What's the difference between Guru Yoga and Yidam practice, and how do they relate to the Four Noble Truths?

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SonamGyatso
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What's the difference between Guru Yoga and Yidam practice, and how do they relate to the Four Noble Truths?

Post by SonamGyatso » Tue Sep 18, 2018 5:07 am

I am working on completing the Dudjom Tersar Ngöndro, and also doing a Yidam practice which I received permission for.

I am not sure what the difference between these practices are. It seems to me like they involve the exact same thing: directed visualization, mantra or prayer recitation, and doing something with the body.

with Ngöndro in particular, we do the prostrations, the mandala offerings, the Vajrasattva purification, and Guru Yoga. The only differences I can tell are the differences in my mind-state as I progress through the four. Still, without any knowledge, i'm not really sure what i'm doing. What's going on when I do Guru Yoga? is the Vajrasattava purification not Guru Yoga or deity practice?

Then I throw in the Yidam practice, and I really get to be especially confused. I don't know what Yidam practice is for, but it seems to leave me in similar states of mind when I dissolve the mental fabrications.

Then I take a look at all this and remember that the Buddha Shakyamuni's sutric discourses seem so intuitive and I have so much faith in what he taught. I am sometimes shaken, friends. I could use some clarity.

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Re: What's the difference between Guru Yoga and Yidam practice, and how do they relate to the Four Noble Truths?

Post by kirtu » Tue Sep 18, 2018 11:16 am

SonamGyatso wrote:
Tue Sep 18, 2018 5:07 am
I am working on completing the Dudjom Tersar Ngöndro, and also doing a Yidam practice which I received permission for.

I am not sure what the difference between these practices are. It seems to me like they involve the exact same thing: directed visualization, mantra or prayer recitation, and doing something with the body.

with Ngöndro in particular, we do the prostrations, the mandala offerings, the Vajrasattva purification, and Guru Yoga. The only differences I can tell are the differences in my mind-state as I progress through the four. Still, without any knowledge, i'm not really sure what i'm doing. What's going on when I do Guru Yoga? is the Vajrasattava purification not Guru Yoga or deity practice?

Then I throw in the Yidam practice, and I really get to be especially confused. I don't know what Yidam practice is for, but it seems to leave me in similar states of mind when I dissolve the mental fabrications.

Then I take a look at all this and remember that the Buddha Shakyamuni's sutric discourses seem so intuitive and I have so much faith in what he taught. I am sometimes shaken, friends. I could use some clarity.
There is a sense in which everything is Guru Yoga because all accomplishment in Vajrayana comes from the blessings of the Gurus.

However they are different methods of accomplishment with the ultimate goal of attaining Buddhahood in one lifetime in the ideal case.

I haven't read the Dudjom Tersar ngondro but the differences are all explained briefly in one of my ngondro's (but another one not so much).

Refuge creates a link between us and Guru, the blessings of the lineage,all the Buddhas, the Dharma, and all the Arya Sangha and moves us from the non-Buddhist path to the Buddhist path.
Prostrations purifies obscurations, esp. bodily obscurations.
Bodhicitta develops the intention to attain enlightenment for all beings and to rescue all of them from samsara
Mandala offerings is a special method for accumulating vast amounts of merit.
Vajrasattva is a special method for purification and esp. for samaya purification.
Guru Yoga acts to concentrate the blessings of the Guru just like using a lens to start a fire by concentrating the rays of the sun on dry straw.

Vajrayana has multiple methods for specific attainments. We use these methods to accumulate merit and wisdom and to climb out of samsara. We have to do our part and transform our mind. The Gurus and the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas are constantly blessing us - in Sakya this is often described as them sending out fishing lines with hooks on them and on our part we connect with rings and the practice pulls us up out of samsara.

The practices are varied because our minds are complex (Vajrayana is described as being for very intelligent people who are diligent but also have "lots and lots of obscurations").

Ngondro lays the foundation.

Yidam practice can be for specific siddhi accomplishment but the general sense is that it is the yoga practice through which one attains enlightenment.

