Signs that the Common Preliminary Practices Have Penetrated the Mind

Composed by the great Mahasiddha Nyala Pema Duddul (1816-1872)

Translated by Lotsawa House  "Dharma. On the House." Lotsawa House Translations on the Web


If you can devote your body unstintingly to the practice,
That is a sign of taking to heart the preciousness of the freedoms and advantages.

If you can view gold and dirt with equanimity and see them as equal,
That is a sign of having realized the illusory nature of transient things.

If you can regard the phenomena of samsara as your enemies,
That is a sign of crossing over the ocean of suffering.

If you can pay meticulous attention to your actions and their effects, adopting virtue and abandoning non-virtue,
That is a sign of finding the swift path that ascends the staircase to liberation.

If you can purify the negativity, defilements and habitual tendencies of your body, speech and mind,
That is a sign of closing the door to rebirth in samsara’s lower realms.

If you can keep the Three Jewels in your mind, so that they are never separate from it,
That is a sign of being hooked by the compassion of the supreme refuge.

If you know how to integrate emptiness and compassion in your mindstream,
That is a sign of bringing phenomena into the essence of awakening.

If you can meditate on how all beings have been your parents,
That is a sign of the arising of the sun and moon of the great vehicle.

If you can dispel the obscurations of the darkness of ignorance,
That is a sign of the dawning of clear light within immaculate space.

If you can carry the two accumulations onto the path continuously,
That is a sign of the maturing of the fruition of kayas and wisdoms.

If you can see all that appears and exists arising in total purity as the lama,
That is a sign of reaching the pinnacle of Dzogchen yoga.

If you can recognize the vajrakaya of all-penetrating pure awareness,
That is a sign of transference into the timeless space of primordial purity.

If you can recognize the unity of the three kayas in pure awareness,
That is a sign of the ripening of the fruition, which is Samantabhadra.

This brief summary of the signs showing that the common preliminary practices have penetrated the mind

Was written in response to repeated requests from the assembly of my students,
By the old beggar called Duddul. Through this merit may all beings be matured and liberated!

Advice from Me to Myself

by Patrul Rinpoche, author of Words of My Perfect Teacher

Patrul Rinpoche (1808-1887), was a wandering turn-of-the-century Dzogchen master of Eastern Tibet, much beloved by the people.
Trained in a traditional monastery shedra (seminary), he possessed an encyclopedic knowledge of dharma texts and teachings.
Patrul Rinpoche used his knowledge to write many books still highly valued today; including Words of My Perfect Teacher.
He was an almost flawless practitioner who took his spiritual development very seriously and practiced continuously.

Today, Patrul Rinpoche is still honored and appreciated for his earthy, to the point (and often humorous) teachings.
Preferring solitary practice, he was renowned as the 'enlightened vagabond'. The following is his tongue-in-cheek and very pithy advice
from himself - to himself - regarding the issue of Attachment in all areas of life, including spiritual practice;
and should not be regarded as 'permission' to be a slacker. <smile>

Vajrasattva, sole deity, Master,
You sit on a full-moon lotus-cushion of white light
In the hundred-petalled full bloom of youth.

Think of me, Vajrasattva,
You who remain unmoved within the manifest display
That is Mahamudra, pure bliss-emptiness.

Listen up, old bad-karma Patrul,
You dweller-in-distraction.
For ages now you've been
Beguiled, entranced, and fooled by appearances.

Are you aware of that? Are you?
Right this very instant, when you're
Under the spell of mistaken perception
You've got to watch out.

Don't let yourself get carried away by this fake and empty life.
Your mind is spinning around
About carrying out a lot of useless projects:
It's a waste! Give it up!

Thinking about the hundred plans you want to accomplish,
With never enough time to finish them,
Just weighs down your mind.
You're completely distracted
By all these projects, which never come to an end,
But keep spreading out more, like ripples in water.

Don't be a fool: for once, just sit tight.
Listening to the teachings—you've already heard hundreds of teachings,
But when you haven't grasped the meaning of even one teaching,
What's the point of more listening?

