An intrepid cadre of spiritual explorers are in the midst of the first month of our series on the Mahamudra ngondro practices. The second of four months of practice starts soon...
Clearing the Way
The Mahamudra ngondro practice of refuge and bodhicitta with prostrations prepares the ground of spiritual practice, so to speak, removing its more obvious impediments and smoothing its surface by promoting humility, an open mind, and a receptive heart instead.
Next in the progress of spiritual development is a powerful practice of karmic purification. Karma is a complex topic. It is far more than present day memes and misconceptions would have it. Famously, the Buddha described karma as so intricate and embedded that it takes the full enlightenment of buddhahood to comprehend its many delicate nuances.
We can, however, understand the niceties of karma generally. Fueled by the urgency that granted by engaging the Four Contemplations that Reorient the Mind, even a basic comprehension of karma's vast reach and profound depths empowers us to take a proactive role in creating the life we most aspire for ourselves, and passing on this mindstream to its next inhabitant in a sleek, bright, promising state ripe for progressing further in the Dharma.
How do we accomplish that? With the insight that it is vital to tackle the infinite array of karmic seeds we carry and the determination to do so, when we encounter practices that uproots karma, our eagerness spontaneously invites us forward.
There are myriad ways to purify karma. We can wait until karmic sees ripen, and sit through their energy. We can regret and acknowledge actions that do not align with our true nature as buddhas, either in our hearts, or coupling that heartfelt urge in prayer. We can engage in any spiritual practice--meditation, offerings, circumambulations, prostrations, prayer--specifically with a mindset to purify the habitual patterns born of karmic action.
And we can engage in the practice of Vajrasattva. This Vajrayana meditation and recitation practice is renowned as a powerful remedy that uproots karmic seeds and clears the way forward.
Vajrasattva practice harvests the aspiration, intentionality, and creative power of mind, infinite in scope. Our own mind provides the field of play for transcending the limiting labels of good and bad, then and now, that dualistic perception imposes. Within that space of ease, precision, and creativity, we invoke the energy of Vajrasattva, the bodhisattva of karmic purification, to address the karmic patterns that hold us back, clearing the way forward towards enriching our spiritual practice.
Purifying karma enables us to travel light. We can revel in purposeful determination and clarity in action, here and now, and rely upon it across the winding path before us.
Ngondro Prep School
On July 29, 2023, Prajna Fire began our Ngondro Prep School, a four-month journey into the Mahamudra ngondro, providing a glimpse of the entire arc of ngondro practice. We will meet on the last Saturday of each month to discuss one of the four Mahamudra prerequisites and try out the practice for the weeks to follow.
The second session focuses on Clarity and Vajrasattva practice, connecting us with our innate capacity to heal our habitual patterns, and recover from the harm they cause, going further still to transform our minds, and from there, our lives.
Our morning session focuses on summarizing the philosophical underpinnings of the practice. Here we learn the basic mechanics of karma, ways for making purification accessible in our everyday life, and how this ngondro component prepares us for the openness of mind that is central to Mahamudra practice:
What is karma? How does it function? What is purification? How can I engage with my karma proactively, to empower myself towards creative engagement in my life?
How can I employ the mechanics of karma on a day to day basis?
In what ways does the release and lightness of Clarity impact my formal meditation practice, my path trajectory, and basic wellbeing in my life?
After lunch, we will gather to recite the corresponding parts of the sadhana, or liturgy, with pauses for instructions concerning details of the practices at relevant points in the text.
Following practice, we have a break, then conclude with a discussion period to address any specific questions and share experiences of the relevancy of ngondro practice amidst today's busy lifestyle in the world.
After our Saturday session, Google Classroom posts will provide guidance for trying out the Vajrasattva practice on your own for the four weeks until the Mandala Offering session on the last Saturday in September.
Alongside Ngondro Prep School, from August to October, our Prajna Sparks podcast will focus on the Four Thoughts that Reorient Mind to Dharma, a contemplative exploration of our experience of samsara (cyclic existence) which is integral to ngondro and all Tibetan Buddhist practice as a whole.
By the end of our four months together, we will have sampled the Mahamudra ngondro experience as a whole. First introduced to this holistic approach to practicing the ngondro by our root guru, Kyabje Bokar Rinpoche, we personally have found it to be a valuable way to go deeper into ngondro, as well as other meditation and everyday spiritual practices. The four practices do stand on their own, yet they are also interwoven in ways not easy to discover until the entire fabric of the ngondro stands before our experience.
Lama Yeshe and Lama Zopa will be available throughout the Ngondro Prep School period to answer questions via email or in optional private teaching sessions, at each student’s discretion.
Is it Right for Me?
The series is particularly beneficial for committed Tibetan Buddhist practitioners with a connection to the Karma Kagyu lineage who seek to enhance their new or existing Mahamudra ngondro practice. Students curious about ngondro in general or in the Karma Kagyu Mahamudra lineage specifically are also welcome.
It is fine to participate in as few or as many of the sessions and practices as you like. Vajrasattva meditation in particular is a viable standalone practice, accessible to experienced meditators across Buddhist heritage, not only Tibetan Buddhist practitioners.
As with all spiritual practice, basic psychological stability is essential. We trust you to make that determination for yourself.
We are using the sadhana entitled Chariot for Traveling the Exalted Path, composed by His Holiness the Ninth Karmapa, Wangchuk Dorje. English translation will be shared on-screen during the sessions. Copies of the same text will be available through our Google Classroom for download in PDF format at no additional cost.
You are also free to use your own copy of the sadhana in your individual practice. They are available for purchase at Namse Bangdzo Bookstore in Tibetan pecha format and in spiral-bound book form. Please note that, while the original Tibetan is the same, English translations vary, as do supplementary prayers which may be included. Your copy may not be the same as the version we use together.
Vajrasattva practice requires little in the way of acoutrements: a 108-bead mala and a meditation cushion, chair, or the like is sufficient. Practicing in a place of sanctuary, be it your local Dharma center or own home altar can add dimension to your experience.
Feel free to join us!
All our Dharma offerings are available at FREE, DONATION, SUPPORTER, and BENEFACTOR levels.
Register for all four months or one or more modules of your choice, as you prefer.
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Schedule a free half-hour private teaching session to meet with either Lama Yeshe or Lama Zopa. Make your selection during booking.