I would like to give you some
encouragement and further instructions on the practice of ngondro. Those people
who practice ngondro can get a little of the blessings from the Ultimate Truth.
You can say that we are doing ngondro to get to the Ultimate
I'm thinking that for the future
of our center, we should have a group of genuine practitioners, not just those
who come and join in the group practices once in a while, but genuine or
complete practitioners. These genuine practitioners may be of different levels.
There may be some monks and nuns, and also some lay people like yogis and
yoginis, etc. This is what I'm thinking of having in this center.
For those who have completed
ngondro, I congratulate them for being disciplined and determined to prepare
themselves for developing a systematic approach to spiritual practice.
The secret or the principal
message or issue in the practice of ngondro is the development of the Six
Paramitas. On top of this, one also needs to practice devotion correctly. For
instance, when you do a full prostration, it's not about making your body go up
and down; the principal issue is that along with the physical prostration, your
mind should also be prostrating. The genuine mind that is prostrating should be
visualizing Vajrasattva, the dakas and the dakinis at the same time. If you
can't visualize them clearly or thoroughly, you should at least think of the
importance of the guru, the dakas and the dakinis.
The guru actually represents
everything from the Buddha, the Dharma, the Sangha to the dakas and the dakinis.
He can be seen as the embodiment of everything. This is for sure. If you want to
view the guru as a separate essence from the other refuge objects, then the guru
is the body, the daka or yidam is the speech and the dakini is the heart or the
mind. These three are very important for you to understand because they are the
most important energies of the body, speech and mind.
So we practice prostrations to
train our body, speech and mind through purification. Because we have a lot of
defilements, our channels or chakras are blocked. If there is no physical
movement like these exercises, we cannot realize our own nature. Therefore
prostrations are badly needed. In other words, it is a form of purification. For
example, if a water pipe is blocked, you ca shake the pipe and hopefully water
will then run through it. However, it may not work if there is a lack of water
pressure. So devotion is like the water pressure. If there is no water pressure,
even if you shake the pipe, the water still may not run through it. Therefore,
at the same time of practicing prostrations which is helpful to clear our
blockages, devotion is also needed. These two must be present in this practice.
Speaking about devotion, the
external devotion can be manifested by developing appreciation towards the guru.
For instance, you can appreciate the guru by thinking how helpful the guru has
been; how precious the guru is in terms of being the embodiment of Buddha,
Dharma and Sangha; how helpful his teachings have been for us, etc. and nothing
more than that. This sort of appreciation has something to do with the
understanding of, "What is a guru? Is the guru a person? Is the guru a
Tibetan guy standing in front of you, or something else?" You should know
this subject a bit more. If you know, then that itself is devotion.
Generally speaking, the inner
guru is not a man or a woman. It is a form of wisdom. But then you may ask a
question and argue, "Who is this person in front of me?" Then you can
say that this person is the emanation of the guru, he is the tulku or the
nirmanakaya. So appreciation goes to him or to her also. Otherwise, you can't
reach out to the guru. So through this emanation, you are getting the guidance
and the instructions. Therefore, devotion also goes towards the human guru.
However, the guru needs to be understood as wisdom, which is a hundred or a
thousand times more than just the human guru.
In the prostration itself, you
are doing an exercise and purification, and at the same time you are also
practicing refuge. When you recite the refuge prayer, "MA NAMKHA DANG
NYAMPEI SEMCHEN THAMCHED…", you are practicing the Hinayana. When you
think of Bodhicitta, you are practicing the Mahayana. And then at the time as
practicing the Vajrasattva hundred-syllable mantra, you are entering the path of
Vajrayana. Therefore, just the practice of prostrations and purification mantra
includes the practice of Hinayana, Mahayana and the Vajrayana.
In the Nyingmapa tradition, they
have five foundations in ngondro practice. The semkye or the Bodhicitta is
practiced and recited separately. In our lineage, this is a little bit unique.
We practice only four foundations instead of five, because the refuge prayer of
"MA NAMKHA DANG…" already includes Bodhicitta. So even though we
have only one recitation, it includes two forms of practices. This is why we
have only four foundations.
Speaking about the qualities of a
guru, let's take Gelongla Yontan (resident lama of DMYL) as an example. Gelongla
has gone through all the ngondro practices under the guidance of my guru, the
late Thuksay Rinpoche. He has also done a lot of retreats, including different
serious retreats. Therefore, Gelongla has all the qualities of a ngondro master.
You are very fortunate to have him as a guide. Masters should have the proper
qualifications when they teach. They should have some insight or understanding
of what they are teaching to their students. Some masters give lots of different
teachings to their students and these poor
students practice like hell even though these masters are not at all qualified.
Some of these masters even say, "I have never done any of these practices,
but I'm teaching you anyway."
