I think with ngondro, people really like this practice, dread it, or think its old fashioned.
One does something like prostrations or mantra recitations, at minimum, 100,000, plus 11% to account for mistakes. Sometimes people do as much as 400,000 of an item.
While some may think that Ngondro doesn’t fit into the western lifestyle, Thubten Chodron wrote this interesting article explaining the relevancy of the practice to westerners.
Research on Ngondro
I had been on the internet looking for people sharing their experience of ngondro, which I found to be very little. People tallked about the technicalities of the practice, but it seemed like no one was actually talking about their experience in terms of the challenges and benefits they received. I had a feel that this was because:
- Very few people are actually doing ngondro
- very Few people complete it
- people who do ngondro don’t talk about it much
Most people have more interesting things to do than doing 100,000 prostrations. Many people who begin, never complete it and forget the whole thing. The other thing, as the Gyalwang Drukpa put it:
“Many people who speak very well tend to have no practice of the four foundations. And those people who have practiced ngondro tend to have no skills to speak well. It’s funny that these two qualities often cannot come together.”
Even though according to him, people who do ngondro apparently don’t speak well and explain their experience, I think it’s important for people to share. This was actually the reason I started this blog. Even though I’m not very articulate, maybe by sharing what little I can, I can encourage others to do the same or to try to pick up the practice.
Initial Feelings About Ngondro as a Lifetime Practice
Initially, I think I blew it off.
I was talking to a friend of mine who is a former monk about ngondro, and he said that ngondro in this life never ends.
He actually told me this on two separate occassions. The first time, I heard him, but I think I ignored it because it wasn’t what I wanted to hear. It kind of defeats the whole idea of accomplishment when you understand what you’re doing will never end.
It seems daunting enough for most to do 100,000 of anything. Imaging doing that for the rest of your life.
Why I Changed My Mind
It’s often said that in degenerate times, people will have very little merit and will be weighed down by a lot of negative karma. While this may sound funny, I started to understand that the texts referring to this actually were talking about me.
What I’ve found by doing ngondro, is that my meditations understanding of texts and teachings have also gotten better. My meditations and understanding in general are very poor, but even a little improvement seems like a miracle.
I believe that doing ngondro is possible, if it is done in conjunction with lojong, or mind training. When one does ngondro, all the delusions come alive very strongly and not having a way to deal with these things makes the practice as comfortable as pulling out teeth. For anyone considering this practice, I would highly recommend studying the lojong teachings first.
Ngondro as a Preliminary for Higher Practices
Ngondro, along with lamrim meditations or the four foundational practices that turn someone’s mind to the dharma, are the preliminaries for higher practices like highest yoga tantra, mahamudra and dzogchen.
In the west, people tend to do the opposite. People with who havn’t completed a set of ngondro go look for the highest practice available. I think while this leaves good imprints, I think it would be best for people to complete ngondro first.
I remember a friend of mine asked Jhado Rinpoche about what was the best way to prepare for highest yoga tantra. His response was do ngondro, which is what many teachers also say. If you’re considering doing ngondro as a lifetime practice, I would highly recommend reading what The Gyalwang Drukpa has to say.