Zurmang Ngondro: The Foundation Practice of the Whispered Tradition


In the four videos below, Rinpoche teaches on the Zurmang Foundation Practice (ngondro) and explains why it is so important. These videos are for all of the Zurmang Kagyu centers around the world to guide the teaching of the Zurmang ngondro in these centers. In these videos, Rinpoche guides us through the Four Common and Four Extraordinary Foundations using the ngondro text, Supplication Prayer which Praises the Gift of the Practice Lineage Teachings and its Holders: The Melody for Accomplishing all Goals, སྒྲུབ་བརྒྱུད་བསྟན་པའི་བརྩས་སུ་བསྔགས་པའི་གསོལ་འདེབས་དོན་ཀུན་གྲུབ་པའི་དབྱངས་སྙན།.

1. The Importance of a Strong Foundation

In the first video, Rinpoche explains the history of the Zurmang whispered tradition. Rinpoche explains how Trungmase, the founder of the Zurmang tradition and the first Gharwang Rinpoche, was recognized as an emanation of Tilopa. Trungmase saw the 5th Karmapa as an emanation of Manjushri. Thus, this whispered lineage, which can be traced all the way back to Tilopa who received it from the dakini, Sangwa Yeshe, began to flourish in the fourteenth century. The Zurmang Ngondro provides the foundation for the practice of this extraordinary whispered lineage.

Here, Rinpoche guides us through the four common foundations, which consist in meditating on four topics: (1) the difficulty of acquiring a precious human rebirth, (2) death and impermanence, (3) karmic cause and effect, and (4) the faults of samsara.

Rinpoche then explains the first of the four extraordinary foundation: (1) instructions for developing the mind which goes for refuge, traveling the path to liberation in whatever one does.

2. Vajrasattva: The Second Extraordinary Foundation

In this video, Rinpoche continues teaching the extraordinary foundations, with an explanation of the second, Vajrasattva meditation. Here one undertakes the practice of purifying all acts of non-virtue that one has accumulated from beginningless time utilizing the four powers.

The four powers are: (1) the power of the basis, which involves going for refuge and generating bodhichitta, (2) the power of regret, which involves developing remorse for whatever negative actions we have undertaken in the past, (3) the power of resolve, which involves the commitment to refrain from future wrongdoing, and (4) the power of engaging in the antidote, which involves undertaking some positive activity in order to counteract the negative deed that one intends to purify. One of the most powerful antidotes is the practice of meditating on Vajrasattva together with reciting Vajrasattva’s hundred syllable mantra.

The visualization for the Vajrasattva meditation and recitation is as follows: Visualize yourself in your ordinary form, and visualize your root guru in the form of Vajrasattva seated on your crown, white in color, right hand holding a vajra at the heart, left hand holding a bell at the hip, and in the full vajra posture. Although the guru appears as Vajrasattva, he is insubstantial like the reflection of the moon in water. In the heart of Vajrasattva is a moon disk, upon which is a white hum surrounded by the 100 syllable mantra, arranged anticlocwise and revolving clockwise. As you recite the 100 syllable mantra, nectar flows down from the heart of your guru into your body, entering through your crown, and purifying the all negative actions of body, speech, and mind.

Listen to Rinpoche recite the Vajrasattva Mantra:

3. Mandala Offering: The Third Extraordinary Foundation

In this video, Rinpoche continues teaching the extraordinary foundations, explaining the third, mandala offering.

The practice of offering a mandala is a powerful way to accumulate the collections of merit and wisdom. In this practice, you use the power of your imagination to visualize that you are offering a mandala of a pure realm. It is best to own two mandalas, one to be kept in front of the altar and one to offer in your practice. Visualize the mandala, imagining a world which includes Mt. Meru, the four continents, and four sub-continents. In front of you is a celestial mansion which includes within it all objects of refuge: the guru, yidam, Buddha, dharma, sangha, surrounded by the dakas and dakinis. Then make the offering of a pure realm along with all the wealth, virtues, and good things in the world, to these objects of refuge. Imagine that the deities are delighted and that they then melt into light and dissolve into you, becoming inseparable with you. Through this practice, you can accumulate much merit and wisdom.

4. Guru Yoga: The Fourth Extraordinary Foundation

In this video, Rinpoche continues teaching the extraordinary foundations, explaining the fourth, guru yoga.

In general, the guru is the foundation of all knowledge and good qualities. In particular, whoever wants to achieve the realization of Mahāmudrā must rely on the blessing of the guru. Therefore, one must practice guru yoga.

First, visualize that, from the space of emptiness, this place becomes extraordinary like a pureland. Then imagine yourself as a yidam, like Vajrayogini, since if you visualize yourself in an ordinary form, the blessings cannot easily enter you. On your crown is the guru in the form of Vajradhara, and above Vajradhara are all the lineage gurus. To the right are the Buddhas of the ten directions and to the left are the bodhisattvas, dakas, and dakinis. Behind are the scriptural collections, and in the Zurmang tradition, it is important to include here the texts of the Zurmang whispered lineage, the three jewels (ནོར་བུ་རྣམ་གསུམ།). In front are all the yidams and then the protectors.

Next recite the guru yoga prayer from the text, including Calling the Guru from Afar, etc. Due to this supplication, the lineage gurus dissolve into the root guru, who becomes inseparable from all objects of refuge.

Request empowerment from the guru. The guru then bestows the four empowerments, purifying all defilements: (1) afflictive obscurations, (2) obscurations to knowledge, (3) obscurations to concentration, and (4) obscurations of body, speech, and mind. In addition, the seeds for the four kāyas, or enlightened bodies of a Buddha, are planted: (1) nirmāṇakāya, the emanation body, (2) sambhogakāya, the complete enjoyment body, (3) the jñānadharmakāya, the wisdom truth body, and (4) the svabhāvakaya, the nature body.

The guru is then delighted, melts into light, and dissolves into you. You become inseparable from the guru. At this point, meditate on Mahāmudrā.

Rinpoche requests that you receive further details of these foundation teachings from a qualified teacher, such as your Zurmang Kagyu center lama.