Nowadays, many masters are like
that, giving good teachings without being qualified themselves. If you daring
enough to ask them, "Have you done ngondro?" they may answer,
"I'm sorry, I haven't." This sort of answer is at least an honest
answer, but some of them may even say, "I don't need to do this because I'm
very special. You guys have to do this because you have lots of bad karma and
defilements." If they are honest enough to say, "I'm bad therefore I
haven't done even one ngondro," I think this is better for them.
Many people who speak very well
tend to have no practice of the four foundations. And those people who have
practiced ngondro tend to have no skills to speak well. It's funny that these
two qualities often cannot come together.
It's important to understand what
is the guru. Guru is like a master, who does not necessarily need to be the root
guru. Whether he or she is a root guru fully depends on your own mind or
realization. When you become realized, you will know who has made you realized
and whoever this person is, he or she is your root guru.
This root guru can be anybody. He
or she doesn't need to be some big Rinpoche, rich master or a highly respected
person. The guru can be anybody in any form or presentation. But the authentic
guru needs complete or thorough mind qualifications. The first is compassion.
The second is wisdom; meaning that he or she should understand wisdom. The third
is that through this wisdom, he or she should be teaching correctly. Nowadays,
most of the unqualified masters are very good at teaching. Even without
compassion and wisdom, by just knowing a little bit of the teachings here and
there, they can talk with their brains, but this is not the qualification of an
For example, some of the 84
Mahasiddhas such as the great Indian masters Tilopa, Naropa, Maitripa, Kukurepa,
etc. were shoemakers, farmers, tailors and servants looking after dogs. Almost
none of them were sitting on thrones and wrapped in expensive brocades, even
though they were the greatest masters. So we should know all these things ~ who
are the authentic masters, what are their qualifications and that it's not
important how they look externally.
Therefore, guru yoga is one of
the principal practices of ngondro. The practice of prostrations, Vajrasattva
and mandala offering are equally important, but guru yoga is the most important
because devotion is the principal practice of guru yoga. Therefore, devotion
should be developed right from the beginning, starting from the practice of
prostrations and Vajrasattva. In other words, the entire practice of ngondro is
actually the practice of guru yoga, even though one of the four foundations of
ngondro especially emphasizes the practice of guru yoga.
Systematically, as I have
explained earlier, by starting the practice of refuge, you are practicing the
principles of Hinayana. And the practice of Vajrasattva, any kind of Vajrasattva
empowerment is very badly needed. Actually, you should really get the initiation
for the Vajrasattva practice; but these days, since it is not easy to get such
kind of initiation, I think it's okay for you to at least have some kind of
Vajrayana transmission. This can be given before you start the Vajrasattva
practice by anybody who has the empowerment or transmission.
Then, after finishing first set
of ngondro, the guru would tell you how many more sets of ngondro practice are
needed. An experienced guru is able to tell you exactly how many you need.
Generally we should be practicing fifty percent more than those guru did in the
old days because we definitely have more negative karma than these gurus. It's
usually not less than eight sets. I was telling my students not less than four
sets because some of them are getting a little bit old and therefore even if
they wish to practice more, they can't. Actually, just practicing ngondro for
one's whole life is more than enough. Therefore, it's strange to see that many
people want all kinds of other practices.
I always say that four sets of
ngondro are good enough, but this should not be the limitation. The more you do,
the better. Some of the yogis in our lineage have completed twenty, twenty-five
or even forty sets of ngondro. One of my gurus finished fourteen sets of four
foundations before he did the practice of Mahamudra. Even though this can be a
little bit difficult, many people are able to do many sets when they are in
serious retreats. In our case, because we have many other things to do, many
other commitments, we are not able to do that many sets in a short time.
Gonpa, one of the
renowned masters in Tibet, realized Buddhahood in one lifetime. He told his
disciples, "I have attained enlightenment through the practice of ngondro."
Therefore he encouraged his disciples to dedicate their entire life to the
practice of ngondro.
As I said before, the four
foundations start with the Hinayana and the Mahayana and gradually lead to the
Vajrayana. Therefore, the whole body of the Buddha's teachings is included in
the four foundations and nothing is left out. There are many colorful teachings,
but unless you are looking forward to becoming non-Buddhists, the four
foundations or ngondro includes everything taught by the Buddha. It's all there.
As I mentioned earlier, before
the Vajrayana practice, you should get an initiation of Vajrasattva or some kind
of Vajrayana initiation. After this, you should start the Vajrayogini practice,
which is part of the ngondro practice. Actually, this practice is not allowed to
be publicly transmitted. But I thought that people might be able to get some
blessings, therefore I gave the initiation the other night to the public. For
those of you who are doing ngondro, you should be prepared to visualize yourself
as Vajrayogini and guru on top of your crown. The Vajrayogini practice is
actually part of the guru yoga.
