Rinpoche Teachings
Some Q&A on Ngondro - the Fourfold 100,000 Preliminaries

IS NGONDRO PRACTICE MANDATORY?

In the ancient India and Tibet, there is no such practice called Ngöndro or the fourfold 100,000 practices of The Preliminaries. The practitioners of that time are much more diligent and fervent in their quest for Dharma. They would travel thousands miles by feet for months, enduring extreme hardship, facing serious challenges, risking their lives ... just to obtain the precious instructions for their practices. Many even lost their lives during their journey, but none of that shaken their faith and resoluteness in their attempt to practice the sublime Dharma.

In this modern world, where materialism and idealism prevail, human minds are very much distracted and confused. In order to attune the mind to the authentic Dharma, one must first purify their obscuration and gather enormous merits through the practice of Ngöndro.

Jumping straight to the highest tantra without solid foundation, is akin trying to construct a mammoth high-rise building on a wobbly sandy beach ... it could never stay firm nor bring any long-term benefit to the builder or the surround communities. Similarly, practicing the higher tantra without proper guidance and step by step approach, may do more harm than good to the practitioner.

Thus, constantly remind yourself that, the primordial wisdom can only be dawned on us through karma purification, merit accumulations and the blessings of one's enlightened guru. There is no further shortcut in this speediest path to enlightenment - the secret Mantrayana.

 

IS THE NUMBER 100,000 MANDATORY IN NGONDRO?

The Preliminary Practices, are introduced as a skilful means to purify one's obscuration from negative karmic imprints, and to accumulate essential merits, allowing one's practice to progress smoothly along the path to enlightenment.

Imagine this. The human condition is like a perfect vessel or a precious container to contain the wish fulfilling Dharma nectar for one's deliverance from the ever painful cyclic existence. However, if the container is unclean or tainted with impurities or poisonous substances, whatsoever being filled in it, will too be contaminated. Consequently, whatever teachings one's received will not be able to help, and it may even bring harm to oneself.

Simply put, the preliminary practices are a process of clearing and enriching the mind, so whatever Dharma seeds planted, will bring forth bountiful harvest of wisdom and compassion.

Traditionally, in Tibet, each section of the Ngondro has been practiced as an accumulation of 100,000. This is an average number where most practitioners will obtain the necessary benefits from the practice. However, it's not an absolute figure. Depending on one's past lives connections and practices, some may require more and some less, in order to achieve the identical outcome. If it ever required, only a genuinely realized master will be able to decide what is the minimal number for one practices.

Bear in mind that, the number itself has not much significance, apart from given one a goal to work towards, and a sense of accomplishment when one has completed it. Counting the number without the sense of blessings and transformation in one's heart and mind, then no matter how many prostrations, recitations or offerings one has done, one will continue to be imprisoned by one's own afflictive emotions and habitual tendencies ... Therefore, continuously checking on one's mind. The best signs of accomplishment would be, a steady decrease in negative emotions and consistently increases in loving kindness.

 

HOW LONG SHOULD ONE TAKE TO COMPLETE THE NGONDRO?

The duration one takes to complete The Four Foundations depends on one's capacity, time and condition. Some take months; some take years and some require entire life-time.

Completing a practice is important, but the wish to complete it, is equally important. Even if one is not able to finish the practice, but has a strong wish in their heart to complete it. However, due to certain circumstances, one failed to conclude it. From the practice perspective, the continuity is there, because the mind is still engaged.

The wish to continue and the wish to complete the practice is very important. When the wish is there, some days, in this life or lives to come, one will be able to connect back with the practice ... However, totally abandonment is definitely not good. It just like someone who has committed to do something very beneficial, for self and others, but later, they just abandon it without the slightest regret. That's not right. It's not good from the spiritual perspective, as well as the worldly point of view.

 
  
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