Ngondro can be seen as the first 3 Noble Truths and yidam practice as the 4th Noble Truth (it's an extraordinary practice of the Eight Fold Path). However we also have the contemplation of the Four Thoughts that Turn the Mind prior to practice and these clearly establish the Truth of Suffering and it's cause (however in the Vajrayana from this contemplation the cause is ignorance rather than specifically tanha), then the fact that the practices exist is the Third Noble Truth and then ngondro + yidam practice can be see together as the Fourth Noble Truth. But Vajrayana is basically holographic so any little part ultimately contains the whole.

Kirt
Kirt's Tibetan Translation Notes

"Even if you practice only for an hour a day with faith and inspiration, good qualities will steadily increase. Regular practice makes it easy to transform your mind. From seeing only relative truth, you will eventually reach a profound certainty in the meaning of absolute truth."
Kyabje Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche.

"Only you can make your mind beautiful."
HH Chetsang Rinpoche

Miroku
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Re: What's the difference between Guru Yoga and Yidam practice, and how do they relate to the Four Noble Truths?

Post by Miroku » Tue Sep 18, 2018 11:47 am

Just like Kirtu said.

I'd just add my take on it. Ngöndro as a whole is a form of GY. Why? Because it is the guru who is always at the center of the focus. In the cinter of refuge tree in the form of Padmasambhava or Dorje Chang, he is Vajrasattva and etc.

During ngöndro you develop faith and trust for the object of refuge, then you realise your own faults with vajrasattva, reduce attachment with mandala offering and in the end develop devotion with guru yoga.

Yidam is in itself our guru so again basically guru yoga.

Ngöndro just like yidam practice are both full practices which can lead you to a realization in this life time. Longer yidam sadhanas have ways how to acumulate merit and purify. So yeah there is not much difference. The focus on some parts is different etc. but both are in the end a complete path.

That being said, do your ngöndro diligently, it is a foundation that can speed your progress. Many teachers continue doing ngöndro through their lives as it is just quite an amazing practice to push one forward.
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.
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Re: What's the difference between Guru Yoga and Yidam practice, and how do they relate to the Four Noble Truths?

Post by Pema Rigdzin » Wed Sep 19, 2018 6:09 am

The ultimate purpose of guru yoga is to merge our mind with the wisdom mind of the lama and all the objects of refuge in order to discover the very same wisdom mind--inseparable emptiness and knowing--in ourselves. To me, the ngondro is, like someone else said, one long guru yoga, culminating with the merging I spoke of above. And in the Nyingma school, we apply the principle of guru yoga--merging with the lama--to yidam practice, so that it's guru yoga, too. The main difference is that different yidams are also associated with specific activities we may need to make use of, such as if we discover that we're specifically lacking compassion, or have a problem with anger, or we want to increase our intelligence and mental capacity.

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Re: What's the difference between Guru Yoga and Yidam practice, and how do they relate to the Four Noble Truths?

Post by conebeckham » Wed Sep 19, 2018 4:11 pm

In addition to all the good points that have been raised-

Yidam practice serves various functions. Yidam is guru, as others have said. So, one's mind as yidam's mind, is also one's mind as guru's mind.

Yidams are also associated with various activities--this is a common Nyingma presentation. In Sarma, this is also true to a degree, but many of the HYT yidams of the Sarma tantra traditions are multivalent--in other words, a yidam like Hevajra encompasses the "four activities," and also reflects various states like bliss, wrath, joy, peace, compassion, and activity simultaneously.

But if you are really engaged in the practice of yidam, in addition to these points, what you are trying to effect is the transformation of your perception of your ordinary form. Maintaining Divine Pride, and practicing in formal sessions as well as carrying one's personal experience as yidam in post meditation activities, is a method to circumvent clinging to one's ordinary habitual mental attachments--to concepts of one's body, one's abode, one's friends, etc. Eventually, this crucial point of practice, and the completion stage of Illusory Body, refines one's habitual mental constructs. These results can only occur with intensive practice, though, IMO. The Yidam is the Root of Accomplishment, it's said, and so you have to practice diligently to accomplish the yidam--such accomplishment means you "become" the yidam--one's body, speech, mind, qualities and activity are truly the yidam's body, speech, mind, qualities and activity. Completion stage practices flow from this state, as well.
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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