Ngondro is Preliminary practice and it is very important. Preliminary practice is found in both Sutra and Tantra Buddhism. Preliminary practice is the root of meditation and functions just like a foundation.
It is important that you first understand that Preliminary practice is very important. If you do not do Preliminary practice and you do Mahamudra, Dzogchen or Dzogchen Kalachakra, you can’t really do these because you don’t have a foundation. Check to see how many of the Preliminary practices you have done and how confident your mind is in the Buddha Dharma. If you don’t do Preliminary practice and you try high levels of practice, then there may be problems.
One person might be able to understand nature of mind because of their previous life especially if they are a dakini, daka or a high Rinpoche. They may understand. But otherwise, 100% of everyone else needs to do Preliminary practice. A lot of people say I don’t know meditation; I don’t know Preliminary practice and I don’t know where to start meditation. When people do not do Preliminary practice in the beginning, they are confused and don’t know where to start. I will tell you a short way to understand.
First it is important to relax, calm down and that your mind is peaceful. Try not to be attached, angry or doing negative things. Don’t try these negative ways. Do positive ways: be happy, have joy, be peaceful and be really interested in doing meditation. Meditation is very easy.
Outer Preliminary Practice:
The first Preliminary practice is to understand we have a precious human life. To understand this, think of yourself and what the cause of your precious human life is. Also look at the number of precious human lives there are. Really see and understand that you do have a precious human life. In Buddhism, there are 18 ways of understanding a precious human life but it is important that you understand for yourself. You think of this again and again. This is meditation of precious human life. We are born and this is important. Then after do meditation and you are confident in your mind and in Dharma. This is meaningful. Politics, business and other samsara things are good but not that important. If you gain power in your life and don’t do meditation, when you die then you are upset that you didn’t do anything that was meaningful. Animals are similar to this. It is important you understand that Dharma and meditation are very important.
Secondly, when we understand we have a precious human life; a precious mind and a precious body then we turn our attention to understand impermanence. To begin, we think of the following. When will we die? Where will we die? What will the circumstances be when we die? We don’t understand or know these things. 100% of everyone is born and 100% of everyone dies and usually within 100 yrs. We don’t know about our own death. So think of everything outside. Think of your neighbors, family and friends. We see that everyone dies. Also there are many changes and problems throughout life. All these teach us impermanence. When you think more and more of impermanence, it is easy to do meditation and it is interesting. If you think of impermanence you are excited to do meditation. If you don’t think of impermanence then meditation is not exciting. When we die, whether we are very rich, poor, have political power or are a king or queen, everyone dies. It doesn’t matter if thousands of soldiers are trying to protect you when you die. The only thing that helps you when you die is Dharma. This is why we do Dharma now.
Then third, is the suffering of samsara. Samsara suffering is in all 6 realms. There is the suffering of suffering; suffering of change and many different types suffering with only just moments of happiness. Mainly there are difficulties. We might think that eating and drinking and having nice meals out are happiness but this is just like an animal as they also eat and drink.
For example in the hell realms there are hot and cold hells. Hungry ghosts are very hungry and have the suffering of hunger. Animals have the suffering of ignorance. The jealous god realm has the suffering of fighting. Human suffering is birth, old age, sickness and death. The god realm is they have a short time of happiness and then go directly to hell afterward. These 6 realms are samsara and there is very much suffering.
If you understand and feel you are suffering or how any of the six realms are suffering, then you do meditation. When we look carefully, this makes it easy to understand suffering and impermanence and it is easy to understand a precious human life. It makes it easy to do meditation. If we don’t understand suffering then we don’t do meditation. Buddha’s first teaching is to understand suffering. This is the first of the Four Noble Truths.
The fourth outer Preliminary practice is karma. It is important to believe in karma and to be careful of karma. Karma means that all good virtue; offerings; prostrations, giving and positive things comes back to you as good in your life. If you kill or do negative things all comes back as negative things in your life. It is important to understand and do action; to stop doing negative things and bad karma.
These Four Thoughts are the outer Preliminary practice.
In Dharma blessing Khenchen Lama