Reflecting on the teachings—even though you've listened,
If the teachings aren't coming to mind when needed,
What's the point of more reflection? None.

Meditating according to the teachings —
If your meditation practice still isn't curing
The obscuring states of mind—forget about it!

You've added up just how many mantras you've done —
But you aren't accomplishing the kyerim visualization.
You may get the forms of deities nice and clear—
But you're not putting an end to subject and object.

You may tame what appear to be evil spirits and ghosts,
But you're not training the stream of your own mind.

Your four fine sessions of sadhana practice,
So meticulously arranged—
Forget about them.

When you're in a good mood,
Your practice seems to have lots of clarity—
But you just can't relax into it.

When you're depressed,
Your practice is stable enough
But there's no brilliance to it.

As for awareness,
You try to force yourself into a rigpa-like state,
As if stabbing a stake into a target!

When those yogic positions and gazes keep your mind stable
Only by keeping mind tethered—
Forget about them!

Giving high-sounding lectures
Doesn't do your mind-stream any good.
The path of analytical reasoning is precise and acute—
But it's just more delusion, good for nothing goat-shit.

The oral instructions are very profound
But not if you don't put them into practice.
Reading over and over those dharma texts
That just occupy your mind and make your eyes sore—
Forget about it!

You beat your little damaru drum—ting, ting—
And your audience thinks it's charming to hear.
You're reciting words about offering up your body,
But you still haven't stopped holding it dear.
You're making your little cymbals go cling, cling—
Without keeping the ultimate purpose in mind.

All this dharma-practice equipment
That seems so attractive—
Forget about it!

Right now, those students are all studying so very hard,
But in the end, they can't keep it up.
Today, they seem to get the idea,
But later on, there's not a trace left.

Even if one of them manages to learn a little,
He rarely applies his "learning" to his own conduct.
Those elegant dharma disciples—
Forget about them!

This year, he really cares about you,
Next year, it's not like that.
At first, he seems modest,
Then he grows exalted and pompous.
The more you nurture and cherish him,
The more distant he grows.

These dear friends
Who show such smiling faces to begin with—
Forget about them!

Her smile seems so full of joy—
But who knows if that's really the case?
One time, it's pure pleasure,
Then it's nine months of mental pain.
It might be fine for a month,
But sooner or later, there's trouble.

People teasing; your mind embroiled—
Your lady-friend—
Forget about her!

These endless rounds of conversation
Are just attachment and aversion—
It's just more goat-shit, good for nothing at all.
At the time it seems marvelously entertaining,
But really, you're just spreading around stories about other people's mistakes.

Your audience seems to be listening politely,
But then they grow embarrassed for you.
Useless talk that just makes you thirsty—
Forget about it!

Giving teachings on meditation texts
Without yourself having
Gained actual experience through practice,
Is like reciting a dance-manual out loud
And thinking that's the same as actually dancing.

People may be listening to you with devotion,
But it just isn't the real thing.
Sooner or later, when your own actions
Contradict the teachings, you'll feel ashamed.

Just mouthing the words,
Giving dharma explanations that sound so eloquent—
Forget about it!

When you don't have a text, you long for it;
Then when you've finally gotten it, you hardly look at it.
The number of pages seems few enough,
But it's a bit hard to find time to copy them all.

Even if you copied down all the dharma texts on earth,
You wouldn't be satisfied.
Copying down texts is a waste of time
(Unless you get paid)—
So forget about it!

Today, they're happy as clams—
Tomorrow, they're furious.
With all their black moods and white moods,
People are never satisfied.

Or even if they're nice enough,
They may not come through when you really need them,
Disappointing you even more.
All this politeness, keeping up a
Courteous demeanor—
Forget about it!

Worldly and religious work
Is the province of gentlemen.
Patrul, old boy—that's not for you.
Haven't you noticed what always happens?

An old bull, once you've gone to the trouble of borrowing him for his services,
Seems to have absolutely no desire left in him at all—
(Except to go back to sleep).

Be like that—desire-less.
Just sleep, eat, piss, shit.
There's nothing else in life that has to be done.

Don't get involved with other things:
They're not the point.

