Rest in the natural state of rigpa—pure nonconceptual awareness.

Speech – Na Lirung

Next we clean our speech. First, a red hot syllable RAM comes to tip of our tongue and “finishes” it, i.e. it disappears. The tongue is replaced by a triangle (tip forward, like the tongue), light red in color. Then inside the triangle, we see three mantras spiral out from the center as we recite the mantras. The spiral is spelled out syllable by syllable in the counter-clockwise direction, while at the same time the whole spiral rotates in the opposite direction (clockwise): • Innermost mantra spiral starts with White Sanskrit Vowels: OM

a, aa

i, ii

u, uu

ri, rii

li, lii

e, ey

o, oh

ang, ah

Middle mantra spiral continues with Red Sanskrit Consonants: ka kha ga gha nga/ tsa ts’a dza dz’a nya/ ●

ta● t’a● da● d’a na/ ● ∙ 4

ta t’a da d’a na/1 pa p’a ba b’a ma/ ya ra la wa/ sha kha sa ha kya SO HA/ •

Outer mantra spiral finishes with Blue Mantra of Interdependent Origination – clockwise: OM YE-DHAR-MA HE-TU PRA-B’A-WA HE-TUN-TE-KHAN TA-T’A-GA-TO HYA-WA-DA-TA/ TE-KHAN-TSA YO NI-RO-D’A E-VAM-WA-DI MA-HA-SHRA-MA-NA-YE SO-HA (If you are unable to visualize the syllables, it’s okay to just visualize the color.)

Light goes out as offering to Buddhas and returns as a blessing; the tongue reappears. We say the “Mantra of Increasing Mantras” (3X): OM SAM-BHA-RA SAM-BHA-RA BI-MA-NA SA-RA MA-HA ZAM-BHA-BA HUNG PHAT SO-HA!

We achieve Vajra Speech (Buddha’s speech). Then rest in the natural state of rigpa.

Say the prayer “Guru, think of me!” (3X – sadhana p. 1). The first repetition, think about Nirmanakaya—arhat/Hinayana enlightenment. The second repetition, think about Sambhogakaya— Mahayana bodhicitta. The third repetition, think about Dharmakaya —Buddhanature or rigpa. The 9-fold meaning is as follows. The first repetition represents the Guru—3 kayas (teaching). The second repetition represents the blessing—3 yanas and their natures (listening). The third repetition represents yourself—3 as one, “one taste” (doing).

Mind – Sem Lirung 1

The second line has a slightly softer sound made by touching the tongue to the back of the teeth instead of the pallet behind the teeth as in the previous line.


To purify the mind, rest mind in natural state of rigpa. Then, contemplate and recite verses on The Four Thoughts That Turn the Mind (sadhana pp. 1-3): •

Precious Human Life: We reflect on the nature of freedom to practice the dharma.2 These include not being born in one of the other realms of existence: the hell realm where one is too tormented to practice, the pretas (hungry-ghosts) where one is too hungry and thirsty to practice, the animal realm where one may be enslaved or attacked by others, and the gods who spend their time in mental blankness. We are also fortunate not to be born in a country where there is no dharma, or to be an adherent of a nonBuddhist religious or philosophical tradition, or in a dark time when one cannot distinguish good from bad. And we are fortunate not to be born mute or mentally deficient. One may also contemplate the ten advantages, five individual advantages and five circumstantial advantages.3 The individual advantages are having been born a human, being born in where the dharma is available, having all one’s faculties, having the wish to do positive actions (intention), and having the ability to turn your mind to the dharma (faith). The five circumstantial advantages are that a Buddha has appeared, he taught the dharma, the teachings are still available, we have the good fortune to follow them, and we have the extraordinary compassion of a spiritual friend (teacher) who has accepted us. Thus to have Precious Human Life does not simply mean being born as a human. We only have precious human life to the degree that we practice and do good virtue. In a given day, if we are caught up in samsara all day except for one hour of practice, then we have only one hour of precious human life. If, on the other hand, we go through the day in the natural state of rigpa, we have many hours of precious human life. If we do not practice and do not do good virtue, then we do not have precious human life. (“Rare as… meaningful way!”)

2 3 4

Impermanence: We have this precious human life, but it is not permanent. There are seven contemplations on impermanence.4 Even our universe—the outer world—is not permanent; it too will eventually cease to exist. All beings will die, nor can anything save them from that. Even holy beings have disappeared. Those in positions of power whether loved or hated all die. Seasons, WMPT pp. 19-21 WMPT pp. 21-29 WMPT pp. 39-59


communities, families, friends, possessions, and our own bodies change. We too will die and we do not know when or where. Even our next act or breath may be our last. Yet, impermanence does not simply mean the knowledge that we will die. Many people understand that they will indeed die, but if we truly understand impermanence, we think, “If I die now, who will help me?” and we realize that nothing – nobody, not money, not anything external to me – will help me except the Dharma, so I must practice NOW. We know that what is inside, our practice, is important. If we are lazy in our practice, our future will be difficult. Practice now and the future will be very easy! (“All conditioned…. and death!”) •

