Profound Concentration of Nectar
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A Profound Concentration of Nectar
Essentialized Stages of Visualization for the Preliminary Practices of the Heart Essence of the Vast Expanse (Longchen Nyingtik)
by Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo
This is a guide to regularly practising the stages of the preliminaries of the Dzogchen Longchen Nyingtik.
To begin with, at dawn when it is time to get up, imagine that your root master appears in the sky before you in the form of Orgyen Dorje Chang, the vajradhara of Oḍḍiyāna. He is surrounded by hosts of ḍākas and ḍākinīs, all playing ḍāmaru hand-drums which resonate with the sound of mantra, awakening you from your sleep.
As you rise, visualize your body in the form of the deity and your environment as a pure realm. Consider that the lama in your heart ascends the central channel to the space above the crown of your head, and remains there, joyfully.
Then, with your body in the correct posture, exhale the foul air nine times, and rest for a short while, allowing your mind to settle in its natural state. When you have thus become a suitable vessel for meditation, practise the blessing of the speech that begins, "OṂ ĀḤ HŪṂ. From the syllable RAṂ arises fire, consuming my tongue..." If you wish to practise more elaborately, you can recite the Calling the Lama from Afar beginning with, "You are the one whose kindness can bring great joy..."
In the actual practice of the preliminaries there are the ordinary (outer) preliminaries and the extraordinary (inner) preliminaries.
I. The Ordinary Preliminaries
There are six stages of contemplation in the ordinary preliminaries, all of which can be practised together, one after another. Reciting, “From the blossoming lotus of devotion at the centre of my heart…etc.,” reflect as follows.
Essentially, there are eight freedoms, which are the opposites of the eight states where there is no chance of engaging in Dharma practice. Then, more particularly, there are ten endowments. Together, these eighteen freedoms and endowments characterize a precious human existence, which is of inconceivable benefit but also extremely rare, as the reflections on cause, analogies and numerical statistics prove.
You are now in possession of such a precious human body, but even this outer world, which appears so solid and so stable, will ultimately be destroyed by seven great fires and one great flood, leaving nothing behind, not even ashes. And as for the beings who inhabit this world, there has never been a single one who was born that did not die. So death will certainly come to you too—and there is no guarantee that it will not come this very night!
At the time of your death, nothing but the completely pure Dharma will be of any benefit; and once you have died, your future will be determined solely by your past actions.
As a result of harmful actions, you will be reborn in the three lower realms, where you must face the unendurable suffering of suffering. Even if you have accumulated imperfect positive actions and are reborn in the three higher realms, there will still be no going beyond the suffering of change or the all-pervasive suffering of conditioned existence.
So, you must do whatever is necessary right now in order to gain liberation from the great ocean of suffering that is saṃsāra.
For this, you should rely on a qualified spiritual friend of the Mahāyāna, whom you should please in the three ways. You should adopt or avoid whatever he or she instructs you to, and be careful not to fall under the influence of childish friends or those who act in harmful ways.
Recognizing that the Dharma alone will benefit you at the moment of death and in the future, practise it as much as possible in the course of every single day.
In order to practise like this, consider that the guru and the Three Jewels care for you and generate a strong sense of renunciation.
II. The Extraordinary Preliminaries
Secondly, there are the six sections of the extraordinary preliminaries.
The first of these is taking refuge.
1. Taking Refuge
For this you should adopt the attitude of a great being, and consider that you are taking refuge in the master and the Three Jewels in order to liberate yourself and all other sentient beings from the terrible sufferings of saṃsāra.
Consider that the whole area where you are sitting is a beautiful paradise, pleasing to the mind. Upon the bejewelled ground stands a wish-fulfilling tree with five main branches, adorned with abundant leaves, flowers and fruit, garlands of jewels, and tiny bells. It pervades the whole of space. In its centre, upon a jewelled throne supported by lions and seats of multi-coloured lotus, sun and moon, is the embodiment of all the buddhas—your own root master—in the form of Orgyen Dorje Chang (the Vajradhara of Oḍḍiyāna), blue in colour, and holding vajra and bell. He is in union with his consort Yeshe Tsogyal, who is white and holding a hooked knife and skull-cup. They are adorned with silk and bone ornaments.
