On the Practice

Teaching on the Nyung-ne Practice

Ven, Lama Ganga, Rinpoche at Karma Triyana Dharmachakra
Spring, 1988

First, engender the proper attitude: learn this practice with the wish to liberate all sentient beings from suffering.

This teaching is divided into the basis, the classification, the essence, the benefits, and the faults of not doing the nyung-ne practice.

This is the eight branch nyung-ne practice, as there are eight precepts taken. Our motivation is crucial,  If the practice is done to benefit one’s self, then it’s not mahayana practice. The practice should be done one-pointedly, and to benefit others. If for the enjoyment of the place, the group, the teacher, or to test oneself, the result is limited, although better than nothing.

The nyung-ne practice includes the nyi-ne practice, or taking the eight precepts from dawn to dawn.  These include the four root vows of not killing, not stealing, not lying, of abandoning and avoiding sexual misconduct, and the four branch vows  of no intoxicants, not taking an elevated seat, not taking food at the wrong time, and not using perfume or adornment, and not singing or dancing. The nyung-ne also includes putting body, speech, and mind into the accumulation of virtue, through prostrations, prayers, mantras, fasting, and no gossip.

The four root vows are similar to nun’s and monk’s vows, but since the time is shorter, the discipline is more strict for the nyung-ne.

The purpose of the nyung-ne practice is to remind us of the suffering in the lower realms.  It arouses a desire to liberate them, and not to fall there.

The practice integrates the three yanas: Hinayana by being outwardly disciplined, with gentleness of physical movements; Mahayana by mentally maintaining the bodhisattva mind: and secretly because it is a tantric practice.

The outward discipline includes cleanliness of body, house, room, altar, offerings.  Clothes should be casual, clean, and not flashy. Manners elegant and polite. Mindfulness of all actions should be maintained, including yawning, sneezing, farting, bathing , etc.  When returning to the room, purify mouth with purification water (except on the second day, then rub into hair, clothes).

Solid food at mid-day, liquid all day, first day.  Timely food, on one mat–once up, finished.  The amount of food is not important.  Servers will come around with second helpings.

Food should be divided into three portions:  one to offer to the guru and the three jewels, one to one’s self, and one to the birds, dogs, insects, etc. Diet is white food:  no meat, onion, garlic, or turnips.  Garlic harms the enriching quality of the mantra.

After lunch, until around 10:00 or ‘when your head touches your pillow’, liquids only.  Once in bed, observe fasting, no drinking, and silence all the next day.

The inner discipline includes maintaining the mind of bodhicitta,the wish to benefit others, and the practice of the six perfections (generosity, morality, patience, diligence, meditative concentration, and wisdom).  We take the vow of no jewelry, make up, perfume, dance, but is music a contradiction? Dharmic music is to keep us in a non-judgmental state.

There are two aspects to Dharma practice.  The positive aspect is that through proper practice we will reach enlightenment.  The negative side is that because of fasting and silence, we may develop a dislike toward the
practice.  We must maintain a proper attitude.  To prevent negative thoughts we should not just tolerate the hunger and thirst, but take joy in it, appreciate our human life, develop compassion for the beings of the lower realms and an urge to liberate them.  We should be joyous and untiring.

Traditionally in Tibet, the nyung-ne practice started when it was light enough to see the palm of your hand, and lasted until about 10:00pm with no break.  You would cleanse if coming back from wherever.  However, in the west, this is not followed because the Dharma is new, and not yet strongly cultivated.  We can get more like the Tibetan tradition, practice, and should have our total effort.

This is a two day practice, and should have our total effort.  As nyung-ne leader I am very lazy, I have jet lag, I don’t feel very well, and will fall asleep during the practice.  Don’t take me as an example, but exert yourselves fully.  I’ll do the best I can. What inspires us most is the four ordinary thoughts that turn our minds to the Dharma; precious human birth, impermanence, the infallability of karma and its results,~ and the shortcomings and meaninglessness of samsara.

Be logical, rational, practical about the four thoughts. It is very difficult to obtain a precious human birth,  this is a rare opportunity.

And this precious human life is impermanent.  Impermanence cannot be reversed.  There is no time to waste.

Karma, or cause and effect, is infallable.

We should delight in virtue.