Karma: This refers to the good and bad results from our actions. The most fundamental principle is to do good, or at least cause no harm. There are ten negative actions to be avoided:5 1. Intentionally taking the life of another 2. Taking what is not given 3. Sexual misconduct 4. Lying 5. Sowing discord between others 6. Harsh speech 7. Worthless chatter 8. Desirous thoughts about other’s property 9. Wishing harm on others 10. Wrong views, including that our actions have no karmic effect, eternalism and nihilism6 The first three relate to the body, the next four relate to speech, and the last three are acts of mind. There are also ten corresponding positive actions to be adopted:7 1. Protect the lives of beings 2. Practice generosity 3. Follow the rules of discipline 4. Tell the truth 5. Reconcile disputes 6. Speak pleasantly 7. Recite prayers


WMPT pp. 102-112 Eternalism is a belief in a permanent, independent existence (free of any causes or conditions). Nihilism is a belief that nothing actually exists other than our own mind. These are often referred to as the two extremes. In Vajrayana they are also important in establishing the nonconceptual nature of emptiness, free of these two extremes as well as both or neither. 7 WMPT pp. 117-118 6


8. 9. 10.

Be generous Help others Engage in the true and authentic view

Help animals. Do good actions. “Intention is by far the most important factor.”8 Non-Buddhist karma is different, but similar. Buddhists take refuge. Even some Buddhist practices do not, in themselves, lead to enlightenment. Shamata—no thinking—leads to the god realm, still part of samsara. We still have some thoughts like, “I am a god.” So it is very important to pay attention to your actions.9 When you wake up in the morning, arouse bodhicitta. At night, dedicate the merit of your actions. At all times, be mindful and vigilant of your actions. (“The karmic results…abandon vice!”) •

The suffering of samsara: Suffering is difficult; ordinary happiness is temporary. The six realms are all samsara. Even gods fall to the hell realm when they die. There are eighteen hells: eight hot hells, eight cold hells, neighboring hells and ephemeral hells.10 There are two types of pretas: those who live collectively and those who move through space.11 The first group suffer from extreme hunger and thirst, with mouths the size of the eye of a needle, throats as thin as a horse’s hair and stomachs the size of a country. The second group live in constant terror and hallucination, thinking of nothing but evil and undergoing continuous torture. Animals suffer from being hunted, attacked and eaten by others, or from stupidity and being exploited. The Buddha taught that humans suffer from birth, old age, sickness and death.12 In addition, the suffering of humans may be classified into three types:13 1. The suffering of change—we lose things we want (attachment) or get things we don’t want (aversion). 2. Suffering of suffering—pain and mental anguish 3. All-pervasive suffering—subtle suffering due to total immersion in the causes of suffering14


WMPT p. 124 WMPT pp. 129-130 10 WMPT pp. 63-68 11 WMPT pp. 72-75 12 WMPT pp. 81-85 13 WMPT pp. 78-80 14 This suffering (dukka) is often referred to as due to our fundamental ignorance (the root cause) of the true nature of all beings and all phenomena—luminous emptiness. 9


Other human sufferings include fear of meeting our enemies, fear of losing loved ones, fear of not getting what we want or getting what we don’t want, similar to the suffering of change.15 The demigods suffer from envy, quarrelling and fighting.16 The gods live in a mindless euphoric state in which they exhaust their good karma then fall to a lower realm based on remaining negative karma.17 To finish samsara is arhat thinking, Hinayana motivation— enlightenment for ourselves. Arhat enlightenment (Ninjyong) involves renunciation of samsara, renouncing actions involving the five poisons [ignorance, attachment, anger, pride, jealousy].18 If we have a good heart (bodhicitta), we will not have the five poisons. Ask the Guru to bless you; ask for a mind blessing and renunciation of samsara. If we have nirvana thinking to achieve enlightenment for the benefit of all sentient beings, enlightenment will come. (“We are plagued…the depths of our hearts!”) After carefully contemplating these Four Thoughts, we should feel great compassion for all who suffer and strong motivation to achieve enlightenment for the benefit of all sentient beings. Having achieved this state, rest your mind in the natural state of rigpa. If you have this foundation (of the Four Thoughts), practice comes very easily! This foundation is very, very important. If you do good and have a good heart, good comes. You will really understand and you will help many people. You can die and come again to help even more.


WMPT pp. 85-92 WMPT pp. 92-93 17 WMPT pp. 93-94 18 Some sources articulate the six realms of samsara in terms of six poisons or afflictions associated respectively with each: hells—anger, pretas—greed, animals— ignorance, humans—attachment/desire, demigods—jealousy, and gods— pride/arrogance. In this context, these realms may also be manifestations of our human experience. 16


INNER NGONDRO The inner ngondro includes the practices of refuge, bodhicitta, the offering mandala, and Vajrasattva purification.

Refuge Taking refuge is a sign of faith. There are three kinds: vivid, eager, and confident faith. “Vivid faith is the faith that is inspired in us by thinking


of the immense compassion of the Buddhas and great teachers.”19 “Eager faith is our eagerness to be free of the sufferings of lower realms … our eagerness to enjoy the happiness of higher realms and of liberation … our eagerness to engage in positive actions … and our eagerness to avoid negative actions.”20 “Confident faith is the faith in the Three Jewels that arises from the depth of our hearts…”21 Faith leads to motivation of which there are three different levels: lesser beings are motivated by fear of the lower realms, middling beings are motivated by achieving nirvana for ourselves, and great beings are motivated by the desire to help all beings overcome sufferings and achieve enlightenment.22 •

