Tag Archives: how to meditate

What is Ngöndro?

Ngöndro is a set of Buddhist practices that one chooses to complete at the request of one’s lama. Ngöndro can be translated as “to go before” It is therefore known as the four preliminary practices or the four uncommon or extraordinary preliminaries. The full practice may be compared to earning a bachelors degree in meditation as the practices usually take years to complete and when one is finished one normally receives a Yidam practice from his or her lama as sort of a graduation gift. Yidam means mind bond and is usually a lifelong practice. I will be describing the Karma Kagyu Chag Chen Ngöndro from the Ninth Karmapa here as this is what I practice.

The Ngöndro consists of four and sometimes five practices the four practices are:

1. Refuge and Enlightened Mind (prostrations)

2. Vajrasattva (diamond mind)

3. Mandala Offering

4. Guru Yoga

The fifth is commonly referred to as the small refuge and is completed prior to the four main practices sometimes as a trial to see if one is suited for the Ngöndro as it usually entails only 11111 repetitions. The four main practises increase in complexity and difficulty of visualization. They all consist of a mantra or exercise that must be repeated 111 111 times, yes that’s correct, one hundred and eleven thousand one hundred and eleven repetitions per practice. I am not kidding here this is why it takes years to do.

The total package of the Ngöndro can be compared to that of renovating a house or in this case your mind. When one has a house that needs total renovation one tears down the walls replaces the wiring and water pipes and anything else that is in poor repair. This is the prostrations, they are hard work require time and sweat, and you will feel them the next day actually for me it really hurt. But they do come with many benefits, as one develops in the practice so does one’s devotion, dedication, and one-pointedness to the lama and the entire transmission lineage. One purifies all Karma that is connected to the body and its physical actions; one can also become quite fit in the process and they open up blocked energies from our chakras. In each prostration we are aligning our body, speech, and mind chakras on a physical level with our prayer mudras that touches each of these centers and on an inner level as we alternate our inner focus or attention from one place to another. On the physical side, I found it very beneficial that as one develops their core body strength one can easily maintain excellent body posture both in and out of meditation. Correct body posture is incredibly helpful. It’s even not uncommon for a 1 pack to finally become a 6 pack. Likely the most important benefit is two-fold, firstly one begins to repeat the promise of the Bhodisatva every time we meditate. Being a Bhodisatva is not always easy but with practice, it can be. As motivation to do the prostrations one can imagine that we do the prostrations for others. I have personally met one yogi who traveled 500km doing prostrations as he went all for those who could not do them for themselves. Secondly, we begin to work with altruistic wishes such as “may all beings have happiness and the cause of happiness, may all beings be free from suffering and the cause of suffering, may they always experience happiness which is totally free from suffering, and may they remain in the great equanimity which is without attachment and aversion. These are very important steps on the path of the Bhodisatva.

The second practice of Vajrasattva or Diamond Mind is compared to the cleaning out of all the dust and dirt that has accumulated over the years and in the first part of the renovation once all the rough work is finished. Vajrasattva is intrinsically connected to emotions like anger, as one purifies even the most subtle and hidden aspects of the negative things that we have said, thought, or done since beginningless time. The mantra is quite long, 100 syllables to be exact, and one mala takes a minimum of 15 minutes. Here one can hone their concentration skills and enjoy the blessing and relief of removing even more negative Karma from one’s store consciousness. The practice of holding ones concentration so intensely can often, but not always lead to feelings similar to that of anger. This happens because we are in a subtle way creating the mental or inner conditions that are reminiscent of anger. As we develop with the practice we begin to see this narrowness or tightening in everyday situations as we really do become angry. The meditation is skillfully showing us that anger is coming, we then have realized the great gift of then being able to choose to react negatively or not. This is the essence of Vajrasattvas neckar it purifies our past response to anger and we are now only left with an unobscured observation of the situation. This deep wisdom can only grow from here into the openness we begin to develop in the next practice of the mandala offering.

The third practice is called mandala offering and it is for sure the most intricate and beautiful of all four practices. This is the fresh paint, new carpets, and beautiful decorating phase after the hard work of the renovation. Here one imagines universes of amazing and fantastic offerings for all the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas from all times and directions as one places piles of rice and semi-precious stones on a silver plate and wipes them away. We practice giving without regret or attachment and a deeper sense of thankfulness spills over into our everyday lives as one repeats the manta both on and off the meditation cushion. We may even begin to have an idea of what emptiness is, but don’t worry this idea is certain to change as do all ideas and concepts in Buddhism.