In the text 'The Chariot which delivers the Excellent Blessings' by the eighth
Gyalwang Drukpa, it is mentioned that the refuge is divided into outer, inner,
secret and precepts. Could you kindly elaborate?
You have to understand that refuge means taking refuge vows. The outer refuge
objects are the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, the inner refuge objects are the
guru, daka or yidam and dakini, and the secret refuge object is your own Buddha
nature. After you have taken refuge, you should know what you should be doing
and what you should not be doing. This refers to the precepts of refuge.
In the same text, it is mentioned that the offerings include the surpassable and
unsurpassable offerings. What is the difference?
Surpassable offerings refer to objects which are available in this world and
which we can offer, such as flowers, cars, buildings, etc. And unsurpassable
offerings are offerings beyond our imagination, which we call lana mepa.
According to what is said in the text, I think unsurpassable offerings refer to
the kind of offerings that we cannot imagine which are as vast as the sky. They
are not substances that we can see or perceive. There is actually nothing for us
to imagine. The Buddha believed there are hundreds or thousands of worlds apart
from our own world and we don't really know, and we cannot imagine the offerings
that are available in these worlds. So such kinds of offerings are vast,
immeasurable and unsurpassable. They are absolutely beyond our imagination and
we are also offering these to the guru, the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha.
Sometimes I have health problems and family problems and sometimes I have no
time to practice. Is it okay to take a break in the middle of ngondro practice?
Whatever problems you have while doing the ngondro practice, maybe you have
financial problems, health problems, family problems, etc. you should not stop,
you should not break down. For example, if a car is strong, no matter how bad
the road conditions, it can still keep going. But if the conditions of the car
are not good and it has no petrol, and on top of that the road is full of dirt,
then the car cannot go on. Therefore, mind encouragement should not stop.
Whether you are going fast or slow, or having a bunch of obstacles, you should
keep up your practice, no matter how many years you have to take. You should
tell yourself, "Even though I have a lot of problems, bad health, family
problems, etc. I shouldn't stop." Like a good car, encouragement should not
be stopped. The road conditions are not the first priority, but the condition of
the car is. To practice with diligence and continuity is very important. How
many prostrations or Vajrasattva mantras you are doing in a day is not a big
issue, it may be the second or third most important issue. The first issue is
that you should never stop, not even for one day.
You should continue to practice even though on certain days, you can only
practice for fifteen minutes. Something has to be done everyday. You can't say,
"I'm not doing it today, but I will make it up tomorrow." And then you
may stop for two days, five days, and finally you may stop practicing forever.
Your practice may disappear. Therefore, whatever happens, you should never stop
Right after I finished my ngondro or practice of purification, if I killed
someone, would I accumulate very bad karma?
For example, if I have been doing very good things in the earlier part of my
life and then doing bad things as I get older, and right before I die I kill a
person, then the karma will definitely come back to me. The first results would
be good, and I would definitely not end up in the lower realms and I would
deserve whatever good things I have done in the earlier part of my previous
life. For example, if I practiced morality, ethics, etc. in my past life, the
merits accumulated would make me a king or minister or someone who has a lot of
property, even though the bad karma would be hidden. But the credit would
disappear day by day and once the credit is exhausted, there would be a time
when the bad karma would ripen. So similarly, the good things such as
purification will be there even though you have done some bad things in the
latter part of your life, but at the end of your next life, you will still get
the results of the bad karma. If you did very bad things even after your ngondro
practice and you didn't die, I would advise you to ask Gelongla to teach you
Vajrasattva purification again. You should do the purification practice again
with strong regret, thinking, "If I die, I will go to hell, so I must
purify my bad karma now." Then you do one hundred thousand times of
purification practice and this purification will sort out your bad karma. Even
though the negative karma is accumulated, it cannot ripen because the
purification practice will rot this negative karma. For example, the seeds may
be there, but then you may feel that it's a mistake to plant rice and you may
decide not to have the rice field. So you can then take the seeds and throw them
away, and instead of rice, you can grow mangoes, flowers, etc., whatever you
like. This is the same thing with negative karma.
That's the reason why before you
die, you should finish with good deeds and sort out all the bad deeds.
Otherwise, even if you return in human form, you may not be a spiritual
practitioner. For example, there may be somebody who was very powerful, who had
a very long life and was hardly sick, etc., but he had no Dharma in his life.
When his or her credits or merits are exhausted, he or she will go straight to
hell and have no chance to progress even if he or she is doing a lot of good
things in this life. So we should do good things and purify all our bad deeds
with the practice of Vajrasattva. Now is the time and the great opportunity to
practice. When we die, we will have no choice. I'm 85% sure that if we don't
practice, it is almost impossible to get a good human rebirth where there is a
chance to practice the Dharma and to be realized.