“The Nyingma tradition stresses the importance of uniting study and practice; Khenchen Rinpoche himself always mentioned this. This is a very special feature of the Nyingma school, and it’s always been this way—we didn’t just make it up. Study and practice go together. As we learn, so we apply. As we apply, the meaning of the teachings absorbs into our heart.
After you establish the foundation of the practice by honoring the lineage, taking refuge, and developing bodhichitta, next you began the principle part of the practice, which is divided into the creation stage and completion stage. The creation stage visualization generally has many parts, but they can be condensed into two: (1) building up the visualization and (2) mantra recitation.
In the broader scope of Buddhism, there are the two truths: relative truth and absolute truth. According to this terminology, creation stage practice is the relative truth, and completion stage practice is the absolute truth. This is also the case in the Inner Tantras.
Although these two might seem like different things, in reality they’re the same, just like east and west, or right and left are not really separate from one another. But duality mind cannot comprehend, recognize, or realize this, so the gracious teacher Buddha taught according to our readiness and understanding. He is guiding us, one after another to the level of reality. We’ve been outside reality in the duality world for so long, life after life after life. We’ve been away from the true nature, always staying off to one side. Now because of the teaching we’re coming back to the nature, to reality. We can’t return to the nature immediately because of our habitual patterns and the way we’ve been for such a long time. We have to develop slowly, gradually going through the Buddha’s teachings, just like in physical therapy. We’re so out of our body that they can’t fix us immediately, so they have to slowly make lots of adjustments until we can stand up by ourselves, fully functioning. Similarly, the Buddha gave all those different levels and categories of teachings. It’s not that the Buddha wanted to detour us, but we sentient beings can’t understand every- thing at once, so the Buddha taught according to our readiness.
It often says in the teachings that the Buddha taught according to individuals’ capabilities and readiness, gradually guiding them. That’s why in the nine yana teachings, the first teaching is very basic compared to the second teaching. The second teaching is a little deeper than the first teaching. It continues this way through all nine yanas, going deeper and deeper until you get to the ninth yana, which is the heart, the essence, the simple nature itself, without any kind of dualistic additions or supports. It’s totally out of duality at that point. That’s how the Buddha’s teachings are designed. So in a way, visualization stage practice is imagination; it’s a creation, building something up, but it will lead us to the nature beyond imagination.”
Venerable Khenpo Tsewang Dongyal Rinpoche
The Essential Journey of Life and Death, Vol. 1
Chapter 21: Main Practice (pgs 292-293)
Photo of the great wisdom dakini Yeshe Tsogyal from the Padma Samye Ling temple murals.
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