who's ngondro is it anyway

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Johnny Dangerous
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who's ngondro is it anyway

Post by Johnny Dangerous » Mon Jun 19, 2017 8:52 pm

So something I've noticed since getting involved in Vajrayana and Dzogchen, people have *really* strong opinions on (uncommon) Ngondro, like...really strong.

To read this forum sometimes, one would think there are two camps in Vajrayana, ones that rejects Ngondro outright and thinks they are useless, and one that thinks they are required for..well, nearly any other pursuit or practice, and are somehow so unique in their content that no other fundamental practice can achieve the same heights of efficacy.

It's interesting because while I see this argument online quite often (places other than DW too), it is actually the opposite of what I have experienced in my meatspace Dharma life, which is a variety of viewpoints from teachers on how, when, and why someone should do uncommon Ngondro. I realize a part of this is simply the teachings and teachers i've been exposed to, but really, that goes for everyone doesn't it?

For the record, I am saying here that I do not think there is any arguably "correct" viewpoint on Ngondro, other than following one's teacher's instructions. If there were, such a viewpoint would be shared across the board by Vajrayana teachers, but it is not, at all. Typically it seems teachers (duh) follow the general place that ngondro occupies in their transmission lineages, and backed up by whatever their own take is.

Why is it such an argument?


Discuss.
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Re: who's ngondro is it anyway

Post by TaTa » Mon Jun 19, 2017 9:07 pm

I dont know. Im guess im am one of thoa weird people in the middle

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Re: who's ngondro is it anyway

Post by Josef » Mon Jun 19, 2017 9:19 pm

It's a weird debate really.
I think a lot of it has to do with people thinking they know a lot and therefore shouldnt have to do ngondro.
Do it, or don't, it doesnt really matter all that much. Just make sure we are checking ourselves and not being belligerent and using dharma to supplement the 8 worldly concerns.
Kye ma!
The river of continuity is marked by impermanence.
Ceaseless flowing of appearance.
Beautiful and repulsive.
The dance of life and death is a display of the vast expanse.
With gratitude the watcher and the watched pass through the barrier of duality.

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Re: who's ngondro is it anyway

Post by conebeckham » Mon Jun 19, 2017 9:27 pm

For me, all of ngondro is actually varying aspects of Guru Yoga--including the four thoughts. Precious Human existence includes having a relation with a genuine guru. Impermanence includes the knowledge of the Nirmanakaya Guru's mortality, etc.

I've felt that some people carry their "counts" as badges of honor. Spiritual materialism. Some people are such "individualists" that Ngondro is something everyone else has to do. Then, there's the Instant Gratification issue one finds in general society, applied here to Dharma practice. I've even seen people express resentment that a given teacher won't give them "juicy" teachings without "completing" ngondro, etc. and I've seen students and disciples berate new students over their inability to commit to ngondro. All of these positions strike me as fundamentally mistaken. But maybe I'm wrong. Then again, maybe the arisal of all these conceptions regarding the practice of Ngondro are the result of the practice, and the actual fodder for our personal self-reflection.
དམ་པའི་དོན་ནི་ཤེས་རབ་ཆེ་བ་དང་།
རྟོག་གེའི་ཡུལ་མིན་བླ་མའི་བྱིན་རླབས་དང་།
སྐལ་ལྡན་ལས་འཕྲོ་ཅན་གྱིས་རྟོགས་པ་སྟེ།
དེ་ནི་ཤེས་རབ་ལ་ནི་ལོ་རྟོག་སེལ།།


"Absolute Truth is not an object of analytical discourse or great discriminating wisdom,
It is realized through the blessing grace of the Guru and fortunate Karmic potential.
Like this, mistaken ideas of discriminating wisdom are clarified."
- (Kyabje Bokar Rinpoche, from his summary of "The Ocean of Definitive Meaning")

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Malcolm
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Re: who's ngondro is it anyway

Post by Malcolm » Mon Jun 19, 2017 9:28 pm

Practicing Ngondro is nice, but practicing Dharma is better.
Buddhahood in This Life
འ༔ ཨ༔ ཧ༔ ཤ༔ ས༔ མ༔


[A]nything at all that is well spoken is the word of the Buddha.