19 20 21 22

Fold your hands together like a lotus bud (not flat, but empty inside) filled with a wish-fulfilling jewel and bring them to your heart while visualizing the refuge tree (see Mipham Rinpoche’s Refuge Tree) – “the five branched wish-granting tree” (p. 3) o Padmasambhava is in the center with his Indian consort, Mandrava –“the Vajradhara Guru of Oddiyana sits before me.” o Samantabhadra is at the top with his consort, Samantabhadri. o Between Samantabhadra and Padmasambhava are the lineage gurus (Vajrasattva, Garab Dorje… H.H. Jigmed Phuntsok Rinpoche…) – “surrounded by lineage gurus…” o To Padmasambhava’s lower right and left are Yidams Avalokiteshvara, Hayagriva, etc. – “yidams” o In front of Padmasambhava are the Buddhas of the three times: Past, Present (Shakyamuni –“in front of him the supreme teacher”), and Future. The tree shows three, but we think of all Buddhas of past present and future. o On Padmasambhava’s right are the Bodhisattvas (Manjushri, Avalokiteshvara, Vajrapani, Samantabhadra, etc.) – “the eight close sons, the Mahayana’s noble assembly” o On Padmasambhava’s left are the Arhats, the Hinayana sangha – “the eight… sravakas [hearers] and pratyekabuddhas [solitary realizers].” o Behind Padmasambhava are the 64 million Dzogchen Tantra Texts – “the Buddha’s sublime words…the Buddhist scripture” o The Dharma protectors, the Dharmapalas (millions) are at the bottom – “the assembly of wisdom protectors.” WMPT p. 171 WMPT p. 172 Ibid. WMPT p. 176-177


The whole vision is filled with sentient beings. Visualize your mother on your left and your father on your right, and all other beings in front of you with your “enemies” in the very front. All sentient beings make prostrations and recite the refuge prayer three times with prostrations: o “In the assembly of gurus, Yidams, and dakinis, that fill the furthest reaches of space…” o Bringing the hands up to the crown (Buddha) – “and in the Buddha” – purifies your body o Then to the throat (Dharma) – “Dharma” – purifies your speech o Finally to the heart (Sangha) – “and noble Sangha” – purifies your mind o Then prostrate touching hands, knees and head to the floor23 – “I and all the six classes go for refuge respectfully” – purifies the obscurations of the 5 poisons. The five poisons are finished; and we understand the 5 kayas.

Visualization is important, but the most important thing is to have very good faith and motivation. Repeat the refuge prayer 100,000 times (one lak). It’s better to do it slowly with faith and motivation than to just finish it. If you just finish it with no feeling, then this is not useful. If you are going to do one lak, even doing a little bit each day you will accumulate virtue now. To illustrate, if someone gives you a banana, the whole banana is yours now, whether you eat it slowly and savor it, or whether you gobble it up. It is better to do our prayers slowly with feeling. When we take refuge in the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, samsara is finished, we help people, and we attain enlightenment. Samsara refuge is wrong thinking. We only take refuge in fully enlightened beings. I take refuge in the Buddha means I am a future Buddha; I take refuge in the Dharma means I am the future Dharma; I take refuge in the sangha means I am the future sangha. We see no Buddha now. Buddha is rigpa. Pray for enlightenment. To take refuge in the Christian cross as the 4 kayas or to say “a,b,c” as a mantra or as Buddha, Dharma, Sangha is wrong. There is no blessing as there is with mantra. If you do OM AH HUNG BENZA GURU PEME SIDDHI HUNG, and then OM AH HUNG HRI, enlightenment will come.24 23

One may prostrate in a “half” prostration in a kneeling position touching all five parts to the floor or in a “full” prostration lying stretched out flat on the floor extending arms and hands above the head on the floor. 24 See Guru Yoga.


With high thinking, the 4 kayas will come. But if you lie, kill, and so forth, your practice is not completed and enlightenment will not come. With strong faith and visualization it will come. Levels of refuge There are four levels of refuge.25 1. Outer—refuge in the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha 2. Inner—refuge in the Guru, Yidam, and Dakini 3. Secret—refuge in the Nirmanakaya, Sambhogakaya, and Dharmakaya (or channels [tsa], winds [lung], and drops [tigle]) 4. Most secret—refuge in primordial wisdom, Buddhanature’s nature—emptiness, expression—clarity, and compassion—allpervasive. These may also be characterized as an “outside 9” and an “inside 9.” The outside 9 are: • Outer—Buddha, Dharma, Sangha26 • Inner—Guru, Yidam, Dakini • Secret—Nirmanakaya, Sambhogakaya, Dharmakaya The inside 9 are: • Most Secret— Ngo (nature, emptiness), romgen (light, compassion), tukge (together)27 • Activity—3 Jewels (Buddha, Dharma, Sangha) • Body—Tsa, Lung, Tigle (channels, winds and drops) With low thinking, we take refuge in the Buddha. With middle thinking, we take refuge in the Yidam. With high thinking, we take refuge in the channels, winds, and drops. • Clean channels represent Nirmanakaya. • Winds going up in the central channel represent Sambhogakaya. • Drops (essence) represent the Dharmakaya—nondual thinking (no “hot” or “cold”). Buddha is the source of refuge and blessings; Dharma is the source of teachings and good virtue; and Sangha is the source of support. But this alone is Hinayana refuge—the wish for enlightenment for ourselves.


