“Externally, the Buddha is the guide, the source of the Dharma; the Dharma is the path that Buddha showed; and the Sangha members are the people whose minds are turned toward the Dharma.
The Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha also exist internally and symbolically as a profound and skillful way to lead us out of samsara. From the point of view of absolute truth, even the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha are within us. Our mind is empty, radiant and aware, and that is the precious Buddha. Externally, the Dharma manifests as words and meaning that are heard and practiced, but internally the Dharma is the empty, unobstructed and self-luminous display of rigpa, or nondual awareness. Externally, the followers of the Dharma are the Sangha, but internally the Sangha is the all-pervading, all-encompassing quality of the mind. The Three Jewels are inherent within us, but since we do not recognize this, we take refuge externally in the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha with devotion. When you do Ngondro fully, you visualize the refuge tree with a fervent mind, do prostrations with a humble body, and recite the refuge prayer with meaningful speech.
At the end of the session, when you dissolve the visualization into yourself, you cultivate the realization that the practitioner, the objects of refuge, and the activity of taking refuge are merely reflections of your own rigpa. The refuge tree is your own creation. The instruction at that point is to simply remain in the nature of rigpa, because other than rigpa there is truly nothing to be found.
“Ngondro Practice According to the Dzogchen View”
His Holiness Dudjom Rinpoche
Excerpted in Illuminating The Path: Ngondro Instructions According to the Nyingma School of Vajrayana Buddhism (pg 20)
Photo of Ven. Khenpo Tsewang Dongyal Rinpoche with Sangha at Padma Samye Ling on August 23, 2021, by Lama Jomo Lorraine.
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