The Guru is seated in the vajra posture. Above his head are the masters of the Dzogchen lineage, seated one above the other. They are surrounded by the root and lineage masters, the yidam deities of the various maṇḍalas associated with the six great classes of tantra, and an inconceivable number of ḍākas and ḍākinīs of the three spheres.
On the branch in front are Śākyamuni Buddha and all the other buddhas of the three times, in nirmāṇakāya form. On the branch to the right is the Mahāyāna saṅgha, including the Eight Close Sons. On the branch to the left are Śāriputra and Maudgalyāyana, and the assembly of the noble saṅgha of śrāvakas. On the branch at the back is the Jewel of the Dharma in the form of stacks of books, red in colour, from which the vowels and consonants resound by themselves. In the space in between, there is a great ocean-like gathering of oath-bound and karmic guardians that fills the whole area, without leaving any gaps.
Consider how all these deities have immeasurable qualities of wisdom, love and power, and are actually present as great guides who care for you and lead you along the path to enlightenment.
You are before them with your father on your right and your mother on your left. In front of you are all the beings who have ever caused you harm; and in the whole surrounding area are all the sentient beings of the six realms. You all show respect with your body by folding your hands together; with your speech, you all chant resoundingly the verse for taking refuge; and with your mind, you think the following:
"From now until we realize the heart of enlightenment, we take the master as our guide, the yidam deities and buddhas as our teachers; the Dharma as our path; and the ḍākinīs, Dharma protectors and members of the saṅgha as companions along the way. We rely on you. We offer everything to you. We have no other refuge or hope but you. Whatever we do, take care of us."
With this thought of intense yearning, consider that you take refuge. Practise like this as many times as possible.
At the end, rays of light stream out from the hearts of the sources of refuge, entering your body and mind, and those of all other beings. This purifies your emotional and cognitive obscurations and habitual patterns. Consider that your life span is extended, your merit increases, and your qualities of learning and realization develop further and further. Rest in meditation for a while in a state that is free from any mental grasping.
2. The Generation of Bodhicitta
First train your mind in the four boundless qualities. Begin by generating equanimity, in which there is no attachment to your family and close friends or aversion for your enemies. This comes from considering how, in the course of time without beginning, among all sentient beings who are as limitless as space, those who have been your enemies have also been your friends, and those who have been close to you have at other times opposed you. Just as it was in the past, so too in the present and in the future, you can not really say who is a friend and who is an enemy. Then generate love, by considering how they have all been your very own kind mother and father, and wishing that they may find happiness in return for all the kindness they have shown you, and compassion, by wishing that they never suffer. Finally cultivate sympathetic joy, which is the elation you feel at the prospect of all beings remaining constantly in this state of complete happiness, free from all suffering.
Next, take the objects of refuge as your witness and generate the bodhicitta of aspiration, by thinking:
"So that all beings may be established in the enduring happiness of complete liberation, I will do whatever is necessary to ensure that I attain the precious state of complete enlightenment."
Then develop the bodhicitta of application, thinking:
"To that end, having trained in vast waves of bodhisattva practices, represented by this profound path, I shall apply myself with diligence until not even a single sentient being remains in saṃsāra."
Not allowing your mind to stray from these reflections, recite the verses of generating bodhicitta three times, or as many times as you can.
If you are unable to do all this as a regular practice, it is sufficient simply to generate the bodhicitta of aspiration and application.
Should you wish to practise more elaborately, you could, at this point, train your mind in equalizing or exchanging self and others. In particular, you could do the practice of tonglen, by sending out happiness as you breathe out, and receiving suffering as you breathe in.
You could also meditate on absolute bodhicitta—the union of tranquillity (śamatha) and insight (vipaśyanā)—inspired by a certainty regarding the selflessness of individuals and of phenomena.