WMPT p. 177 (listed as basic, general, special/sublime, and ultimate/ineffable) There are different levels of Sangha: enlightened Buddhas & Bodhisattvas, ordained practitioners, and all who have taken refuge. 26


Buddhanature—rigpa: Dharmakaya, emptiness, wisdom 13

There are “twelve samayas” (vows) of taking refuge:28 1. My teacher is the Buddha. 2. My way is the Dharma. 3. My friend is the Sangha. 4. Do not take refuge in worldly gods. 5. Do not harm others. 6. Do not rely on non-Buddhists. 7. Respect the stupa as the Buddha. 8. Respect the texts as the Buddha’s speech. 9. Respect the robes of the ordained Sangha. 10. See the guru’s mind is the Buddha. 11. See the guru’s speech is the Dharma. 12. See the guru’s body is the Sangha.


WMPT pp. 182-187.


Bodhicitta Bodhicitta is considered to be the “root of the Great Vehicle” [Mahayana].29 There are several divisions of bodhicitta. First, it may be divided into intention and application elements.30 Intention bodhicitta is the desire to attain enlightenment for the benefit of all sentient beings, sometimes also called the Mind of Enlightenment. Application bodhicitta includes the various practices that enable our aspiration to be realized. The second division is into relative bodhicitta, which includes intention and application, and absolute or ultimate bodhicitta, which is the direct experience of thusness, emptiness or wisdom.31 Great Bodhicitta (Supreme Bodhicitta) is compassion and wisdom together. Compassion is for suffering of sentient beings. Wisdom means I act for the enlightenment of all sentient beings. In arousing bodhicitta, there are three degrees of courage: that of a king, a boatman, and a shepherd.32 The courage of a king is the wish first to achieve Buddhahood for oneself, then to help others. The courage of a boatman is the wish to achieve Buddhahood for oneself and others at the same time. The courage of a shepherd is the wish that all others achieve Buddhahood before achieving it for oneself. The seeds of bodhicitta are the Four Immeasurables: boundless love, compassion, sympathetic joy, and impartiality [equanimity]. • Lovingkindness is the wish for happiness33 for all sentient beings. • Compassion is the wish for all sentient beings to be free of suffering.34 • Sympathetic joy – “…to have a mind free of jealousy” – refers to a feeling of joy at both the worldly prosperity and accomplishments of others and the wish that they do even better, but especially that they achieve enlightenment.35 • Equanimity – “impartiality means giving up our hatred for enemies and infatuation with friends, and having an even-minded attitude towards all beings, free of attachment to those close to us and aversion for those who are distant.”36


WMPT p. 195 WMPT p. 219 31 Ibid. 32 WMPT p. 218 33 Happiness in this context is not that of ordinary sense pleasures, but of deep abiding inner peace – transcendent happiness. 34 Taken together, lovingkindness and compassion refer to the wish that sentient beings be free of the negative (the suffering of samsara) and attain the positive (the happiness of enlightenment). 35 WMPT p. 213 36 WMPT p. 196 30


To nurture these seeds as a meditation practice, one meditates upon each of them, beginning with equanimity, then the other three in the above order.37 • Equanimity—Meditate on your enemies38 without animosity, as if they are your own loving mother or father. Think of them as neutral persons, then as ones you love. Think of everyone as the same, without any particular positive or negative feelings whatever. You feel compassion equally for all, as if inviting them all, without exception, to a great banquet. • Lovingkindness—Meditate now on all those beings with great love, like that of loving parents taking care of their young children. Think of well-being and happiness for all beings, as much as you would like it for yourself, from the bottom of your heart! • Compassion—Meditate on the sufferings of beings even to the point of tears filling your eyes and wish for them to be free from that. Imagine them as if they were your own child. Focus at first on individuals, one at a time; then step by step add others until you meditate on all beings as a whole. Help others as much as you can. Develop your lovingkindness and compassion until they become fundamental to who you are. • Sympathetic joy—We cultivate a feeling of delight, instead of displeasure, “when some beings, through the force of their own past actions, possess some distinction or wealth…”39 Appreciate what they have or have done and wish they could do even better and achieve higher realms; and how wonderful it would be if all others could live at that level, too. Then wish for all those beings to have the everlasting happiness of Buddhahood. There are further practices for developing our bodhicitta—our good heart. Among them are considering others as equal to oneself, exchanging oneself and others, and considering others more important than oneself.40 One can also practice tonglen.41 The principle training in the application bodhicitta in Mahayana is the Six Perfections: transcendent generosity, discipline [ethics], patience, diligence [joyous effort], concentration, and wisdom.42 See also the Bodhicharyavatara (Bodhisattva’s Way of Life) by Shantideva. In the chapter on 37

WMPT pp. 196-217 If you do not perceive anyone as your “enemy,” consider that there are those who may not wish harm toward you specifically, but may in some other general way due to anger, jealousy, ignorance and so forth. 39 WMPT p. 213 40 WMPT pp. 222-234 41 Tonglen is a practice involving visualization of the suffering of another as a black smoke as one breathes in. It is instantly purified, generating great lovingkindness and compassion in your heart that then radiates out as a warm light to the other on the outbreath replacing their suffering with that lovingkindness and compassion. 42 WMPT pp. 234-261 38


