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The preliminaries are divided into three categories:
I. The outer practices, which are the common, or shared, practices;
II. The internal practices, which are uncommon, or unshared; and
III. The special, exclusive practices of Mahamudra.
I. The external, common practices of the preliminaries are fourfold:
(1) Contemplation on the difficulty of attaining the precious, fully endowed human existence;
(2) Contemplation of impermanence and death;
(3) Contemplation of karma and causality;
(4) Contemplation of the faults of cyclic existence (suffering).
These are the four external, shared, or common preliminaries.
What does it mean to say that they are "shared" or "common"? It means they are practiced in common by the three vehicles: the lesser vehicle (Hinayana), the great vehicle (Mahayana) and the secret vehicle (Vajrajana). All three vehicles share these four external preliminaries.
II. The four inner, or unshared, preliminary practices are:
(2) Vajrasattva practice;
(3) mandala offering; and
(4) guru yoga.
These innerpreliminaries are not shared with Hinayana and Mahayana; that is, they are exclusive to Vajrayana.
III. Next are the preliminaries which are special to fivefold Mahamudra practice. There are three exclusive requirements:
(1) generating loving-kindness;
(2) generating compassion;
(3) developing the bodhisattva attitude (bodhicitta).
They are special, or particular, to this fivefold Mahamudra practice not because they are not found elsewhere, but because they are developed in a different way. They are used as an actual part of the preliminaries for Mahamudra so that at each stage one accumulates 100,000 repetitions of each of these practices.
Lord Phagmo Drupa taught the very special qualities of loving-kindness, compassion, and bodhicitta in the context of Mahamudra practice. He said we should look upon these three as being necessarily connected with each other. This connection can be illustrated by the example of growing a plant: Loving-kindness is like the soil into which we put the seed. Compassion is like the water and the fertilizer which we put in the soil, allowing the plant to grow. Bodhicitta is like the plant itself, like the tree of enlightenment (the bodhi tree). And so, this "bodhi tree" of the bodhisattva attitude is planted in the soil of loving-kindness and watered and fertilized with compassion. Then it grows greater and greater until it finally produces its fruit, which benefits all living beings. This fruit is the three bodies of a Buddha—two form bodies and one formless body. This, then, gives us a total of eleven preliminary practices: the four common, the four uncommon, and the three special practices.
In general, there are two necessary elements for any Vajrayana practice—the empowerment and the subsequent instructions, or commentary, for practice. These develop, ripen, and purify the continuum of the disciple just like a vessel, which is first cleansed of any defilements and then filled with the necessary fluid or substance. First you must cleanse all the defilements so that you do not adulterate or weaken whatever you place inside. That is the function of the empowerment and of the instructions for practice which are given subsequently.
The practice of Tantra has two phases—the phase of generation and the phase of accomplishment, or perfection. During the phase of generation, we generate ourselves as the deity, generate the realization, or presence, of the deity. In the phase of perfection, we actually enter into meditation on Mahamudra and perfect the realization of Mahamudra. These two phases are present with any Tantra; one generates the deity and, after having done so, one stabilizes the mind on this meditation, and gains the realization of ultimate reality. The eleven aspects of the preliminary practices, then, are completed with the generation of the bodhisattva attitude.
Excerpted from The Practice of Mahamudra by . Copyright © 1999 by H. H. Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang Rinpoche. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
|1. The Preliminaries||15|
|2. The Actual Practice||19|
|3. Mahamudra: What Is It?||25|
|4. Questions and Answers I||29|
|5. Channeling the Breath||33|
|6. Body Posture||37|
|7. Shamatha: Stabilizing the Mind||41|
|8. Vipashyana: Analyzing the Nature of Mind||47|
|9. Meditation Exercises and Instructions||61|
|10. Questions and Answers II||65|
|11. The Attainment of Non-attainment||71|
|12. Tilopa's Pith Instructions||77|
|13. Dharma Lord Gampopa's Advice||89|
|14. Questions and Answers III||107|
|15. Vajrasattva Purification Meditation||113|
|A Brief Biography of His Holiness Chetsang Rinpoche||125|
|Long Life Prayer||131|
|Suggested Further Reading||133|