Tukdrub Barché Kunsel Ngöndro: The Four Foundations
Welcome and congratulations on your commitment to undertake the Ngöndro practice (the Four Foundations) of the Traditional Vajrayāna Path!
When To Begin The Ngöndro?
Generally, Kyabgön Phakchok Rinpoche emphasizes that Four Foundations practice is very important. Students usually are instructed to begin the Ngöndro after several years of daily meditation practice. This experience means one will have had some glimpses of the empty and luminous nature of mind.
Phakchok Rinpoche traditionally guides his students to that level of experience in one or both of two methods. The approach depends on the individual student.
A student may begin with the mind-training practice and/or the Path of Meditation (Mahāmudrā) teachings. The student should consult with Rinpoche and the lineage lamas about the best method to proceed.
This approach accords with the tradition of Kyabje Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche. He taught that the Ngöndro practice should be embraced with the experiential view of emptiness.
How To Begin?
To begin the Ngöndro you may express your wish to Phakchok Rinpoche. To do this correctly, you may make an offering and request the reading transmission (lung). Once Rinpoche approves, you then receive the reading transmission of the Ngöndro text. This transmission is necessary to connect the practitioner to the lineage masters. You may receive the reading transmission from Rinpoche or from designated lamas within our sangha.
As the Ngöndro is part of the Vajrayāna path it is necessary to practice it under your teacher’s guidance. We attempt here to provide you with all the materials, teaching, and practical instruction needed to begin and complete your Ngöndro practice.
We suggest that you take the time to review all these materials before beginning the practices (taking the most time with those you’ll be doing first) to get a reasonable overall understanding. But please remember that understanding is something that grows as we actually practice. Don’t worry too much if it seems complicated or confusing at the beginning. Many practitioners have done these practices in the past, and they all were confused at first… so take heart!
Why Practice The Ngöndro?
Kyabje Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche said in his introduction to The Great Gate (Rangjung Yeshe Publications),
When putting the Buddhist path into practice, all the paṇḍitas of India and the masters of Tibet agree that one must purify the obscurations and gather the accumulations. Due to the vastness of the Dharma teachings, one person is unable to practice all of them. For this reason the essence of all the sūtras and tantras were condensed into four things to think of, the four mind changings, and four things to practice, the preliminaries of four times one hundred thousand (ngöndro).
The Four Foundations are the gateway for the Traditional Vajrayāna Path. They enhance your experience of the view. You cultivate positive inner conditions for genuine practice of the three roots of guru, yidam, and ḍākinī. Four Foundations practice also prepares you for tsa-lung and the specific practices of Dzogchen (the Great Perfection).
To learn more about the Traditional Vajrayāna Path go to our webpage, here.
As inspiration we should think of Sangyum Kunsang Dechen (Phakchok Rinpoche’s grandmother) who was the wisdom-consort of Kyabje Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche. She completed the Ngöndro 12 times. Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche and Chatral Sangye Dorje Rinpoche repeatedly praised her as a realized master. All great masters and practitioners incorporate Ngöndro every morning within their daily practice. These foundations should remain important throughout your entire path.
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