“Generosity” we may give practice, material, and even our bodies, but if you give something then suffer because of your generosity, this is not good. If you can’t actually give something, you visualize and pray. Bodhicitta compassion and samsara compassion are different. Samsara compassion is thinking and hoping for myself and my family. In contrast, bodhicitta compassion is the wish for all sentient beings’ suffering to end, the same as all Buddhas, i.e., the feeling for all sentient beings to reach enlightenment. You can give the same help to someone, but what you are thinking – your motivation – is the difference between samsara compassion and bodhicitta compassion. Altruistic motivation: • Pray for all sentient beings’ enlightenment = Best (wisdom) • Pray for all sentient beings to be happy = Better (compassion) • Pray for long life of the lama = Good Don’t think, “Me first, my suffering will be finished and I will achieve enlightenment” [king’s courage]. Think about the enlightenment of all other sentient beings first [shepherd’s courage]. In the text: • Recite and meditate on the Four Boundless Qualities or Four Immeasurables (bottom of p. 4; “May all sentient beings … to those near and far!”) “A suitable number of times” is traditionally 3X, but is better thought of as developing the feeling of bodhicitta. • Having aroused the bodhicitta feeling, we say the bodhicitta prayer (top of p. 5; “HO, As the victors … the reaches of space.”), accumulating 100,000 repetitions. • Say the final prayer 3X (I and all…bodhicitta) on p. 5 (Cross out OM AH HUNG43). • Dissolve the visualization and receive the blessing: o The visualized refuge tree all dissolves into Padmasambhava/Mandarava. o Padmasambhava dissolves into light, which dissolves into our heart chakra. o We offer this to all sentient beings’ enlightenment and dissolve into light. o We rest our mind in the natural state of rigpa.

Offering Mandala

We make the mandala offering to accumulate merit and wisdom. Most important is our intention, our motivation. First, if I now lack merit, 43

Error in text.


then I will do the mandala offering to get sönam (luck, merit). With the motivation of bodhicitta, make the offering to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. Motivation of the offering is very important. If one offers riches with hope for good things to come to oneself, no good virtue comes. One example is the old, dirty-looking woman who offered a candle with true bodhicitta and her candle kept burning, while others’ candles burnt out. Another example is the boy who offered barley to Buddha Tsedrup with true bodhicitta. Seven grains fell into the Buddha’s cup and the boy was reborn 7 times as a world king. A small offering with good motivation brings good virtue. A big offering without good motivation brings no virtue. What do we offer? We offer all of our good feelings from all six consciousnesses (the five senses and mind consciousness). We offer (material) offerings, prostrations, visualizations and the offering mudra. If we have no money or no material, then we can imagine offering flowers, perfume, clothes, etc. Offering all you see is a short mandala offering. When you see something nice, instead of attachment, “Oh, I want that,” you offer it. We offer our meditation. This is the best offering. For example, Jigmed Namjyak offered his guru many actions, taking care of him in his old age. Once when Jigmed Namjyak was meditating, he forgot to give his guru lunch, but his guru said, “Ok, today no lunch.” The most important offering is meditation. • Best: offering meditation • Second best: offering actions of care and respect, e.g. making food, giving a massage, cleaning, making everything nice, etc. • Third best: offering material, e.g. money and clothing. Offering the Mandala: • Recite OM AH HUNG; visualize offering all of the three realms (sadhana p. 6): o Nirmanakaya Realm—all the billion universes, their innumerable and inconceivable exquisite treasures, your own body, wealth, good fortune, power and strength, as well as all merit you have accumulated in the three times (past, present, future) are offered to the teacher and deities.44 o Sambhogakaya realm—the five Buddhafields, multiplied infinitely as vast clouds of offerings, are offered to the teacher and the deities.45

44 45

WMPT p. 288-289 WMPT p. 289



Dharmakaya realm—the unborn absolute space of Dharmadatu, our Buddhanature, Samantabhadra is offered to the teacher and the deities.46

Recite (one lak) OM RATNA MANDALA PUDZA MEGHA SAMUDRA SAPARANA SAMAYE AH HUNG47 while offering the mandala.

The Mandala: Repeat this sequence 30X, 10X, 1X or visualize it depending on time: o Clean (wash) the channel in the center of your right wrist at base of palm. Holding the offering plate in your left hand, wipe it clockwise with this part of your right wrist (to clean your mind).48


Sprinkle a little (scented49) water on the offering plate. The plate represents your mind; and the water represents bodhicitta.


Then, with barley (or other grain or offering material50) in your hand, drop a little 7 times in this order:51


Ibid. Meaning: OM = essence; RATNA = three jewels; PUDZA = offering; MEGHA = great; SAMUDRA = mudra; SAPARANA SAMAYE = good body, speech, mind, all clean; AH = offering; HUNG = blessing. 48 The channel associated with the right wrist is said to be connected to our mind. 49 Traditionally this is pure or purified water with some saffron added. 50 The offering material is often rice or other grains, but may be the best material one can afford such as precious or semi-precious stones. Nevertheless, even pebbles or dirt may be used if one’s intention is perfectly pure (WMPT p, 291). 47


6 4 3

1 2 7


1 – Mt. Meru 2-5 – Four continents 6 – Sun 7 – Moon

☺me here


Continue to add offering material to the plate in this sequence for each repetition.52

o Notes: You place the offerings 1-5, then the sun and moon illuminate the offering. If you don’t have a physical mandala plate, visualization or the hand mudra is okay. Having made the offerings, we have merit [sönam], but we also have bad karma, so we do Vajrasattva purification practice.

