I will be taking a transmission for the Dudjom Tersar Ngondro practice next week. This is the basic, preliminary practice of the Vajrayana of the Nyingma school. Other schools have different versions of it or they call it by different names, but I believe that it is in all the branches of the Vajrayana. It incorporates meditation, mantra recitation and prostrations. I had begun doing a section of this practice, having received the transmission for a portion of it. I am assuming (although I don't know) that next week will be the entire practice.
This practice takes about 45 minutes to complete. There are about 5 sections to it and each section must be completed 100,000 times. While all sections do not have to be done at the same time, each part must be completed the requisite number of times. Therefore there is also counting and recording. This is called "accumulation."
In other words, a person could do 1,000 recitations a day of one mantra and nothing else - but this would have to be done consistently and recorded.
Spiritual practices such as this were deeply condemned by the church I was brought up in and no spiritual practice was ever recommended except Bible reading, memorization of verses in a helter skelter fashion, and prayer before meals .
I have nothing to compare to Ngondro in my background. Its on a whole different level.
I studied Catholicism for a short time and I know they do rosary recitations - that is probably the closest thing I can get to what this is, just as an outward comparison.
A person must be very disciplined to be able to complete this practice. As I see it, there must be two qualifications - the complete conviction that this is a worthwhile and meritorious thing to do. The second of course is self-discipline. If I don't have those two qualities, I will never be able to complete it. It is both physically and mentally demanding. It is NOT going to be easy.
Watching TV and staying on the computer all the time is easy and and those activities will have to be cut down.
Work is demanding and I am very tired when I come home. I will somehow have to do part of it even when physically I am very tired.
I can't help but compare the rigors of this practice to what Christianity recommended - which was that you do basically nothing but pray a "sinner's prayer". That was it! The heathens did "vain repetitions' but you don't need to do anything at all. Believe in Jesus and that was IT.
Too bad that reality is not a set of beliefs. That would be so simple.
It was very hard for me three years ago to see the connection between practices of Buddhism and the philosophy of Buddhism. I could not see how the sort of practices that were done could lead to what was set forth as the result - compassionate action. Chanting mantras, praying in Tibetan, doing mudras and other things like that were very strange and, of course, foreign. Some still are, no question about it, but the light is beginning to dawn.
The Ngondro practice is done in English. It is not irrelevant because this is a practice of mind training. It sets up a pattern, true, but it is a positive pattern and not a negative or a neutral thought pattern, which I am all the time doing anyway.