Sunday, February 14, 2010

Anne C. Klein - Nondro, the foundational practices

Heart Essence of the Vast Expanse
A Story of Transmission
by Anne C. Klein,
foreword by Adzom Paylo Rinpoche,
preface by Tulku Thondup Rinpoche

Dharma Quote of the Week

...ngondro, the foundational practices, are ways to bring body, speech, or energy, and all aspects of mind into increasingly effortless harmony with the oceanic expanse central to Dzogchen teachings. This expanse is another name for reality, the heart of our being, and thus for mind-nature. Its vastness challenges the cramped and reified self-images that temporarily obstruct our view of the whole. Finitudes of any kind--the sense of being small and contained, the familiar urgent rush of business, passions, or plans--are simply conceptions. These conceptions are both cause and effect of energetic holdings in the body. The foundational practices illuminate these holdings and, in the end, lead to their dissolution into the expanse. As Khetsun Sangpo Rinpoche has said, "Like a fire that burns fuel, the mind consumes thought by working with it."

In the Tibetan traditions, teaching and practice sessions typically open with a reference, brief or extensive, to the foundational practices. Every lineage has its own variations, but the basic structure and principles of these practices are virtually identical. After an acknowledgment of one's guru or lineage and the intention to benefit all beings, the sequence usually begins with the four thoughts. These are reflections on (1) the preciousness of one's own life, (2) the fragility of life and the uncertainty of death's timing, (3) the inexorable nature of karma, and (4) the impossibility of avoiding suffering so long as ignorance holds one in samsara. In addition, there are two other contemplations: (5) the benefits of liberation compared to life in samsara and (6) the importance of a spiritual guide. These six are known as the outer foundational practices.

These six are combined with five inner practices, each of which is repeated one hundred thousand times. The first inner foundational practice is refuge. Refuge, writes Adzom Drukpa, is the cornerstone of all paths. Without it, he adds, quoting Candrakirti, all vows come to nothing. Most succinctly, refuge helps us cultivate a quality vital to the path and to human interaction in general: this is the quality of trust, the ability to fruitfully rely on someone or something other than oneself. Adzom Paylo Rinpoche once said that whereas relying on others in the context of samsara generally leads us astray, relying on the Dharma increases our good qualities.

--from Heart Essence of the Vast Expanse: A Story of Transmission by Anne C. Klein, foreword by Adzom Paylo Rinpoche, preface by Tulku Thondup Rinpoche, published by Snow Lion Publications

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