Vajrasattva Purification Vajrasattva is the Buddha of Purification. This practice purifies the negative obscurations stored as negative karma in our alaya consciousness. All negative actions, however serious, can be purified. 53 Following the text: • Recite “AH” – means emptiness (sadhana p. 7) • Recite “On a lotus moon seat…obscurations” while visualizing Vajrasattva embraced by his consort Vajratöpa54 as described in the sadhana: o From the top of the head the lotus root rises up to the lotus moon disk. o Vajrasattva with Vajratöpa appear one forearm’s length above the head. They are both white, but transparent and empty, like a crystal vase.


It is customary to make the first mandala of each session a 37-point offering, followed by the 7-point offering for accumulating merit. This teaching uses only the 7-point offering. 52 Alternately, one may dump the offerings away from one’s body onto a cloth on the lap, clean the plate by wiping with wrist counter-clockwise, and repeating the sequence. 53 WMPT p. 264 54 The male deity symbolizes skillful means, compassion, or appearances. The female consort represents wisdom, emptiness, or absolute space. In union they represent the inseparability in the state of enlightenment.


55 56 57

o He is wearing the 13 clothes and ornaments (bracelets, armbands, necklaces, etc.) o He holds a vajra (symbol of compassion) in his right hand at the heart level and a bell (symbol of wisdom) in his left near his hip. The bell is turned up. She holds a skull cup filled with nectar (symbolizing wisdom) in her left and a drikung knife (symbol of cutting through obscurations) in her right. o The syllable HUNG is in the center of the tiny moon disk at his heart chakra with the 100 syllable mantra standing upright on the outside edge of the moon disk in a counter-clockwise order. The four powers55 refers to: 1. Power of Reliance/Support – [Than gi thöp] – We practice with good, strong faith and arouse our bodhicitta intention. The number one seed is faith. And Shantideva says, “Great sins are utterly consumed by bodhicitta.”56 Then our practice is easy. 2. Power of Remorse/Regret– [Sun gyen ba] – We practice feeling sorry for our past misdeeds. We think, “I did many different bad things in many lifetimes with body, speech and mind, e.g. killing, stealing, etc.” Don’t think, “Oh, I’ve been very good in the past.” Even the highest lamas practice with sun gyen ba. 3. Power of Resolve/Resolution– [Söchipa] – We practice making this jamchya (samaya, promise): “I promise I will never do bad again in future. Before I did not understand. Now all that is finished.” Resolve not to do it again, even at the cost of your life. 4. Power of Antidote/Action – [Nimbo Kundishopa] – We practice with concentration and very strong visualization, with no thoughts, almost like Rigpa Guru Yoga. Then we continue in the post-meditation state to do good for others, maintain our commitments, especially bodhicitta and staying in rigpa. “There is indeed no deeper way to cleanse oneself of past misdeeds than to mediate on bodhicitta and to maintain the flow of the unaltered natural state.”57

WMPT pp. 265-267 WMPT p. 265 WMPT p. 267


100 mantra 1 lak); repeat the 21X or 7X the and four VAJRA… AH”. White

Recite the syllable (accumulate each time mantra 108X, (maintaining visualization powers)—“OM SAMAYA SATO

amrita58 flows down as a blessing from the point of union of deity and consort through the crown of your head and cleans your—and all sentient beings’— body, speech and mind of all obscurations, which flow down to the demon Yamantaka in the earth below you. He eats, feeling full, and thanks you. You and all other sentient beings are totally cleansed and the earth closes below you. You are now transparent, a body of light. At the lower end of the central channel in your lower abdomen (below the naval) the chakra of manifestation has 64 channels branch out and upwards like the spokes of an umbrella. At the level of your heart, the chakra of Dharma has 8 channels radiating downwards. At your throat level, 58

Also called ambrosia or the nectar of wisdom.


the chakra of enjoyment has 16 channels radiating upwards. At your crown, the chakra of great bliss has 32 channels radiating downwards. Nectar flows down through the central channel and into the spokes spreading throughout your body, like a crystal vase filled with milk.59 “Think that you are receiving the four empowerments: vase, secret, wisdom, and word. You are also purified of the four kinds of obscurations: karmic obscurations, obscurations of negative emotions, conceptual obscurations, and obscurations of habitual tendencies. The wisdom of the four joys arises in you: joy, supreme joy, extraordinary joy, and innate joy. The levels of the four kayas are established in you: the Nirmanakaya, the Sambhogakaya, the Dharmakaya, and the svabhavikakaya.”60 •

Pray to guru Vajrasattva for you and all sentient beings (pp. 7-8 “Protector, under the sway… faults and misdeeds”). Vajrasattva absolves you as on p. 8.