Finally, you and all sentient beings dissolve into the objects of refuge, who then dissolve into the master in the centre. In turn, he dissolves into the primordial expanse of dharmakāya simplicity, and you rest in meditation.
3. Meditation and Recitation of Vajrasattva
Whilst reciting, “Āḥ! I am in my ordinary form: above my head…etc.” visualize the following.
You remain in your ordinary form. On the crown of your head is an eight-petalled lotus, with a stem of approximately four finger-widths inserted into your ‘brahma-aperture’. At its centre is a white full moon disc (as wide as the flower’s orange anthers), upon which stands a white syllable HŪṂ. In an instant, the HŪṂ transforms into the Guru Vajrasattva, his body brilliant white and emanating rays of light. He is peaceful, smiling, and has all the major and minor marks.
The five silken garments adorn his body: a white silk upper garment, a multi-coloured lower garment, crown pendants, a blue silk scarf which hangs down from the back of his crown, and ‘dancing sleeves’ like those seen in some old paintings. He is also adorned with the eight jewel ornaments: the jewel crown, earrings, short necklace, bracelets, anklets, waistband, a long necklace which extends below the navel, and a shorter necklace which extends to his breast.
With his right hand he holds a vajra at his heart. His left hand holds a bell at his hip. He is in union with the consort Vajragarvā (Dorje Nyemma), who is white and holds a knife and skull-cup. They are both seated, he with his feet in vajra posture and she with her feet in lotus posture.
Once you have visualized their forms in this way, with intense yearning and devotion, think, “Purify all the harmful actions and obscurations in my mindstream! Take care of me!” This constitutes the power of support.
Feeling intense regret and remorse for the harmful deeds you have committed in the past is the power of regret.
Pledging that from this moment on you will not repeat them, even at the cost of your life, is the power of resolution.
Finally, as a remedy for what you have done in the past, visualize a moon disc in Vajrasattva’s heart, and in its centre a syllable HŪṂ, encircled by a string of white letters that form the hundred-syllable mantra. The letters turn clockwise, and are as fine as if drawn with a single hair. Recite the mantra for a little while as if you were reading it.
The white nectar of great bliss begins to flow from the mantra garland, accompanied by rays of light. An immeasurable quantity of nectar flows through the bodies of the yab-yum deities, emerging from the point of their union, and then, winding around the stem of the lotus, it enters your body through the brahma-aperture.
Like the filth and dirt expelled by the powerful surge of a great flood, all your illnesses (as pus and blood), all harmful forces (as insects), and all your harmful deeds and obscurations (as sweat, soot and steam) gush out through the pores of your skin and your two lower orifices. It all flows into the wide open mouth of the Lord of Death, who resides nine levels below the earth’s surface and appears in the form of a red bull. As it reaches his stomach, consider that untimely death has been averted.
Reciting the hundred-syllable mantra—at best, as many times as you can; or, in an average case, a hundred times; or twenty-one times at the very least—is the power of action as an antidote.
With the crucial points of all four powers complete, do the practice.
Next, imagine that your four chakras are filled with white nectar, and the harmful actions and obscurations associated with all three doors, together with their habitual tendencies, are all purified. The wisdom of bliss and emptiness and the four joys arise in your mind, so that your body and mind are flooded with untainted bliss. At the end make a pledge of confession, by generating devotion and intense yearning once again, and saying, "O Protector..." and so on. Lama Vajrasattva is pleased by your request for protection and the purification of your harmful deeds and transgressions. He has a smiling and happy expression as he grants his approval, saying, “Son/daughter of an enlightened family, your negative actions, obscurations, wrongdoing and downfalls are all purified.” With this, he melts into light, which is, in essence, great bliss and emptiness.
