The Four Foundational Practices Lama Ole Nydahl The value of the foundational practices in Diamond Way Buddhism

cannot be overestimated. They work with the causes for one's troubles and remove the tendencies that prevent beings from recognizing and expressing their enlightened nature. Our main hindrance here is mind's tendency to cling to impressions that are constantly changing. Even though one was not angry before and will think of something else in five minutes, mind still experiences anger as real, acts upon it through body or speech, and thus creates fresh causes for future suffering. Being caught in this involuntary cycle is our usual state. We don't have the freedom to chose what we want to experience. Instead of this confusion, the Buddha wants us to experience the timeless essence that lies within us and has been there since beginningless time: mind's open, clear and limitless space. Mind has no form, colour, weight or size. It is radiantly clear and full of abilities, and has no limitations. As it recognizes itself, fearlessness, spontaneous joy and active compassion are always present. To bring about this state, free of difficulties and pain, Buddha taught different methods. For the rather fearful, he explained in detail the law of cause and effect and gave the vows of individual liberation. They allow one to avoid future trouble. For people with an appetite for mastering the world, he taught mainly the Great Way on compassion and wisdom, and for those with spontaneous confidence in their Buddha nature, he taught the extraordinary methods of the Diamond Way. They work from an absolute level and allow one to experience timeless truth directly. The most important Buddhist realization for each group is that of the emptiness of all things, that everything is changing and impermanent. Everything appears out of conditions, changes with them and then dissolves again. Yet, not only our way of experiencing things but also the objects themselves depend on our state of mind. This emptiness of all things can be understood incorrectly or correctly. It is wrong if emptiness is understood only intellectually and appears as "nothingness" or a "black hole", while the right understanding of everything being interdependent and having no essence of its own gives rise to freedom and limitless space. To reach this understanding, two kinds of accumulations are needed. The first is a gathering of massive positive and useful impressions in one's store consciousness - unwavering, solid and powerful impressions on which one can always fall back. Since it will take time before mind stops clinging to its impermanent impressions, also on a relative level it is better they be pleasant. Pleasant impressions bring about spontaneous confidence and a natural inclination to look within.

while still giving everything to the Buddhas. repeats their vibration (mantra). and mind. One will thus act effortlessly and from intuition. where one's innate Buddhahood provides the basis. but moments of insight and oneness are experienced more frequently and also tend to express themselves in dreams. speech. The wisdom developed through the Foundational Practices is not superficial. The second exercise. and one's ability to rest in whatever is there interlace. this wisdom helps mind become effortless and spontaneous by freeing it of concepts. and one understands ever better the importance of any useful action. everything already unfolds in a pure land. Inner richness. the taking of Refuge with prostrations and one's development of the Enlightened Mind. produces both merit and wisdom. and the goal. Its goal is the "Great Seal". which is the ultimate grave to all neuroses.111 repetitions each. Life is till very personal. . due to the 111. It is not about loading one's consciousness with more information. Instead. The Tibetan Buddhist lineages use various forms of these meditations at different stages of their students development. The dissolving phase here becomes longer. On a relative level. the state before events are labelled and entered into a system of likes and dislikes. Being tantric or "total". the realization of the joyful and self-liberating nature of all inner and outer phenomena. It extends the freshness of the initial moment of experience. or Mahamudra. is to purify the meditator's inner energy channels and to build their strength and confidence. which is acquired in school or college. mind still needs to be purified from negative impressions. Chag Chen Ngondro. and mind's spontaneous wisdom can unfold ever more. worldly kind of wisdom. and the inseparability of subject. The ninth Karmapa Wangchug Dorje taught this step-by-step way when devotion had arisen. the ability to perceive situations without filters. creates massive inner richness based on space itself. the way. object and action becomes ever more obvious. these exercises involve body. This state is the exact aim of the Four Foundational Practices. It is a very powerful physical practice and especially increases one's stock of good impressions. The point of the first and somewhat dramatic exercise. gift and donor are all empty of any own nature and thus essentially one. Through their influence. the 100-syllable mantra of the Diamond Mind meditation. This wisdom is not the practical. means "preparation for ultimate realization" . One lets feedback forms of energy and light appear like holograms in front or above. It leads to the absolute state of the Great Seal. and finally dissolves with them into a state of naked awareness. meaning enlightenment. the Tibetan name for these exercises. The third part of the Foundational Practices. One understands that receiver. but instances of clarity gradually increase. the Mandala Offerings. brings about both wisdom and positive impressions. Constantly building up perfect universes and knowing them to be mind's free play.The second kind of accumulation is the accumulation having to do with wisdom. The buildup of positive impressions relaxes mind and leads to human growth.