Vajrasattva dissolves into light. The light comes into you through the crown of your head. You become Vajrasattva. Together with all sentient beings as Vajrasattva, we repeat the six syllable mantra as it radiates from our hearts: OM VAJRASATTVA HUNG or OM BENZA SATO HUNG61




OM The syllables are arranged counter-clockwise, then rotate clockwise so that they appear in the correct order. The HUNG is blue, the OM is white, the BENZA (vajra) is yellow, the SA is red, and the TO is green. Light radiates out in the five colors as an offering to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas who are pleased. They send light back as 59

WMPT p. 270 Ibid. 61 The syllables are arranged counter-clockwise, then rotate clockwise so that they appear in the correct order. The HUNG is blue, the OM is white, the BENZA (vajra) is yellow, the SA is red, and the TO is green. 60


a blessing which dissolves into you. You attain the ordinary and supreme accomplishments62 (siddhis), the four levels of Vidyadhara,63 and the ultimate result—enlightenment. •

Light then radiates out to all sentient beings completely surrounding you. They are seen in the colors of the five Buddha families, with you in the center facing East as in this figure: East White (or blue) Vajrasattvas North Green Vajrasattvas (on our left)

Center [Me] Blue or (white) Vajrasattva

South Yellow Vajrasattvas (on our right)

West Red Vajrasattvas

The entire visualized universe dissolves into the Vajrasattvas. They dissolve into you, then you melt into light and dissolve into the OM, which dissolves into the BENZA, which dissolves into the SA, which dissolves into the TO, which dissolves into the HUNG, which dissolves from the bottom up into nonconceptual emptiness. Rest in that state.64

We then pray for the quick fruition of your good virtue as on p. 8 (“With this virtue…utterly pure”)

If you do not have time to do the complete Vajrasattva practice as described above, you may do the SHORT VAJRASATTVA PRACTICE: Recite the mantra OM BENZA SATO AH as Vajrasattva,65 and then say the prayer on page 8: “May all the breeches and transgressions of samaya, Both my own and those of all beings, be purified. From now until we reach the very heart of bodhi, May our samaya be thoroughly and utterly pure.” 62

Ordinary accomplishments are supernatural powers; supreme accomplishment is enlightenment. 63 1) Totally matured, 2) mastering the duration of his life, 3) mahamudra, and 4) spontaneously accomplished. 64 WMPT p. 271-273 65 In this case accumulate 6 lak repetitions.



SECRET NGONDRO Guru Yoga The guru is your spiritual friend, a qualified teacher. He or she is considered to be a real Buddha, as they are the source of our guidance on the path to liberation. Buddhism is an oral tradition. It has been passed by word of mouth, supplemented by a vast array of written texts, from teacher to student since the time of the historic Buddha, Shakyamuni. The blessing of receiving the teachings in this way is one of the most treasured traditions in all of Buddhism. Through devotion and faith our mind merges with his in Buddhanature.66 Following the text: • Visualization o “E MA HO”– How wondrous (p. 9, line 1)  E – before Buddha  MA – compassion; sentient beings have Buddhanature  HO – wow, I know now! o “In a self-manifest realm of infinite purity” in a Buddhafield, my mind is very clean. o “I find myself visualized as Vajrayogini”. Visualize Vajrayogini in the semi-wrathful warrior pose. She is naked except for her bone ornaments and garlands of flowers. She is red with three eyes, her body turned slightly to the left with skullcap raised in her left hand and the drikung chopper held lower in her right hand, and surrounded by primordial wisdom fire.67

66 67

WMPT p. 310 WMPT p. 313—In WMPT, she holds a small skull-drum (damaru) in her left hand.


o “And Oddiyana Vajradhara” All Buddhas and Bodhisattvas are one in Padmasambhava, white color with a little bit red, who sits on a sun and moon seat on the lotus above your head. His hat has two layers, inner and outer, which symbolize the union of generation and perfection stages. The three points represent the three kayas. It is emblazoned with a sun and a moon, symbolizing skillful means and wisdom. The blue border represents unlimited samaya. On top is a vajra, symbolizing unshakable concentration, and a vultures feather, a symbol of realization of the highest view and the culmination of practice.68 He holds a varjra in his right hand at his heart. His left hand rests in his lap holding a skull-cup filled with wisdom nectar and contains a long-life vase toped with a sprig from a wish-granting tree. He is in union with Mandarava, queen of the dakinis.69 All the lineage lamas are gathered around as in a cloud. o “From Chamara continent come their wisdom counterparts”— wisdom Buddhas, dakinis, etc., come and merge into our refuge 68

WMPT pp. 314-316 In many pictures and visualizations he holds a khatvanga trident in the crook of his arm which is Mandarava in symbolic form. The 3 prongs symbolize the essential nature, natual expression, and compassion. Three severed heads represent dharmakaya (dried one), sambhogakaya (rotten one), and nirmanakaya (fresh one). Nine metal rings looped over the prongs represent the nine vehicles. Five-colored pennants symbolize the five wisdoms. (WMPT p. 316) 69


tree visualization. First we visualize, and then the actual wisdom beings come and dissolve into our visualization. •

The 7-line Prayer o Recite the prayer 3X or 7X. “HUNG” … (HUNG represents taking refuge and blessings coming to you) … “In the Northwest… bestow your blessings. GURU PEMA SIDDHI HUNG” p. 9-10

Seven Branch Offering o HO – offering, happy. o “With infinite bodies… manifest ground.” Prostrate as Samantabhadra together with sentient beings to Padmasambhava. Why? Because many of us in samsara have a self-centered ego. o “Rejoicing… nirvana.” We are happy at others virtue. We offer our good hearts and good practice all to Padmasambhava. Why do we make this offering? Through this, all our afflictive desires and attachments are finished! o “May you remain… realms exist.” We ask the guru to come, because if there is no guru, there is no way to understand. o “I beseech you… Dharma.” Please teach. Why? Dharma teaching ends our ignorance so that we may attain enlightenment. o “As I dedicate… buddhahood.” Why dedicate our virtue to sentient beings’ enlightenment? We have small virtue. By offering our virtue to Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, our virtue mixes with theirs and more virtue, more power comes to us. (Like Patrul Rinpoche’s example of mixing our small amount of tsampa with someone else’s large amount). o Recite “In the magnetizing … empowerments” 3X. Like crying with devotion, think of Padmasambhava—all 3 kayas—coming to this world. We pray for his blessing. o Still as Vajrayogini receive the four empowerments (“From the three syllables … and the four kayas actualized” (pp. 11-12). Three colored lights stream from his three places and enter our three places. White light from the OM in his forehead enters our forehead and purifies our body, grants the vase empowerment, and plant the seed of nirmanakaya. Red light from the AH in his