Then, he dissolves into you, and you are instantly transformed into Vajrasattva in union with his consort, with form, colour, hand implements and clothing all completely perfect—appearing yet empty, like a reflection in a mirror. At his heart, in the centre of a moon disc, is the seed syllable HŪṂ, surrounded in the four directions by the syllables OṂ, VAJRA, SA and TVA, from which emanate countless rays of white light. They make offerings to all the noble ones, whose blessings and accomplishments dissolve back into you. And then, shining out once more, the rays of light purify the harmful actions and obscurations of all beings.
The environment is transformed into the realm of Akaniṣṭha-Abhirati, and its inhabitants—all the beings of the three realms—become Vajrasattvas of the five families. Consider that they are all reciting the mantra together with you. Reciting the heart mantra OṂ VAJRA SATTVA HŪṂ as many times as possible purifies obscurations by means of the special development stage (kyerim).
Finally, when all thoughts of deity or mantra have dissolved into the state of natural luminosity, rest in the state of awareness and emptiness, in which all concepts of ‘something to be purified’ or ‘something that purifies’ are primordially lacking in true existence. This is known as looking into the face of the ultimate Vajrasattva, and it is the unsurpassed method for purifying obscurations based on the ultimate perfection stage (dzogrim).
4. The Maṇḍala Offering
Visualize the field of merit in the sky before you, as in the refuge practice.
On a clean maṇḍala plate made from precious metal or some other material, and anointed with scented water and bajung, arrange either thirty-seven or seven piles of flowers. Alternatively, if you are not doing this as a daily practice, it is permissible simply to visualize this.
Whichever way you do it, begin by offering the ordinary nirmāṇakāya maṇḍala of a billion-fold universe made up of a thousand million worlds, each consisting of four continents, Mount Meru and the realms of the gods, and completely filled with abundant riches of the environment and of its inhabitants. Make a special point of continually offering your body, possessions and any merit you have accumulated.
In the space above, infinite clouds of offering arise as the display of kāyas and wisdoms in the realm of Akaniṣṭha-Ghanavyuha. This is the extraordinary sambhogakāya maṇḍala.
In the sphere above that, on the primordially unarisen ground of the special dharmakāya maṇḍala, arrange piles representing ‘awareness reaching full maturity’, the appearance aspect of unceasing luminosity.
Offer all this with an understanding of the inconceivable nature of reality, which can manifest as realms even within the atoms of other realms and in numbers equal to those atoms.
With yearning devotion, pray as follows:
"Together with all sentient beings, may I complete the accumulations of merit and wisdom, purify my emotional and cognitive obscurations, develop the qualities of experience and realization in my mindstream, and ultimately enjoy infinite realms of the three kāyas."
With this thought of intense devotion, offer the maṇḍala as many times as you can.
5. Accumulation of the Kusāli: Chö
In an instant, visualize the field of merit as before, and below it all the sentient beings of the six realms, led by those who have harmed you.
Whilst reciting “PHAṬ! By abandoning all attachment to this body held so dear, the demonic forces of seduction through desire are destroyed...” visualize the following.
Abandoning the attachment that causes you to cherish your own body with an attitude of clinging, visualize the essence of your consciousness in the form of a white drop the size of a pea, which shoots out through the crown of your head, and is transformed into the wisdom ḍākinī Krodhakālī. She is adorned with silk and five bone ornaments. A sow’s head protrudes from her crown. Her right hand waves a hooked knife through the air, slicing the skull off your old, abandoned body at the level of the eyebrows. The skull grows as large as the billion-fold universe and is placed upon a hearth made from three skulls, each the size of Mount Meru. The remainder of your body is then cut into pieces and placed inside the skull-cup.
Below it is the vertical stroke of a letter A, from which the fire of wisdom now starts to blaze. Above it is a white syllable HAṂ, turned upside down, from which nectar begins to flow down into the skull-cup, melting and boiling its contents.
Reciting OṂ purifies the contents of the skull-cup, expelling any impurities in the form of purple steam. ĀḤ multiplies the pure contents, producing an unimaginable quantity of wisdom nectar. Through HŪṂ, the wisdom nectar maintains its essence, but is transformed into great clouds of sky-treasury wheels that arise as whatever is desirable or enjoyable. Repeat the three syllables OṂ ĀḤ HŪṂ many times.