 

The fourth and final practice of the Ngöndro is Guru Yoga, this is meditation like many others in Tibetian Buddism because one directly meditates on the lama and in this case all the lamas of the transmission lineage. This seems only natural to invite everyone over to celebrate after your house is renovated and here the guests bring immense blessing for one’s future practice. On the subject of guru yoga, it would be irresponsible not to mention that when one is meditating “on” the Lama we are not meditating on a person with flesh and blood, we are meditating on a form of enlightened energy and light. This is a very skillful way in which to dissolve our selfish egos and to take on the profoundly positive and enlightening qualities that the lama represents. This effect is multiplied when the entire lineage is placed in mind above one’s head. Devotion and perseverance develop in the practitioner when one begins to realize and identify with the many exemplary examples of lives that were dedicated to the practice and teaching of the Buddha Dharma.

With an overview of the entire Ngondro practice, it is easy to see how all the individual parts fit in with one another. This is what is known as skillful means. Prostrations and Diamond Mind are heavily slanted to the Shinè side. While Mandala practice is almost entirely Laktong and the Guru Yoga is a combination of them both. The building up phase or the Kyerim phase is longer and more detailed in each subsequent practice and very clearly the Dzogrim phase moves from blessing to emptiness to a full Mahamudra experience. With this in mind, it is easy to see how the Ngondro really is the preparation for understanding the highest of the Kagyu Mahamudra teachings.

I have learned something very powerful from each and every practice and even as I am more than halfway through my second Ngöndro I can say that this experience keeps developing deepening far beyond what I could have imagined in the beginning. I have even considered doing Ngondro for the rest of my life as I personally know quite a few people who have done 5 or more Ngöndros and I am sure that they would say the same. If you are thinking that you may wish to undertake such a profound experience for yourself please ask many questions and find a Buddhist Centre near to you to get qualified explanations. The traditional “lung” or wind or word can only be received from a lama. Although it might seem oldfashioned or simply unnecessary a little tradition can go a long way.

QP

What do Kyerim and Dzogrim mean?

Every once in a while I inspired to share one of my website pages instead of a science-based entry. This time around I chose a more recent addition because I find it so inspiring how my Buddhist lineage uses such skillful means to meditate. Meditation and my Lama have unquestionably changed my life for the better. So here is the page in full.

In a previous page I detailed the difference between Shiné and Laktong, here I would like to highlight Kyerim and Dzogrim two closely related but very different terms so as to avoid any confusion as to how Vajrayana Tibetan meditations are often structured and how skillfully they have been put together to enable one to work with mind.

Kyerim sounds like Cherim it is the building up or generation phase and is closely linked to the practice of Shiné. One could almost call it Shiné plus, as the student does not just calmly pacify mind or rest mind on an object of meditation, the object of meditation interacts and provides feedback. Through a process called self-initiation, the meditator receives a combination of lights, syllables, and sounds from the object of focus or the Buddha aspect. Sometimes even a feeling is transmitted to the meditator. This feedback is said to trigger subtle psychological changes or responses in mind, the cumulative effect of such feedback is not to be underestimated. A typical example would be as follows: A white light from the Buddha form shines out towards us from an Om syllable on the Buddhas forehead towards our forehead at the same time we and or the group we are meditating with say the syllable Ommmmmmmmmm out loud for a few seconds. We feel or experience the vibration of the light and the sound together. This process is greatly magnified when we meditate in groups especially when we are in very large groups.

Khyrem can be translated to the moment when the Buddha is born. Here the Buddha or Buddha nature is clearly born and activated in our mind. This conscious feedback is also the same feedback one receives in Tibetan empowerments or initiations, albeit with less ritual. This is why this phase is sometimes referred to as self-empowerment as the lights, syllables, and sounds all correspond to the main chakras that are blessed by high Lamas and Rinpoches during an initiation. This self-empowerment provides the meditator with a strong blessing and enlightened contact regardless of where the lama is. One can also use the analogy of tieing ones rapidly changing stream of consciousness to a pole. Within the meditation, one has a series of approved distractions or highly detailed archetypal forms to focus on. Often one can simply rotate ones attention from one specific aspect to another at will within a much smaller field of attention than one is normally used to. These skillful means are very powerful mind training techniques.