Keep a low profile,


In the triple universe
When you're lower than your company
You should take the low seat.

Should you happen to be the superior one,
Don't get arrogant.
There's no absolute need to have close friends;
You're better off just keeping to yourself.

When you're without any worldly or religious obligations,
Don't keep on longing to acquire some!
If you let go of everything—
Everything, everything—

That's the real point!

This advice was written by the practitioner Trime Lodro (Patrul Rinpoche) for his intimate friend Ahu Shri (Patrul Rinpoche),
in order to give advice that is tailored exactly to his capacities.

This advice should be put into practice.
Even though you don't know how to practice, just let go of everything—that's what I really want to say.

Even though you aren't able to succeed in your dharma practice, don't get angry.

May it be virtuous.

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Ngondro Practice in the Palyul Nam Chö Lineage

The Great Perfection Teachings and Transmissions:
Buddha in the Palm of the Hand

"Take advantage of this human boat; Free yourself from sorrow's mighty stream!
This vessel will be later hard to find. The time that you have now, you fool, is not for sleep!

Shantideva, Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life

Full Ngondro Taught by His Holiness Penor Rinpoche at the Yearly Palyul Summer Retreat

First Year Study at Summer Retreat: Ngondro  

'What is Meditation' Teaching by His Holiness Penor Rinpoche

Each year from July 10 to August 10, His Holiness Penor Rinpoche leads the yearly Palyul summer retreats.
Ngondro, Tsa Lung, Dzogchen Tögyal, and Dzogchen Trekchö will be offered in the year 2008.
For More Info regarding the Palyul Summer Retreat,
please see
Annual Summer Retreats at Palyul Ling Upstate NY Retreat Center

the preliminary Practices: Palyul Nam Chö ngondrO Practice Book

(The 'Blue Book', Hardcover) Privately published by Namdroling, main Palyul Monastery, India.
Available for serious students at PCD Dallas and Palyul US centers only; not available through or any other vendors.

About Ngondro Practice 

by Khenchen Tsewang Gyatso Rinpoche


Ngondro is a collection of practices known as "The Four Foundations" [sometimes also called the Preliminary Practices].

These practices form the fundamental ground for all Tibetan Buddhist practice and for higher Dzogchen practice.

His Holiness Penor Rinpoche gave the Nam Chö Ngondro teachings and practice for the first time in India at
Namdroling (the Palyul main monastery in exile in Bylakuppe, India) - in 1980 to Karma Kuchen Rinpoche,
Choktrul Rinpoche, Gyankhang Tulku, and three or four other tulkus. Also present were the only three Palyul khenpos
living in India at that time, Khenchen Pema Sherab, Khenchen Namdrol, and Khenchen Tsewang Gyatso.

During the one-month Summer Retreats offered at the monastery and upstate NY retreat center (Palyul Ling),
His Holiness Penor practices the short Daily Practice version of the Ngondro with the assembly of retreatants every day.
Ngondro is so powerful a practice that His Holiness has been known to allow students who are elderly who have not
completed Tsa Lung Tummo practice but who have a very strong foundation in Ngondro to receive Dzogchen teachings.

In any case, all that is contained and learned in Ngondro is contained in the so-called "higher" practices.
As the foundation of the teachings of the Buddha Dharma, Ngondro consists of contemplation, insight, purification,
offering and devotion practices. First are what is known as the outer preliminaries which turn the mind towards the
practice through contemplating the preciousness of human birth, impermanence, suffering, how cause and effect ("karma")
work, and so on. Anyone Buddhist or not can practice the outer preliminaries. Second, are the inner preliminaries.

This includes Refuge and Bodhicitta (loving-kindness practice), the Mandala Offering, Vajrasattva Purification,
and Guru Yoga. Traditionally the student needs to complete 100,000 repetitions of each part of these preliminaries
although the master may require more or less as the teacher judges from the student's capacity.