Then, from your heart emanate innumerable offering goddesses who offer the first portion to the deities of the field of merit, bringing them immaculate bliss and satisfaction. Together with all sentient beings, you complete the two accumulations, purify the two obscurations and receive the two kinds of accomplishment (siddhi).
The leftovers are then given to the beings of the six realms. The assembled harm-doers, in particular, receive their share as heaps of flesh, blood and bones, and whatever they desire. Because they enjoy what you offer them, your karmic debts are eliminated, and their malevolent and vindictive natures are pacified. Your body becomes an immaculate rainbow body, and your mind finds rest, free of concept, in the dharmakāya.
At the end, all notions of subject and object represented by the offering, recipients of the offering and so on, are purified into the expanse of the luminous Great Perfection, the fundamental state of the mind that lacks any inherent existence. Rest in this natural and uncontrived state, free from the marks of the three conceptual spheres (of subject, object and action).
6. Guru Yoga
i. Visualization of the Objects of Refuge
As you recite the verses beginning, “Emaho! My entire perception, spontaneously perfect…etc.” visualize the following.
Wherever space pervades, perception pervades, and the entire extent of your perception is a pure realm. As the ordinary way you perceive dissolves into space, the paradise of infinite purity arises by itself, spontaneously perfect, as the great Akaniṣṭha Palace of Lotus Light, manifestly sublime in its design, ornamentation and limitless structure.
You are at its centre. In essence, you are Yeshe Tsogyal, but you appear in the form of Vajrayoginī, red in colour, with her right hand holding a hooked knife, and her left a skull-cup filled with blood. In the crook of her left arm she holds a khaṭvāṅga trident. She is standing upon a lotus, sun and corpse, with her right leg extended and the left slightly bent. She is adorned with silk and bone ornaments and gazes longingly, with her three eyes, at her master’s heart.
In the sky before you, level with the top of your head, is a multi-coloured lotus with a hundred thousand petals. Seated there, upon sun and moon discs as wide as the anthers of the lotus, is your own root master, the embodiment of all objects of refuge. He appears in the form of Orgyen Tsokye Dorje (the Lake-born Vajra of Oḍḍiyāna), white with a tinge of red, and as youthful as an eight-year-old boy. His two eyes are wide open in a piercing gaze. On his body he wears a white vajra undergarment and, on top of this, in layers, a red robe, a dark blue mantrayāna tunic, a red monastic shawl decorated with a golden flower pattern, and a maroon cloak of silk brocade. He has one face and two hands. In his right hand, he holds a five-pronged vajra at his heart; and in his left, which rests in the gesture of equanimity, he holds a skull-cup in the centre of which is a vase of longevity filled with the nectar of deathless wisdom. Cradled in his left arm is a three-pointed khaṭvāṅga representing the consort Mandāravā. On his head, he wears a five-petalled lotus hat. Wrathful and smiling, he blazes magnificently with the splendour of the major and minor marks. He is seated with his two feet in the royal posture.
He is completely surrounded by a rainbow sphere and a lattice of five-coloured rays of light, in and out of which swirl orbs of rainbow light. Then, arising as the display of your root master’s wisdom mind are the eight vidyādharas of India, the eighty-four lords of yogins, the mahāsiddhas of Tibet such as the twenty-five disciples, and many more. There are those on the level of vidyādhara, siddha and paṇḍita from India and Tibet. There are infinite peaceful and wrathful yidams associated with the six great classes of tantra, and an assembly of ḍākas and ḍākinīs of the three abodes, Dharma protectors, guardians, wealth deities and treasure masters. Together they appear like billowing clouds; all of them uniting luminosity and emptiness like the moon’s reflection in water, or a rainbow. Visualize them in such a way that your ordinary perception ceases automatically.