they receive the blessing of the lama's lineage and may experience true oneness. During the process of dying. speech and mind with one's own. This accumulation of useful impressions may thus be observed throughout the entire Foundational Practices or Ngondro. in Tibet. The practices are repeated a hundred thousand times (one counts 111. I strongly advise doing the Ngondro first. These preparations for the Great Seal are thus a solid step on one's way to enlightenment. the repetition of liberating methods serves as their antidote. was only used in Diamond Way practice after the Four Foundational Practices. When people first start meditating. the last practice makes possible a timeless identification of one's lama's body. . it is possible to bring this inner diamond to perfect radiance. however. the Meditation on the Lama. essential enlightenment energies awaken. which touches our totality by pointing to mind itself. kind of shine. even the intellectually well trained discover it to be difficult. we will recognize them and melt into their Pure Lands. is of help beyond the grave. which we consider of greatest meaning now. calm-abiding meditation. one's potential identification with enlightenment gains ever more importance. Later. on opening up and positive actions. called shine in Tibetan or shamata in Sanskrit. they burst instantly and cannot follow us when we die. is through the power of repetition.The last exercise. here Karmapa. or only meet with them now. mostly focuses on the accumulation of wisdom. and one can stay aware of impressions which come and go. It is a meditation on one's lama. Just sitting in one place is not meditation. are like air bubbles. Therefore. Through such methods. the veils hiding mind's essence are removed. yidams and protectors. Even the most intelligent thoughts. and a steady source of power manifests. or "white wall" (not radiant diamond). Only that which forms a strong habit in our mind. and only in rare exceptions concurrently. Troubles appear from habitual negative attitudes. If at that time we know Buddhas. They cut through all illusions. now. Employed after the purification achieved by the first two exercises. the focus is on purification. and are willing to be here. The best way to unveil one's Buddha Nature. and enriched by the Mandala Offerings. Devotion here opens being's minds. Its core is known from the Guru Yoga Meditation on the 16th Karmapa and is preceded by many wishes to the lineage and several precious Great Seal explanations. In the beginning. Even though one's body may remain in one place. so many repetitions may sound quite mechanical.111) and aim directly at recognizing mind's true nature. If we trust our Buddha Nature. For those who have never worked with such methods. one's mind still becomes either restless or dull when directed towards itself. Having witnessed the demise of the Dharmadhatu groups and knowing the danger of the wrong.

During an hour of meditation. Since then.In Diamond Way meditation. Though it is a popular theme to teach .. Through trade and other North-South contacts between the Silk Route and India. but one or two do a lot of good.without sufficient good impressions and wisdom it won't work.D. this kind of mere "calming" lowers our intelligence and can . where they stayed until the Chinese invasion in 1959. it is not enough to "just sit" and one should avoid the dreaded "white wall samadhi". where one may feels pleasant and relaxed. art. During the Foundational Practices. surely most of us will not need twenty-five repetitions. Some Tibetans have done the Foundational Practices twenty-five times. at least the feeling of the beads in one's hand keeps some part of our totality with the practice. the Ngondro has been an integral part of Tibetan Buddhism. Therefore. practicing with body.D. and if this also fails." In the West. but one can only maintain its power through practicing. If mind wanders during meditation. The rest of the time it is dull. and sitting among them is like being surrounded by rocks. any work with mind becomes very productive and one may even "hitch a ride" much of the way. and important places of meditation. speech and mind. with its monasteries. many holders of the effective "tantric" Buddhist practices fled across the mountains into Tibet. but loses one's fangs and ability to act. and we are immune against many of the temptations to which people in the East are today very susceptible. Though there is some debate over their sequence. at the beginning. at least our speech stays with the mantra. the wish to meditate directly on mind often comes up. the first Buddhist influences had already reached Tibet around 600 A. was destroyed by Muslim invasions between 800 and 1000 A. we use our totality. They are simply solid and don't need to prove anything. Doing the prostrations first is reasonable. If one is able to open up to one's teacher's blessing. and the other steps follow logically. literature. We have a better ability for concentration than those who are intellectually untrained. It puts us in the realm of true values. because the foundational exercises are neither easy nor quickly completed. Kalu Rinpoche said it like this: "A sock doesn't get clean if you dip it in water just once. all four practices were surely taught by the Buddha himself 2500 years ago. we gain much of the one-pointedness achieved through these exercises through the competitiveness in our schools and colleges. Therefore. the greatness of the refuge becomes part of one's life. or strays into past or future. When the high culture of Indian Buddhism. This "growth through identification" is a trademark of the Kagyu lineages. According to Kalu Rinpoche. The shamanism of the indigenous Bon religion had already split and the "white" Bon had integrated the ideas of enlightenment and karma. As already mentioned. an untrained mind will at the most be focused for a few minutes. follows thoughts and feelings.

After all. and the meditator can feel relieved. Working inside the Buddha's refuge fields. They are on their way out. Thus. we can give nothing better to the world. and its foundation is the repetitive purification of body. The state of clear awareness reached through the Diamond Way is the unfolding of all our possibilities. The point is not to eliminate thoughts or to freeze mind. and mind through Ngondro. We see the backs of the funny feeling and states of mind. the Foundational Practices make our mind radiant like a diamond. but not to care about thoughts and to enjoy mind's richness while bringing it back to the meditation again and again. any disturbance or drowsiness is mind's purification. and active compassion. speech.even result in a rebirth as a big fish. we want to discover our inherent fearlessness. . joy.

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