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Hello everybody,


I have a little question (at least for now), about preliminaries. What are they really, how to start and with what?


That's a short question, but a big one actually 8) .

Anybody can help me?




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Guest lodreu

Tashi Delek,


On the request of one person, I wrote a little text to introduce preliminaries (also called Ngöndro). Maybe it will answer most of your question. It doesn't go in detail in the practices, it's mainly meant as an introduction.


Best regards,



Having myself no understanding of the value of this practice, I will base this little presentation on explanations from two high and realized Lamas. The first one being a Kagyu Lama, Jamgön Kontrul, and the second one a Gelug Lama, Lama Zopa Rinpoche. Although both have a Rime approach. Having totally realized the taste of the candy, they are able to wrap it in any forms necessary to our limited minds. Of course any mistake will be due to my own limitations and lack of realizations.


The preliminary practices are common to the four schools of Tibetan Buddhism. The way to practice can change a little bit according to each individual. We can say that generally speaking there are 5 main practices. Although they can be as well named as four preliminaries. It consists in the offering repeated 111 111 times each of:

- Refuge prayer, and generation of Bodhicitta,

- Mandala offering,

- Prostrations,

- Vajrasttva practice,

- Guru Yoga practice.

The Gelugpa School added three preliminaries to this five, with the offering of flowers, water and tsa-tsa. Which brings the number of offerings to 888 888. We could also add that sometimes, according to the amount of sins one has to purify, the Dorje Khadro burning offering practice can be added, or done conjointly to another practice.


These practices help us to develop the two accumulations of merits and wisdom, necessary to our progression on the path. They help us to purify negativities which are obstacle to our practices, develop our faith and joy in the practice of Dharma. They also help us to stabilize our concentration.


Prior to the preliminaries it is important to have some abilities in the practices of Shine and Laktong, mental quietness and penetrative insight. Or at least to have some familiarity with these practices. It is also necessary to settle and entertain a good motivation, to generate the aspiration to Bodhicitta and to have a strong refuge.

Like any other practice, the result we will get from engaging ourselves in Ngöndro will be very much determined by the quality of our concentration, understanding and visualization. If all of them can and will be developed during the practice, it's important to have some acquaintance with them before.


We could say that there are preliminaries to preliminaries. They will differ in length according to each person, each personal curriculum, previous experiences and studies. In any cases it's not one's choice to determine which practice to engage in first, and how. This would be like wanting cherries to grow on an apple tree. We need to recognize the tree first and which method to apply to prune it. According to one's taste, one's life condition and abilities, a choice can be made within the different preliminaries. Then in accordance with one's spiritual and root Lama, this choice can be confirmed or changed. The number of practices can also be modified. I've personally seen some people having four times more prostrations to do, as well as additional practices.

The preliminaries to the preliminaries are named "the 4 thought turning the mind towards religion". They are the base on which the motivation for the practice will grow. By thinking on: 1. the precious human rebirth, 2. Impermanence, 3.Karma, and 4. Suffering as the nature of Samsara, one will gain the necessary understanding for entertaining a daily practice, purify negativities and accumulate the causes for further realization.

How to engage really in a practice without renunciation to sense pleasure? And how to maintain a daily practice without understanding of impermanence?. How to refrain from creating negativities if we don't think ab

out suffering and death?

Without the proper meditative insight on this subjects, Ngöndro will be difficult to accomplish and even though we would start them, they might no be completed.

Every meditation session can be started by one of these subjects. to settle the mind, develop the proper motivation, and get all benefits from the practice.


The good base for the beginning of Ngöndro would then be a retreat, or at least some times of practice, of Lam Rim and Shine. Shine applied to Lam Rim subject, along with the proper instructions, will help to develop Laktong.


