Once we have considered the causes and conditions of cyclic existence in the context of the four thoughts, the need to find release from this turbulent ocean of suffering becomes urgent.

We long to go beyond relative reality to absolute truth.

The impure experience explored through the outer preliminaries gives way to pure experience revealed through the extraordinary preliminaries of:

(1) Refuge and bodhicitta,

(2) Mandala offerings,

(3) Vajrasattva purification,

(4) Guru yoga, and

(5) Transference of consciousness.

Each of these practices sets the stage for realization of the absolute nature of all appearances.

(1) Visualizations of Guru Rinpoche, Vajrasattva, and Amitabha engage the pure form aspect of the lama, and

(2) Recitation of prayers and mantra the lama’s pure speech.

(3) Meditative concentration and resting nondually in the absolute lama call forth the lama’s enlightened mind.

Our faith in the lama at the outset of the extraordinary preliminary practices is consummated by the nondual experience of the three secret vajras, that is, the experience of all form, sound, and mental events as inseparable from the vajra (enlightened) body, speech, and mind of the lama.

Seeking protection from samsara, seeking enlightenment, we find refuge in the Three Jewels of the Buddha-dharma—in the Buddha Shakyamuni, who flawlessly demonstrated the path to enlightenment; in the dharma, his teachings; and in the sangha, those who follow the path he demonstrated and hold unbroken lineage transmission.

In Vajrayana, other names for the sources of refuge are the “Three Roots” and “Three Kayas.”

Through ngondro practice and the teachings of our lama, we come to view the sources of refuge—the Three Jewels, Roots, and Kayas—not as nine entities, but as nine facets of absolute refuge, interdependent and inseparable.

As Vajrayana practitioners, we take refuge from now until enlightenment with the bodhicitta motivation to lead all beings to liberation.

In the context of the Dudjom Tersar Ngondro, we recite prayers of refuge and bodhicitta together as we perform prostrations.

In other ngondros, practitioners recite refuge only during prostrations, and bodhicitta is completed afterward, as a separate practice.

However, in the oral instructions given by His Holiness Dudjom Jigdral Yeshe Dorje for the Tersar Ngondro, both prayers are recited.

Bodhicitta exalts our sense of refuge. We understand that all beings are ensnared in the predicament of samsara. When we pray for protection, we pray that they likewise will find safety and refuge.

When we pray for enlightenment, we pray that we can guide them to that same state.

We include all beings in every prostration through visualization, prayer, and intention.

Source: Tromge, Jane. Ngondro Commentary: Instructions for the Concise Preliminary Practices of the New Treasure of Dudjom. Compiled from the teachings of H.E. Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche by Jane Tromge. Junction City, CA: Padma Publishing, 1995.