As you invoke the deities with the Seven-Line Prayer, feeling an intense yearning and devotion, Padma Tötreng of Oḍḍiyāna and an ocean-like assembly of victorious deities of the three roots arrive from the nirmāṇakāya realm of the glorious mountain in Camaradvīpa (Ngayab Ling) to the south-west. They descend like a great mass of sesame seeds bursting from their pod, and merge inseparably with the samayasattvas.
ii. The Seven-Branch Practice
Mentally create hundreds, thousands, and eventually countless, emanations of your own body, and then offer prostrations together with all the beings of the three worlds, expressing tremendous respect through your body, speech and mind.
Offer actual, prepared offerings, as well as those created in your own imagination, which you can imagine sending out, until they fill the whole of space, like the clouds of offering of the bodhisattva Samantabhadra.
Confess, with intense regret and remorse, all the harmful acts and transgressions that you have accumulated with body, speech or mind throughout your infinite lives in samsara. Consider that they gather together into a black heap on your tongue. Confess them, and vow not to commit them ever again. Then, as an antidote, rays of light shine out from the enlightened body, speech and mind of the deities in the field of merit, strike the pile, and purify it like a stain that is washed clean away.
Rejoice, without the slightest feeling of envy or jealousy, in all the absolute and relative sources of virtue of samsara, nirvāṇa or the path.
Implore the buddhas and bodhisattvas of the ten directions to turn the Dharma-wheel of the three yānas of the śrāvakas, pratyekabuddhas and bodhisattvas.
Pray and request that they do not pass into nirvana until samsara is empty.
Dedicate all the causes of virtue accumulated throughout the past, present and future, represented by the virtue gathered through this practice, as the cause of all beings attaining enlightenment.
Keeping the meditations for these seven branches in mind, perform prostrations and recite the text as many times as you can.
iii. Prayer and Empowerment
The attainment of liberation and omniscience depends upon the realization of co-emergent wisdom within your own mind; such a realization is dependent upon the blessing of the master; and whether or not you receive his blessings depends entirely upon creating the auspicious circumstances by the power of your devotion.
Come to the firm decision that your own root guru has exactly the same enlightened qualities as the Buddha, and yet is even greater than the Buddha in terms of their kindness. Generate this kind of conviction.
Then, focusing your entire mind, heart and soul upon the master, and placing all your trust in him or her, think: “From now until I attain enlightenment, in happiness or sorrow, in circumstances good or bad, in situations high or low, I rely on you completely! You know me!”
Practise with an intense yearning and devotion that affects you physically and mentally: the hairs on your body stand on end, tears stream from your eyes, and your mind is so captivated by the master that you can think of nothing else.
Recite "O Guru Rinpoche, Precious One...etc." as many times as possible, and then recite, "I have no one else to turn to...etc." After reciting these verses several times, practise the combined yoga of prayer and invocation by reciting the Vajra Guru mantra.
The mantra begins with OṂ ĀḤ HŪṂ, which are the seed syllables of the three vajras (of body, speech and mind).
VAJRA signifies the dharmakāya since [like the adamantine vajra] it cannot be ‘cut’ or destroyed by the elaborations of conceptual thought.
GURU signifies the saṃbhogakāya, which is ‘heavily’ laden with the qualities of the seven aspects of union.
PADMA signifies the nirmāṇakāya, the radiant awareness of the wisdom of discernment that arises as the lotus family of enlightened speech.
Remembering the qualities of the great Guru of Oḍḍiyāna, who is inseparable from these three kāyas, pray with the continuous devotion that is the intrinsic display of the nature of mind, free from the elaboration of conceptual thought.
All the supreme and ordinary accomplishments—SIDDHI—are obtained through the power of this prayer, and by thinking, “HŪṂ! May they be bestowed upon my mindstream, this very instant!”
