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TRUNGPA, RINPOCHE: Every type of spiritual discipline, craft or educational system has its beginning, middle and concluding

levels. The Four Foundations (sngon-'gro, literally "prelude") are the beginning of the Vajrayana discipline. Of course, the Vajrayana is not the first but the third level of Buddhist practice, to be preceded by the Hinayana and Mahayana. But those who begin the Vajrayana discipline do so with the Four Foundations. According to tradition, the Foundation practices require a lot of preparation. In the early days in Tibet, people had to have a great deal of training before practicing the: Foundations. This included basic training in tranquility and insight meditation as well as some training in the Mahayana, which included formally receiving the Bodhisattva vow, and so on. The Four Special Foundations are an evolutionary process in which each event has a definite place. They could be connected with the Four Dharmas of Gampopa. In Taking Refuge, your mind begins to follow the Dharma, which is the First Dharma of Gampopa. Your attitude toward yourself and toward everything in your life becomes connected purely with Dharma practice. There is no longer such a thing as a division between sacred and profane. To begin to practice, you must first "give in'' to the Dharma completely. This is accomplished by doing prostrations, a process of complete surrender, of definite commitment. I don't think anyone can begin Vajrayana practice without that. When you take the Bodhisattva vow, having decided to go and havmg bought your ticket, you actually begin the journey-bodhi(itta and the Bodhisattva path. This is related to the Second Dharma of Gampopa, which is that your Dharma practice can actually win success on the path. When you do the Vajrasattva practice, having already surrendered, you have to purify and further acknowledge what you have surrendered. All the impurities must be purified. After purification, something still remains-the pure person, which might contain some stain of arrogance, some stain of existence. In the Mandala practice you actually give everything, including the pure person. You offer this-the giver-as well as all the offerings, at which point, in a sense, you no longer exist. By the time you reach the Guru-Yoga practice, you are psychologically ready to identify with your guru, and immense devotion is born in your mind. This is connected with the Third Dharma of Gampopa, which is that, in following the path, confusion could be clarified. The actual transformation of confusion into wisdom, the Fourth Dharma of Gampopa, is receiving abhishekas and practicing various sadhanas. This is the main part of the Vajrayana discipline, which comes much later. An important difference is that Western students need a lot more prior training in the Hinayana and Mahayana so that they will know what they are doing when they practice the Foundations. Since they lack the cultural background of Tibetans, when introduced to the Foundations they will not be ready to jump into the practices immediately, and they may see them as alien, as some sort of a gimmick. We cannot respond to their doubts by telling them to shut up and have faith. To help them

overcome these doubts, we must train them in tranquility and insight meditation much more thoroughly than was done in Tibet. Apart from these, I don't see any particular differences. Any type of person can do these practices. As long as an individual has become involved in tranquility and insight meditation, his personality has begun to dissolve somewhat. By the time he gets involved in the Vajrayana through the Foundations, he is no longer a "type of person," particularly-he is already there! There should always be the Developing Stage and the Fulfillment Stage together, visualization and formless meditation together. Without that, somehow the whole thing is like fingerpainting rather than actually doing it. There are different levels of formless, of course. Students usually begin by borrowing the Hinayana practice of tranquility and insight meditation, and then out of that some glimpse of the Mahamudra experience might occur. That seems to be very important. The idea is not to trust purely in the gadgets of the practices alone, but that there is something happening behind that. Some kind of unseen, unformed-1 don't know what you'd call it. The incomprehensible is comprehended, with just a few glimpses. That has to happen. Traditionally that is done, and I did that myself. Losing interest in the practice is a symptom of not having enough training in tranquility and insight meditation. Training in tranquility and insight makes you, first of all, very aware of your pain and your neuroses. It increases your mindfulness and enables you to begin to make friends with yourself. You learn how to be by yourself, with yourself. Without this training, you might easily become overwhelmed and .put off by the physical exertion and mechanical aspect of these practices. If a person finds himself put off and feels that he cannot continue the Foundations, he should return to tranquility and insight meditation and go back to the Vajrayana discipline later on. If an individual's practice is not working, this is because he approaches it as some kind of gymnastics, due to a lack of genuine renunciation. He is still blinded by the confused world. In order to begin to see clearly, the practitioner should return to tranquility and insight meditation. This advice is not in conflict with that of the other Rinpoches. The "four thoughts" are a contemplative discipline by which you develop disgust with samsara. If you practice tranquility and insight as the basis of the whole spirirual journey, then the "four thoughts" will arise as a natural process.