Khenchen Tsewang Gyatso Rinpoche Recommended Reading/Study for Ngondro Practice :

Words of My Perfect Teacher (Revised Edition) by Patrul Rinpoche
An encyclopedic compilation of all aspects of spiritual practice in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition (particularly Nyingma). Includes detailed instructions/advice for the Ngondro practice and Right Conduct. Patrul Rinpoche's personality and heart instructions come through in this text. It is both poetic yet earthly. The stories, poems, and teachings throughout fit each topic being discussed; the book is written as a teacher giving personal practice instructions to a sincere and motivated student.

A Guide to the Words of My Perfect Teacher by Khenpo Ngawang Pelzang
An explanation of the concepts (basic and otherwise) from Words of My Perfect Teacher for Western practitioners. Do read "The Guide" first (or concurrently with) Words of My Perfect Teacher.

The Way of the Bodhisattva: A Translation of the Bodhicharyavatara by Shantideva
Shambhala Dragon Edition. [Also known as "A Guide to the Bodhisattva's Way of Life"]


From PCD Dallas

Ngondro Practice 

Ngondro practice in Tibetan Buddhism is based on the foundation teachings of the Buddha Dharma, and acts to
dissolve (purify) many lifetimes of acquired habitual behavior and emotional reactive-ness. Ngondro is a spiritual practice
that consists of contemplation, insight, purification, offering (developing generosity) and devotion practices.

Why practice Ngondro? Because, as many 12 Step Program graduates will attest:
it works if you work it - keep coming back!
[Although please NOTE: Ngondro is not a secular 'self-help' program and does not
propose to diagnose or offer cures for psychological, emotional or physical problems and issues;
please consult a licensed medical practitioner for medical diagnosis and any medications necessary.]

Interesting, many Western students observe that the 12 Step programs for self-help are remarkably similar to the Ngondro.
As an integral part of Tibetan Buddhism, Ngondro has been practiced for over 1000 years in the same form;
and has been presented and practiced in an unbroken lineage from teacher to student in the Palyul lineage.

Traditionally the practitioner needs to complete 100,000 repetitions of the mantras for each part of the
four foundational practices. In old Tibet, it was customary for interested students to ask a Buddhist teacher (lama)

for permission to practice the Ngondro. Or if studying with a teacher and working with basic Buddhist practices,
the lama would tell the student when s/he was 'ready' to start the Ngondro practices.

In the West in the 21st century, we have the incredible opportunity to begin the Ngondro as soon
as we recognize the need for moving beyond neurotic negative behaviors and painful habitual emotional reactions,
'bad' relationships and the unhappiness of living an unexamined life*.

The first part of Ngondro is known as the Outer Preliminaries.
The Outer Preliminaries turn the mind towards spiritual practice through actively contemplating
the preciousness of human birth, the truth of impermanence and suffering,
and how cause and effect ("karma") works. Anyone, Buddhist or not, can practice the Outer Preliminaries
and the effects are very beneficial.

Making friends with oneself, developing unconditional compassion and love (bodhichitta) for oneself
and then extending that loving-kindness to others, developing the internal strength that oneself is 'worthy' of
receiving blessings and feeling gratitude for blessings received, strengthening the inner spiritual center
present in each individual, dissolving habitual emotional reactive behaviors and once stable, extending whatever assistance
to others in their quest to do the same - are the foundational basis for human emotional health and stability.
Once a sturdy foundation has been achieved, then individuals have the tools necessary to
achieve and stabilize spiritual (and personal) goals.

Secondly in Ngondro practice, there are the Inner Preliminaries.
This includes Refuge and Bodhicitta (loving-kindness practice), the Mandala Offering, Vajrasattva Purification, and Guru Yoga.
Traditionally the student needs to complete 100,000 repetitions of the mantras for each part of the four foundational practices
(some of the
Ngondro practices do not require mantra repetition). Although His Holiness Penor Rinpoche and
Khenchen Tsewang Gyatso Rinpoche may require students they guide to practice more or less Ngondro practice
as the they judge and evaluate the student's capacity.

Take charge of your life: Begin Ngondro practice. It is a precious opportunity to begin the path
to less suffering immediately - and ultimately, to achieve Enlightenment.


* "The unexamined life is not worth living for man."
Socrates, Greek philosopher in Athens (469 BC - 399 BC), in Plato Dialogues: Apology