Dzogrim or the completion phase can be compared to hugging or uniting ourselves with the Buddha form. The full mixing of powerful light energy and one’s own energy form imbues the meditator with the enlightened qualities of the Buddha aspect and one is filled with blessing. When the term dissolving phase is used it can be understood to be where we dissolve the barrier or distance between us and the enlightened qualities of the lama or Buddha aspect, here one simply feels inseparable from the teacher and all beings. One no longer is looking into the mirror of mind, we are the mirror, reflecting our own enlightened qualities. Perfection phase refers to the total understanding or the absolute realization of Mahamudra the highest teachings in Vajrayana Buddhism. This is a CLEAR experience of mind unadulterated by the veils of our disturbing emotions and basic ignorance. All three are Dzogrim. Dzogrim and Laktong often share the same place and time in most meditations but as Laktong is the insight the “ah ha” moment or the connection to one’s deepest awareness, beyond the normal understanding. Dzogrim clearly points to a pristine unadulterated experience of the LUMINANCE of mind. This CLEAR LIGHT, when seen from an outside perspective but still within the meditative experience, is the mechanism with which mind shines on the form and sound realms in order so that we may perceive them. This responsive outward shining of consciousness is what we are mentally reproducing in the Khyrem part of the meditation. In its very essence, we are the CLEAR LIGHT when there is no longer any distance or barrier between us and our experience and when we have total unity within our experience, sounds perfect doesn’t it?

 

QP

Making Distraction a Friend in Meditation

As I have been to engrossed in reading a scientific book I thought I would highlight some of my original content on my side as a post. Making Distraction a Friend appeared first on Quantum Awareness Here, Distraction is a fact of life for everyone. It seems that we are in fact in love with distractions, after all, what is the newest gadget and how will it make my life better is all we seem to ask ourselves? Everything new is just another distraction from our own sometimes very desperate unhappiness. So it seems to me that distraction is at the very core of so many of our problems. It is without a doubt the single biggest challenge most if not all meditators face. The great news is…

 

Buddhism, Religion or Scientif-ically measurable experience?

measure-quality

As part of the scientific process, we ask a question, formulate a hypothesis design the experiment and carry it out and measure the result as objectively as possible. It’s the same in meditation. In the sceince of mind, the laboratory of traditional Buddhist meditation we look within ourselves as objectively as we can and observe our mind and inner being while listening for the wisdom and answers that are already there deep within our personal inner universe. We then apply this new found wisdom found in our meditation and look for and measure results in our daily lives we are often surprised to see how wonderfully we have changed and developed during our life experience.

So let’s begin our meditation experiment:
A traditional well thought out Buddhist meditation can be comprised of two main parts. In the first part called shine (shyiné), shamatha, or calming and abiding we find ourselves learning to hold our attention using our body, speech, and mind, in fact, we can use our entire totality here and calmly stay on one point of beautiful focus. When distracted we calmly accept and return without any À deieu . After sufficient time, we can be flexible here, we relax our calm focus and allow our full being to either become one with the object of the focus or to dissolve the object of the focus from its state of energy and light into wide-open awareness. After a few moments of open suchness, called laktong (lhagthong), insight, or vipassana we gently return to our normal state of awareness and wish that all beings can find a state of equanimity free from attachment and aversion.

So thankfully much of the preparation for the experiment has already been done during the 1000’s of years of yogis meditating and teaching others in the many traditions passed down from teacher to student in the far east. This is an important clue here, as with science every student needs a qualified professor to question and keep one on track, meditation requires a good teacher, one who understands western life and can communicate and direct the student at all points in the process of inner development is indispensable.

Once we understand the process and have our clearly stated hypothesis such as “meditation is a healthy way to increase my quality of life”, we begin. And sit and sit and sit……..

mediteing.jpg

Are you still sitting?

What are the results? Well, they vary as much as individuals are individual, and while we should not try to grade or evaluate the meditation too much, but generally hindsight of a few weeks to many years shows some profound results. What are the more general results?:
1. Calm and relaxed behaviour.
2. Quiet acceptance of our situation.
3. Stress reduction
4. Space in mind to choose between tragedy or comedy within the challenges in life.
5. Ubiquitous love for all beings.
6. Compassion.

7. Timeless wisdom.

8. Unbounded joy and bliss.

The open laktong, space, or suchness phase of the meditation is where I have many of my best ideas and inspirations. The calm breathing and focusing follows me throughout the day and helps me complete my tasks at hand with love and sometimes creativity as well.

As with any experiment, unexpected results may arise. It is best to chat with your trusted professor or Lama as to how or why the results have occurred. Allow yourself to incorporate their advice into your personal experience and grow. Just like Quantum Physics is not for everyone and you might be better suited for some sort of Biology or Chemical studies, meditation is not for everyone. A good teacher will know if you are in the right place and may recommend yoga or even just mundane like running if meditation is not for you.
There may be challenges and hindrances that arise and a good teacher can guide you through them. One common one is “I just cannot quieten my mind or the hamster never stops running in his wheel” This “condition” is commonly called “monkey brain” and everyone suffers from it especially in the beginning. When we begin to look inside we start to see just how distracted we are all the time it’s not more or less than normal we just notice it for the first time, and it will subside.
It is also worthwhile mentioning that some individuals who suffer from deep depression or any type of psychosis should likely not meditate or do so only under the supervision of their therapist.

Thank you, have an amazing meditative and joyful day

QP