-- Ārya-adhyāśaya-sañcodana-nāma-mahāyāna-sūtra

The different sūtras in accord with the emptiness
taught by the Sugata are definitive in meaning;
One can understand that all of those Dharmas in
which a sentient being, individual, or person are taught are provisional in meaning.

-- Samadhirāja Sūtra

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Re: who's ngondro is it anyway

Post by conebeckham » Mon Jun 19, 2017 9:31 pm

Malcolm wrote:Practicing Ngondro is nice, but practicing Dharma is better.
LOL, as if the two are always mutually exclusive.
དམ་པའི་དོན་ནི་ཤེས་རབ་ཆེ་བ་དང་།
རྟོག་གེའི་ཡུལ་མིན་བླ་མའི་བྱིན་རླབས་དང་།
སྐལ་ལྡན་ལས་འཕྲོ་ཅན་གྱིས་རྟོགས་པ་སྟེ།
དེ་ནི་ཤེས་རབ་ལ་ནི་ལོ་རྟོག་སེལ།།


"Absolute Truth is not an object of analytical discourse or great discriminating wisdom,
It is realized through the blessing grace of the Guru and fortunate Karmic potential.
Like this, mistaken ideas of discriminating wisdom are clarified."
- (Kyabje Bokar Rinpoche, from his summary of "The Ocean of Definitive Meaning")

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Malcolm
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Re: who's ngondro is it anyway

Post by Malcolm » Mon Jun 19, 2017 9:39 pm

conebeckham wrote:
Malcolm wrote:Practicing Ngondro is nice, but practicing Dharma is better.
LOL, as if the two are always mutually exclusive.

Well, I see a lot of people practicing Ngondro who don't seem to practice Dharma at all. On the other hand, I see a lot of people who never practice Ngondro who seem to have the Dharma in their hearts. Hence my observation.

Happy Dakini day, incidentally.
Buddhahood in This Life
འ༔ ཨ༔ ཧ༔ ཤ༔ ས༔ མ༔


[A]nything at all that is well spoken is the word of the Buddha.

-- Ārya-adhyāśaya-sañcodana-nāma-mahāyāna-sūtra

The different sūtras in accord with the emptiness
taught by the Sugata are definitive in meaning;
One can understand that all of those Dharmas in
which a sentient being, individual, or person are taught are provisional in meaning.

-- Samadhirāja Sūtra

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Re: who's ngondro is it anyway

Post by conebeckham » Mon Jun 19, 2017 9:45 pm

Malcolm wrote:
conebeckham wrote:
Malcolm wrote:Practicing Ngondro is nice, but practicing Dharma is better.
LOL, as if the two are always mutually exclusive.

Well, I see a lot of people practicing Ngondro who don't seem to practice Dharma at all. On the other hand, I see a lot of people who never practice Ngondro who seem to have the Dharma in their hearts. Hence my observation.

Happy Dakini day, incidentally.
Happy Dakini day to you, as well!
I agree with the sentiment, and with the observation--you can add those to my list of available options, LOL. At root, I think, is "what does it REALLY mean to practice ngondro?" If one's heart is softening, if one's devotion to the masters increases, if humility is born or increases, if one has a finer understanding of one's actions and their effects--it's a safe bet that ngondro is being done correctly. If one's pride increases, one's sense of "being special," or any form of self-aggrandizement arises, perhaps one has missed the point.
དམ་པའི་དོན་ནི་ཤེས་རབ་ཆེ་བ་དང་།
རྟོག་གེའི་ཡུལ་མིན་བླ་མའི་བྱིན་རླབས་དང་།
སྐལ་ལྡན་ལས་འཕྲོ་ཅན་གྱིས་རྟོགས་པ་སྟེ།
དེ་ནི་ཤེས་རབ་ལ་ནི་ལོ་རྟོག་སེལ།།


"Absolute Truth is not an object of analytical discourse or great discriminating wisdom,
It is realized through the blessing grace of the Guru and fortunate Karmic potential.
Like this, mistaken ideas of discriminating wisdom are clarified."
- (Kyabje Bokar Rinpoche, from his summary of "The Ocean of Definitive Meaning")

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Re: who's ngondro is it anyway

Post by Johnny Dangerous » Mon Jun 19, 2017 9:57 pm

conebeckham wrote:For me, all of ngondro is actually varying aspects of Guru Yoga--including the four thoughts. Precious Human existence includes having a relation with a genuine guru. Impermanence includes the knowledge of the Nirmanakaya Guru's mortality, etc.