And samsara.  We are attached to it, and hope it will produce joy and happiness,  But its nature is suffering. Does money make us happy?  If we don’t have it, we’re miserable.  If we have it we worry about keeping it. Do our homes make us happy?  Mortgages, insurance, bills, rent, arguments with landlords,  it’s meaningless. We can attune to mahamudra practice, with no attachment.  Our interest in worldly activities should be like a criminal going to his execution.  We re no different.

We are close to a dark kalpa, it is sometimes difficult to understand karma.  Those who engage in destructive action seem to be happy. Those who engage in virtuous action may constantly suffer.  Wrong views arise.  But the happiness and suffering we experience are the result of previous actions.  We must not waste detatch ourselves from samsara.  By practicing we gain self confidence in not having wasted our opportunity, and learn the proper means of applying the Dharma to ourselves.

The manner of practice is more important than the actual practice.  Therefore we must grasp the three sacrednesses:
1- Knowing the root of virtue is bodhicitta, all activity is to liberate our mothers as vast as the sky.
2- To be  sure nothing interferes with virtue,  maintain attention and concentration in practice.  Continuously feel the sacredness or oneness with the deity–don’t let one thought interfere.
3- To increase and prevent the destruction of the accumulation of merit, dedicate merit to the liberation of all sentient beings. The three sacrednesses are important in all practices.

The nyung-ne practice can thus be a very beneficial two day practice.  To make the eight precepts lead to enlightenment, we have an infinite potential goal–for all sentient beings .  This is essential to  mahayana practice,  to learn not to be selfish. It is not proper for us to practice to get a name as a devoted practitioner.  It must be to liberate all sentient beings from samsara.

There are three categories of students:  high, average, and lesser.

The highest totally abandon selfish attitudes, see all beings as their parents, and work for their liberation, The average student, having learned the meaninglessness of samsara, work for higher birth and self liberation.

The lesser student, fearing the pain and suffering of the three lower realms, with no knowledge of enlightenment, work to prevent birth in the lower realms, Learn to be the highest

AFTERNOON SESSION: Again we are reminded to engender bodhicitta, the wish to establish all beings as vast as the sky in the state of enlightenment, and to receive this teaching with that motivation. The meaning of the SO JONG vows we take for on the two days of the practice is twofold.  SO means to renew, so we are renewing previous vows.  And JONG means to purify, so we are purifying whatever vows have been transgressed or broken, we should hold the eight nyung-ne precepts with an altruistic mind, a stable mind throughout the practice.

We should hold It is also necessary to develop a detatchment from samsara, a fire of pain, burning, and misery.  With this thought of suffering, remember that our many parents, not recognizing the truth, are unable to separate themselves from samsara.  We can thus develop compassion toward these beings who are gripped by their conflicting emotions.

Since our mother and father sentient beings are suffering in this cycle of samsara, how wonderful it would be to liberate them all! We should urge our guru and yidam to help in this.

Devotion, determination, and great yearning are necessary when practicing. May power, strength, and courage grow in me to this end!

Memorize all the words in the prayer by heart.  Repeat it over and over in order to lead all sentient beings to enlightenment. This is how to receive the vows.

It is important to slowly rid ourselves of selfish feelings, and to engender bodhicitta.

Benefits of such practice:
The essence of the practice is Chenrezig.
The dharmakaya aspect is Amitabha. There are countless Chenrezig emanations in the sambhogakaya.

This symbolizes 22,000 enlightened beings, from the right eye of Amitabha emanate the eleven-headed Chenrezigs.  From the left eve emanate Vajrapanis.

From the right hand, Padmasambhava. Particularly to devoted students in Tibet, Chenrezig is the most effective deity for awakening the enlightened mind.

There are different eleven-headed practices of Chenrezig, different transmissions, different yogas.  This one is from chaya yoga, itself divided into six:  three worldly, and three transcendental.  This is
Lotus Chaya Yoga.  Its outcome is Pureland. The origin of the practice is from the primordial Chenrezig.  The princess of a powerful worldly king, emanated from Dorje Palmo and Tara, Gelongma Palmo had accumulated negative karma,  She developed leprosy, and was banished to the forest,  Raised in a palace, and sent alone to the forest. There was no one to help her but Chenrezig.  She came across a statue of
Chenrezig, and felt great warmth from it. She prayed to the statue, and water sprang from it, curing her leprosy.  The lineage of this practice has continued unbroken until now.  This entire lineage is included in the text of the prayer: it was passed down to Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Thaye,  a long version of the practice was written by him, but was so long the Tashi Wesar condensed it into this shorter form that we do.