At times, recognize your environment as the Palace of the Glorious Copper Coloured Mountain, and all beings within it as the Oḍḍiyāna Guru and the assembly of ḍākas and ḍākinīs. Remember that all sound is the spontaneous sound of the mantra, and that, secretly, the movements of mind liberate themselves, without leaving any trace behind, just like the path of a bird in flight. At the end, recite the lineage prayer, while bringing to mind the wonderful qualities of the root and lineage masters, making aspirations, and feeling an intense yearning and devotion. Then, consider that as a result of this, the retinue dissolves into the root master. From your root master, who is the embodiment of all the objects of refuge, you receive the four empowerments, according to the description in the root text.
After receiving the empowerments through combining the recitation with visualization, the master’s body, speech and mind merge inseparably with your own body, speech and mind (the three doors), and you experience a state of naked awareness and emptiness. Recite the mantra while maintaining this state of ‘nowness’.
Then, as you conclude the session, recite: “When my life is at an end…etc.” and visualize the following dissolution as the perfection stage practice. As a result of your intense longing for the master, his compassion for you increases, and he smiles and looks at you lovingly. From his heart, a single ray of warm, red light streams out and touches you, Vajrayoginī, at your heart, so that your body and mind are instantly overcome by a feeling of bliss.
At the end, you melt into red light, which is of the nature of great bliss, and shrink to a pea-sized sphere of light—inner air and mind indivisible. This sphere then flies up into Guru Rinpoche’s heart like a shooting spark, and there it merges with his wisdom mind. Rest in that state.
Arise from the meditation, and, like a fish leaping out of water, visualize yourself in the basic form of the deity, and the environment as a pure realm, just as before. Recite, "Glorious root lama, precious one, dwell on the crown of my head...etc." And chant additional general prayers of dedication and aspiration, but also the Secret Path to the Mountain of Glory—A Prayer of Aspiration for the Copper-coloured Mountain of Glory.
In between sessions, the general practice is the yoga of recognizing sights, sounds and thoughts as deity, mantra and wisdom—the so-called ‘three transformations’—according to the explanation given above (in the section on the visualization for the mantra recitation). In particular, you should offer the first portion of your food and drink, considering that it has the nature of nectar, and any new clothes you may receive, considering them to be made from divine fabric, to the master at the crown of your head. Whatever you perceive through your six senses, good or bad, positive or negative, do not get caught up in ordinary patterns of thought, but instead maintain the vivid awareness of deity, mantra and wisdom.
At night, when it is time to sleep, pray for the welfare of both yourself and all others, with the Sampa Lhundrupma—'The Prayer to Guru Rinpoche that Spontaneously Fulfills all Wishes' or especially the Aspiration Prayer of Training in the Pure Realms of the Three Kāyas. At the conclusion, the master descends through your brahma-aperture and arrives at your heart, which has the form of a four-petalled lotus. He then emanates rays of light to fill your whole body. As you drift into sleep, focusing your attention upon these clear rays, maintain the sense that your mind and the wisdom mind of the master are united inseparably.
Alternatively, you can imagine that the rays of light strike the outer world, visualized clearly as the celestial palace, which then melts into light like salt dissolving in water. This light dissolves into the inhabitants—all sentient beings—who are visualized as deities. They dissolve into you; you dissolve into the master; and he is purified into non-conceptual clear light. Relax in inner clarity, the union of naked awareness and emptiness, uninterrupted by any other thought. It is a state of absorption, but not one of dullness.
Should you wake, cut the momentum of any wild, excited thoughts or dreams; and then by continually maintaining the vivid state of clear light, you will recognize the luminosity of sleep and dream.
Then, when you wake up in the morning, practise the yoga of rising at dawn, and all that has been explained here, in four or however many sessions you prefer.
Moreover, when the time for death approaches, to practise the dissolution visualization of the perfection stage and then rest with your awareness merged into space is considered the king of all transferences (phowa), or transference practices. Even if you do not actualize the transference, you may still be liberated in the intermediate state (bardo) by remembering the yoga of recognizing form, sound and mental activity as deity, mantra and wisdom mind.