As we can see there is nothing really possible without making the ground flat, building the foundations and the base for the Ngöndro. And all this cannot be accomplished without the proper guidance of a Lama with whom we already established a proper and clean relationship. Indeed, most of the meditation techniques of the Ngöndro involved the representation of this link with the Lama, to receive the greatest blessing and benefits. Why is it so important to have this link, relation established? As we took rebirth in the realm of desire, having an impure base with contaminated aggregates, our mind is pervaded with ignorance. Therefore it's very difficult for us to see with wisdom what is the best direction to engage in. Every action we will do will be under ignorance, motivated by self cherishing mind, ego. How in such condition determine if our practice and understanding are proper? Without a guide, having already walked the path, everything can become an ego trip. A dream that we will call practice, but which will result in a stronger and bigger ego, cause for more suffering instead of liberation.

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Tashi Delek,


can you please explain this a little bit further...

Without a guide, having already walked the path, everything can become an ego trip. A dream that we will call practice, but which will result in a stronger and bigger ego, cause for more suffering instead of liberation.

... and tell some more about Guru Yoga?


Thank you. Best regards.

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Guest lodreu

Tashi Delek


The conditions under which we get reborn in the Samsara are the three poisons. Ignorance, pride and aversion. Their cause is contained in the self cherishing, the original self grasping pervading all thoughts and actions.

This aspect of our mind is present in all recognized and unrecognized moments. Because we were not able to engage deeply and with consistency into practice, we didn¦#146;t achieve mental quietness. Therefore we are mostly unable to recognize what is going on in our mind most of the times. When we recognize one of the gross aspect of this self cherishing, we often do not understand that there is more to it. Recognizing it, we are also unable to apply the antidote on a regular basis, and remove it.

How in such conditions can we decide which practice to engage in and how? Deciding by ourselves will have, most certainly, as a result, to make us to loose time, or to misinterpret some experiences that we would have.


We could also ask ourselves if having received a practice, will make our mind perfect? Will it remove all obscurations? It usually makes them to appear more clearly. And for the mind which starts to be a bit shaken, as it will realize and have to face all its imperfections, there are only two ways.

- The easiest and most easy to fall in, will be to refuse or misinterpret these experiences. As a result we will abandon the practice, or turn it in such a way that it will become like a dream. We will just make ourselves to believe we are meditating, while we are letting our mind to go uncontrolled here and there, taking all experiences, sounds, visions appearing, as valid and as being a result of our practice.

- The most difficult one is to face them, and accepting advices and corrections, to learn from our mistakes. It¦#146;s a long and uncomfortable process as our ¦#147;ego¦#148; will be on the grill, jump here and there, scream and try to seduce us, will sometimes jump out of control, etc¦#133;


Our idyllic vision of ourselves, of what it is to meditate, of our ability to be a yogi or yogini will crash. And it¦#146;s from this acceptation and recognition that the practice can really start.


Guru Yoga:

In brief the Guru Yoga practice comes after the other ones. It requires enough accumulation of merits, engagement and purification. It also requires proper initiation and teachings, commentaries about how to practice. Only to describe the visualization is not enough, and a strong relationship as well as the blessing from our Lama is necessary.

Indeed if we are not convinced that our Lama bears the qualities of a Buddha, what benefit will we gain from this practice? And how to gain such perception with too much obscurations and not enough merits?


This practice requires at least a good understanding of Emptiness, or we might easily fell in the trap of ego cherishing, it also requires stability of the mind, as the inter sessions are fully used.

The benefits from the Guru Yoga will differ greatly according to the perception we have and the flow of thought directed towards our Lama. The power of the object is here very important. If you consider your lama as a normal and ordinary person you will get the benefits accordingly. If you think about him once or twice, then forget, if you do not understand his kindness and Compassion, then you will not make your practice a real act of devotion.

The blessing from the Lama, which we usually get in an outside way, must be a constant inside flowing blessing, to be able to really progress on the path. This is only possible if our thoughts are turned in the most effective way towards our Lama, if our mind is stable and if our faith is ascertained before to engage into the practice.

Respect and devotion in their perfected and pure form bring some release from the 8 wordly dharmas, mundane and supramundane experiences and faculties.


Motivation must the be checked in the deepest possible way. We also have to check all our actions and thoughts, to see i

f the motivation applied is really the one benefiting the others. To generate aspiration to Bodhicitta constantly.


Best regards,


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