Combining the day-long nyi-ne practice of the eight Hinayana precepts with the positive attitude of the Mahayana motivation of bodhicitta of the nyung-ne is aimed toward benefitting householders and laypeople.

With the willingness to endure the hardships of the practice, with the Mahayana motivation, and the Hinayana discipline, we must practice as done by Buddhas and Bodhisattvas of the past, never giving up working for all sentient beings, no matter how difficult.  This is the proper attitude for receiving the vows. The conduct of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas is vast. put to use the teachings of Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche on Bodhisattva action. Take the vows with the intent of practicing like these great beings.

Put to use During the practice, the vows are repeated three times, each time with a different motivation. The first time take the vows with the motivation of taking refuge, so that all sentient beings receive the protection the three jewels, and the teacher.

The second repetition is a self-repetition, so that I will practice as the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas of the three times practice. The third repetition is the external or other repetition. Having taken the vows, the teacher then says we have gotten the precepts at the time of the finger snap.

Within the eight branch precepts, discipline is needed for cutting through the harmful actions of the root vows of killing, stealing, lying, and sexual misconduct.  The necessity of mindfulness through the practice is the reason for not using intoxicants. Maintaining gentle, peaceful conduct is the reason for the three remaining branch vows.  We give up the life of excitement… ornaments, music, dancing, sitting on a high and expensive seat,  untimely food, no solid food after the noon meal.

Having received the eight precepts, we recite the long mantra to purify and develop merit.  It is the mantra of Amoghasiddhi.

Next is the prayer and mantra of Manjushri to stabilize bodhicitta in one’s self.

The benefit of one nyung-ne is that for four kalpas one can practice Chenrezig,  taking birth in the lower realms is totally blocked.

The benefit of eight nyung-nes is that the moment one dies one is reborn in Dewachen. Immediately, in one of the sutras it is said that if this is not true, given that the practice is done diligently, then he is a liar. But this result is based upon trust.  Doubt could jeopardize one’s rebirth in Dewachen.

The nyung-ne practice is the quickest way to purify negative karma.  For example, pain endured during the practice purifies karma that could lead to birth in the hell realms,  Hunger and thirst endured purifies karma that could lead to birth in the hungry ghost realms. Exertion to overcome dullness and sleepiness purifies karma that could lead to rebirth in the animal realm.  This is how, with trust, birth in the lower realms is blocked.

It is beneficial to practice,  and also to serve the practitioners.  When some servers died, their bodies produced relics.

The following story shows the benefits of the nyung-ne practice, how very negative karma can be purified.  A husband and wife lived in Tibet.  The husband was a merchant, and had to travel to India.  He would be gone for three years.  While he was gone, the wife married someone else.  His wealth ran out.  They had a seven year old son.  Her first husband was returning soon. She killed the son, but this was noticed by a monk,  She invited several people to lunch and poisoned the food, killing fifteen people, including the monk. Someone told her husband anyway.  He planned to torture her by removing both her eyes.  She heard about this, and ran away. She met Dewa Zhonnu, second in the lineage to Gelongma Palmo, and confessed.  She did eight pairs of nyung-nes, with poor discipline.  She did not do them properly.  She drank water during the first nyung-ne.  She ate offerings from the shrine during the second.  She died of old age. Later, Dawa Zhonnu was giving a teaching, and a student asked him about the lady.  His answer showed the benefit of the nyung-ne practice. She had taken birth in a brahman family, but because of drinking the water, she was mentally unstable and spacey.  Because of eating the offering, her body was deformed.  But because of her devotion, she will be born in Dewachen her next birth.  She was born as a human with defects only because of breaking the vows.

The length of time to keep the discipline is short.  Keep the vows as pure as possible.  It is a great purification, and not a great hardship.  With awareness that it is a vajrayana practice, have respect for the practice, Maintain the mahayana motivation. Lama Ganga hopes you will take it seriously.