In short, if, with completely pure samaya and devotion, you reach the end of this path of the preliminaries, then without even looking at the main practice, upon your death, you will go directly to the Glorious Mountain of Camaradvīpa. There, in that pure realm you will surely reach the level of Samantabhadra by completing the path of the four levels of vidyādhara, even more swiftly than the course of the sun or the moon.
Should you gain some experience in these methods of the ngöndro practice, then you will gradually be able to enter into the main practice. The path relating to the vase empowerment is the generation stage practice of the peaceful and wrathful vidyādharas. The path relating to the secret empowerment is the practice of controlling the inner air and generating inner heat. The path relating to the knowledge-wisdom empowerment is the practice of hidden meaning and skilful means. The path of the fourth empowerment consists of trekchö and tögal. By bringing them all together into an essential practice, and applying yourself to it with diligence, you should attain the level of Vajradhara, the state of primordial union, within this very lifetime!
This compilation, in a brief, clear and essential form, of the stages of visualization required for the regular practice of the Longchen Nyingtik Preliminaries from the Great Perfection—The Excellent Path to Omniscience—was composed by Khyentse Wangpo, the devoted servant who pleases the Omniscient Master, in accordance with the oral teachings and instructions of my masters, solely with the wish to benefit those fortunate ones first setting out on this path. May the merit of this be the cause for all beings swiftly attaining the level of the immortal Pema Tötreng!
| Translated by Adam Pearcey and edited by Janine Schulz. First published on Lotsawa House in 2006, further revised in 2015.
mkhyen brtse'i dbang po. "klong chen snying tig sngon 'gro'i dmigs rim snying por dril ba zab don bdud rtsi'i snying khu/" in gsung 'bum/_mkhyen brtse'i dbang po/. TBRC W21807. 24 vols. gangtok: gonpo tseten, 1977–1980. Vol. 15: 419–444
Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche. Guru Yoga. Ithaca, NY: Snow Lion Publications, 1999.
Kangyur Rinpoche. The Treasury of Precious Qualities. Translated by Padmakara Translation Group. Boston, MA: Shambhala Publications, 2001
Patrul Rinpoche. Brief Guide to the Stages of Visualization for the Ngöndro Practice. Translated by Adam Pearcey. Lotsawa House.
The Words of My Perfect Teacher. Translated by Padmakara Translation Group. Boston, MA: Shambhala Publications, 1998
zag bcas kyi dge ba. Simply put, this refers to positive actions undertaken without the three noble principles. ↩
The three ways of pleasing a master are mentioned in The Words of My Perfect Teacher in Chapter 6, p.145 ‘How to Follow a Spiritual Friend’: “The best way is known as the offering of practice, and consists of putting whatever he teaches into practice with determination, disregarding all hardship. The middling way is known as service with body and speech, and involves serving him and doing whatever he needs you to do whether physically, verbally or mentally. The lowest way is by material offerings, which means to please your teacher by giving him material goods, food, money and so forth.” ↩
This differs from the explanation found in the commentaries of Patrul Rinpoche, which describe Guru Vajradhara of Oḍḍiyāna as white with a tinge of red. ↩
The three spheres or three abodes are (i) above the earth, (ii) upon the earth and (iii) below the earth. ↩
Although Vajrāṭopā is sometimes given as the Sanskrit name of Vajrasattva's consort, whose Tibetan name is Dorje Nyemma (rdo rje snyems ma), it seems that the correct Sanskrit name, which is attested in several extant sources, is Vajragarvā. ↩
Bajung is a ritual preparation made from five different substances collected from a cow. See The Treasury of Precious Qualities, Kangyur Rinpoche, Shambhala Publications, 2001, n.120 p.371. ↩
‘Awareness reaching full maturity’ is the third of the four visions of Tögal practice. ↩
kha sbyor yan lag bdun means ‘seven aspects of union’. The seven qualities of a sambhogakāya buddha are: complete enjoyment, union, great bliss, absence of a self-nature, presence of compassion, being uninterrupted and being unceasing. ↩
i.e., the usual five senses of the eyes, ears, nose, tongue and body, plus the mind as the sixth sense. ↩