Preliminary Practices

37 Stages of Instructions Curriculum

According to the extraordinary key instructions and practices of the lineage masters, it is extremely important for those who wish to practice the Buddha’s teachings to begin by creating a stable foundation for the spiritual path with the preliminary practices (ngöndro) and mind training (lojong). One may then proceed to the other elements of this profound path. Progressing through these levels in a step-by-step manner will bring one to a precise realization of the view of the Great Perfection—the ultimate, true nature of things. The following curriculum is designed to gradually immerse the mind of the student in these contemplative practices. The ten seminars of the 37 Stages of Instructions curriculum guide students through the various stages of the spiritual path. The first seminar contains teachings suitable for practitioners of all spiritual backgrounds. Seminars two through ten are designed for those who have entered the Buddhist path by taking refuge vows and who intend to complete their preliminary practices (ngöndro) under the guidance of Khenpo Sherab Sangpo.

The preliminary practices (ngöndro) serve to strengthen one’s resolve to pursue the spiritual path and are the foundation for advanced spiritual practice. These two seminars present detailed instructions on the preliminary practices that employ visualization, the recitation of prayers and mantras, and physical movement to undo deeply ingrained habits that prevent one from recognizing the nature of mind.

 

Seminar 2: Outer Preliminaries—The Chariot of Liberation

5.  Meditation on the Precious Human Life—Key Instructions of Patrul Rinpoche
6.  Meditation on the Impermanence of Life—Key Instructions of Patrul Rinpoche
7.  Meditation on the Outer and Inner Dependent Arising (Cause and Effect)—Instructions of Patrul Rinpoche
8.  Meditation on Renunciation—Oral Instructions of Patrul Rinpoche, Khenchen Padma Tsewang, and Khenchen Chöying Chapdal

 

Seminar 3: Inner Preliminaries—The Chariot of Liberation

9. Meditation on Refuge—Foundation of the Buddhist Path
10. Cultivating Bodhicitta—Root of the Mahayana (Great Vehicle)
11. Meditation on Vajrasattva—Meditation That Purifies Negativities
12. Meditation on Mandala—Meditation That Brings the Two Accumulations of Merit and Wisdom
13. Guru Yoga—Method for Generating the Wisdom of Realization in One’s Own Mindstream

These pith instructions combine the innermost essence
Of all empowerments and all aspects of approach and accomplishment.
The child with the good fortune for the practice of mantra
Will attain the level of Vajradhara in a single life.

Dudjom Lingpa

Students of Khenpo Sherab Sangpo practice the ngöndro called The Chariot of Liberation from the Zabsang Khandro Nyingtik, The Profound Doctrine of the Heart Essence of the Dakinis, one of the four main cycle of termas revealed by Dudjom Lingpa in 1862, from several treasure sites in eastern Tibet. This cycle of practice is the only sater (earth terma) cycle of Dudjom Lingpa. The Chariot of Liberation was given to Khenpo Sherab Sangpo by his root teacher, the great Dzogchen master, Khangsar Tenpé Wangchuk, who told him to have his students practice it due to its profound blessings.

Photo of Khangsar Tenpé Wangchuk

Outer Preliminaries

Khenpo Sherab Sangpo suggests that his students meditate twenty minutes at the beginning of each meditation session on the four thoughts that turn the mind toward the Dharma:

 

  • Meditation on Meaningful Human Birth
  • Meditation on Death and Impermanence
  • Meditation on the Suffering of Samsara
  • Meditation on the Ripening of Virtuous and Negative Deeds

These freedoms and advantages are so difficult to find.
So that I may make full use of this meaningful human birth,
My precious guru, I pray to you:
Please grant your blessings, my supremely kind master.

The Chariot of Liberation: Instructions on the Preliminary Practices

Inner Preliminaries

After meditating on the outer preliminaries for twenty minutes, students meditate on the section of the inner preliminaries of which they are accumulating 100,000 repetitions:

 

  • Meditation on Refuge
  • Meditation on Bodhicitta
  • Meditation on Vajrasattva
  • Meditation on Mandala
  • Meditation on Guru Yoga

Namo
Until we have reached the very heart of enlightenment,
I and all the infinite number of beings—my mothers and fathers,
Go for refuge to the guru and the Three Jewels.
May we not be parted from you for a moment.
Please accept us with your love.

The Chariot of Liberation: Instructions on the Preliminary Practices

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