I've felt that some people carry their "counts" as badges of honor. Spiritual materialism. Some people are such "individualists" that Ngondro is something everyone else has to do. Then, there's the Instant Gratification issue one finds in general society, applied here to Dharma practice. I've even seen people express resentment that a given teacher won't give them "juicy" teachings without "completing" ngondro, etc. and I've seen students and disciples berate new students over their inability to commit to ngondro. All of these positions strike me as fundamentally mistaken. But maybe I'm wrong. Then again, maybe the arisal of all these conceptions regarding the practice of Ngondro are the result of the practice, and the actual fodder for our personal self-reflection.

Well, not all lineages require people to do ngondro for "juicy" teachings, and certainly not all teachers. One would hope that people end up in the right place in this regard - those who would benefit more from the structured approach with those teachers, and those who benefit from a more flexible approach with the people who teach that way.

I wonder how much of the argument is people ending up in the wrong place, especially after having been told that they should follow the "correct" approach, when in fact there does not appear to be such an animal.
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Re: who's ngondro is it anyway

Post by Johnny Dangerous » Mon Jun 19, 2017 10:27 pm

So I put this post out there to have an actual discussion, if it gets personal I'm going to close it, and close any other thread with the same subject matter that gets personal.

Please keep to addressing people's arguments, and lets stay away from conjecture on people's personalities, etc.

Thanks.
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Re: who's ngondro is it anyway

Post by dzogchungpa » Mon Jun 19, 2017 10:37 pm

Johnny Dangerous wrote:I wonder how much of the argument is people ending up in the wrong place, especially after having been told that they should follow the "correct" approach, when in fact there does not appear to be such an animal.
It seems to me that very few people have the chance to get any truly personalized advice, based on real familiarity with their condition, so what you describe is probably quite common.
Last edited by dzogchungpa on Mon Jun 19, 2017 10:39 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: who's ngondro is it anyway

Post by Vasana » Mon Jun 19, 2017 10:37 pm

Practicing Dharma is a completely personal experience at the end of the day (conventionally speaking of course).

Any generalization on the efficacy of Ngondro that fails to account for real individuals and their varied circumstances is pretty useless imo. As is condemning those who are responsible for the common negative stereotypes we find surrounding Ngondro. Different strokes for different folks, different needs for different seeds...is there much more to it than that?
'When alone, watch your mind. When with others, watch your speech'- Old Kadampa saying.

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Re: who's ngondro is it anyway

Post by Johnny Dangerous » Mon Jun 19, 2017 10:42 pm

Vasana wrote: Different strokes for different folks, is there much more to it than that?
Not to my mind, no.

It ends up being one of the most hotly debated subjects on here though.

I remember when I started here and was new to Vajrayana, I would get so many "answers" about the significance of ngondro that were quite confusing, and very different from the answers i've gotten when i've asked teachers and senior students similar questions.

I have to conclude that western Vajrayana practitioners have some serious baggage regarding ngondro... :shrug:
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Re: who's ngondro is it anyway

Post by dzogchungpa » Mon Jun 19, 2017 10:48 pm

Johnny Dangerous wrote:I have to conclude that western Vajrayana practitioners have some serious baggage regarding ngondro... :shrug:
My man DJKR puts it well here.
There is not only nothingness because there is always, and always can manifest. - Thinley Norbu Rinpoche

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Re: who's ngondro is it anyway

Post by Miroku » Mon Jun 19, 2017 10:54 pm

I think that ngöndro can be a great help for beginners to develop their knowledge and practice. The outer ngöndro by itself gives a lot of material and is quite powerful practice in many ways. I think the problem often is that some teachers and many students do not know what is the essence of ngöndro and just do half-assed job, only counting mantras in order to get some "badge of honor".

But at the same time I do not think that ngöndro is that much necessary. AFAIK in every sadhana there are parts where you accumulate merit, purify misdeeds and do guruyoga, which I believe is basically all you do in ngöndro.