throat enters our throat and purifies our speech, grants the secret empowerment, and plants the seed of sambhogakaya. Blue light from the HUNG in his heart enters our heart and purifies our mind, grants the wisdom empowerment, and plants the seed of dharmakaya. Then the guru and his retinue dissolve into light and which melts into your heart (merging his Buddhanature with your Buddhanature), purifies all karma and subtle obscurations, grants the word empowerment, and plants the seed of svabhavikakaya.70 Think not only of yourself, but about all sentient beings. He will teach tantra to all beings, give refuge to all. (As an alternative, you can substitute a deity practice as indicated in the sadhana pg. 11 for this prayer; see appendix p. 13). o Recite the mantra (accumulate 1 lak). Afterwards, rest in the state of rigpa.

Yidam Guru Yoga

(You can insert your Yidam Guru Yoga practice here, e.g. Manjushri practice) •

Whatever practice you do, it should have these four aspects: 1) Visualization— tongzin lhaizher 2) Mantra—dephangag gyezher 3) Mantra light radiating out and returning—trod du trinle gyezher 4) Rigpa – Buddhanature—gongpa minjyur chönyit gyezher

Then again you think of Padmasambhava and complete “From the three syllables…” (p. 11).

Secret Rigpa Guru Yoga

[If you have time, after the mantra “OM AH HUNG VAJRA GURU PEMA SIDDHI HUNG,” insert the Secret Rigpa Guru Yoga practice.] •

Finish your Guru Yoga practice with the concluding aspiration prayer “In all my lives… Vajradhara.” (p. 12).

Ngondro is important! It’s not enough to do just shamata practice. We can have peaceful feeling with shamata, but we stay in samsara, reborn as a god. We will not attain enlightenment. 70

WMPT pp. 329-330 (Note that the forth action varies from one text to another.)


Comments on the Guru There are many lamas, gurus, and lineages, but your teacher is really Padmasambhava. First check the guru well. The lama is the “glue” [samjye] between Padmasambhava (the Mahaguru) and the great student. If your guru is good, then you will understand Dzogchen, and then achieve enlightenment. If the guru is not good, then your practice is not good and this gives you a lifetime problem. First check the guru, then practice, then fruition comes. The guru should be pure and not have transgressed the three types of vows: Hinayana (Pratimoksa), Mahayana (Bodhisattva), and Vajrayana (Tantra).71 He should be learned in the tantras, sutras, and shastras (commentaries). He should be well versed in ritual practices. He should be generous, pleasant, teach each according to his needs, and act according to what he teaches. Above all, he should be so filled with compassion that he loves each being like his only child.72 For example, if we are baby cows, milk is like the Dharma; the mother cow is the guru. You have to check if the mother cow has milk before you buy it. (If you get a bull, there will be no milk, just meat and bad karma!) You practice, then you feel good, then you grow into a big cow. What do we look for in the guru? How do we check the guru? We look for compassion and wisdom. Don’t look at outside (clothes, lineage, or monastery). If a high Rinpoche does not have compassion and wisdom, then no virtue or enlightenment will come. Avoid those73 who do not have qualities from study, reflection and meditation. Avoid those who are puffed up with pride, profits and honors. Avoid those with very little knowledge, strong negative emotions, or who are lax in their vows and samayas. Avoid those whose qualities are not superior to your own and those who lack the love and compassion of bodhicitta. If you are to trust your spiritual teacher, examine him properly, even over several years. What happens if we get a “bad guru”? Then do the Vajrasattva prayer and quietly separate yourself from him. If his motivation is not good, bad karma will come to him. But don’t throw out Buddhism. The person 71

His Holiness the Dalai Lama has summarized these three sets of vows for lay practitioners as 1) do good or at least no harm, 2) seek enlightenment for the benefit of all sentient beings, and 3) maintain pure view—all phenomena as a buddhafield, all beings as buddhas, all sounds as mantra, and all thoughts as manifestations of buddha-mind. 72 WMPT pp. 138-139 73 WMPT pp. 139-141


is wrong, not Buddhism. If you check out a guru and find he is not good, then there is no samaya. Once you have examined the guru and are certain of his qualifications and can trust him with your life, then follow the teacher as a Buddha. Especially, keep your vows and samaya commitments to practice, e.g., mantra repetitions for ngondro or empowerments you have received. Maintain pure view. Emulate your teacher. “You should be like a swan gliding smoothly on an immaculate lake.”74 There are 5 types of gurus: 1. Refuge Lama 2. Lung Transmission or Blessing [Shinlop] Lama 3. Teaching Tantra Lama [Gyudshed] Lama 4. Empowerment [Wangkur] Lama 5. Rigpa—your Buddhanature—[Mangnakton] Lama, your Root Guru Sometimes #3, 4, 5 combined are referred to together as Root Guru.


WMPT p. 149




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