So there is no difference as long as one does his practice properly.
Child, if you are not hypocritical and out of control, that is conduct.
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You say such clever things to people, but you do not apply them to yourself.
The faults within you are the ones to be exposed.
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Re: who's ngondro is it anyway

Post by Thomas Amundsen » Mon Jun 19, 2017 10:59 pm

dzogchungpa wrote:
Johnny Dangerous wrote:I have to conclude that western Vajrayana practitioners have some serious baggage regarding ngondro... :shrug:
My man DJKR puts it well here.
In Rinpoche's typical humorous style no less. Great teaching!

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Re: who's ngondro is it anyway

Post by Johnny Dangerous » Mon Jun 19, 2017 11:12 pm

dzogchungpa wrote:
Johnny Dangerous wrote:I have to conclude that western Vajrayana practitioners have some serious baggage regarding ngondro... :shrug:
My man DJKR puts it well here.
I've read this before, and it makes sense...but I am personally unconvinced that everyone should do ngondro at all. It may just be that the two lineages I have the deepest connection to seem not to emphasize it. For instance, regarding the above, I am also not sure that ngondro is "the most distinctive feature"of Sakya teachings at all, if anything it appears relatively minor. I know they are done by some (at least I think) in the DC, but again they seem to not be emphasized, from my vantage point.

I'm no scholar, but I do know that in Sakya uncommon ngondro are 1) new, 2) don't seem to be put forth as preliminaries in the way they are in say, Nyingma or Karma Kagyu circles at all.

Saying that ngondro are something like "the most distinctive feature" of all Vajrayana is a pretty sweeping statement, I'd go as far as to say that in some lineages, and for some teachers, it doesn't seem to actually be true. So to my mind part of the issue is the assumption that ngondro is something everyone should be doing in the first place, not just in how it's done. I mean ultimately we listen to our teachers of course...
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Re: who's ngondro is it anyway

Post by dzogchungpa » Mon Jun 19, 2017 11:20 pm

Johnny Dangerous wrote:I've read this before, and it makes sense...but I am personally unconvinced that everyone should do ngondro at all.
As well you should be. That's part of what he's saying, isn't it?
Johnny Dangerous wrote:It may just be that the two lineages I have the deepest connection to seem not to emphasize it. For instance, regarding the above, I am also not sure that ngondro is "the most distinctive feature"of Sakya teachings at all, if anything it appears relatively minor.

I'm no scholar, but I do know that in Sakya they are 1) new, 2) don't seem to be put forth as preliminaries in the way they are in say, Nyingma or Karma Kagyu circles at all.
Well, I can't speak for him, but I think he is not referring so much to the formal practice known as 'ngondro' in particular traditions as to the things found therein, and their real meaning.
Last edited by dzogchungpa on Mon Jun 19, 2017 11:27 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: who's ngondro is it anyway

Post by Johnny Dangerous » Mon Jun 19, 2017 11:22 pm

Well, I can't speak for him, but I think he is not referring so much to the formal practice known as 'ngondro' in particular traditions as to the things found therein, and their real meaning.
That makes sense to me.
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Re: who's ngondro is it anyway

Post by Malcolm » Mon Jun 19, 2017 11:29 pm

dzogchungpa wrote:
Johnny Dangerous wrote:I wonder how much of the argument is people ending up in the wrong place, especially after having been told that they should follow the "correct" approach, when in fact there does not appear to be such an animal.
It seems to me that very few people have the chance to get any truly personalized advice, based on real familiarity with their condition, so what you describe is probably quite common.
This is in part due to a somewhat corporate approach in Vajradhātu, that spread widely. I know people who did seminary in the '80s who still have not completed their ngondro, and thus never went any further in that system.
Buddhahood in This Life
འ༔ ཨ༔ ཧ༔ ཤ༔ ས༔ མ༔


[A]nything at all that is well spoken is the word of the Buddha.

-- Ārya-adhyāśaya-sañcodana-nāma-mahāyāna-sūtra

The different sūtras in accord with the emptiness
taught by the Sugata are definitive in meaning;
One can understand that all of those Dharmas in
which a sentient being, individual, or person are taught are provisional in meaning.

-- Samadhirāja Sūtra

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