Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche has accomplished quite a coup: a text on the Ngondro preliminaries that simultaneously brings the Ngondro overachiever down to earth, provides a swift quick in the bum for the Ngondro slacker, and fosters greater enthusiasm and understanding in those already in the thick of the practices. The book is strong on context and the visceral, lived experience of the practices, less so on the detail, which Rinpoche repeatedly suggests is best to obtain directly from a teacher. The practice descriptions present the Longchen Nyingthig preliminary practices of the Nyingma lineage, and are quite sufficient to lay out the mechanics, particularly if accompanied by more specific commentary for those who want to pin down intricate points. The context and background explanations, however, apply to any Ngondro--indeed to any Tibetan Buddhist practice.
More importantly, the text provides insight and straight-to-the-heart purpose for engaging in the practices themselves. Rinpoche speaks with one foot solidly grounded in the traditional theory and methodology of practice, another in an open and kind understanding of practical challenges modern practitioners face. He is a recognized incarnation of a great Tibetan master, yet is thoroughly modern in his approach and life (he is also well known as the film maker behind "The Cup" and "Travelers and Magicians.") The combination of tradition and modernity provides for a vivid description of the meaning behind the practices, and a lively approach to actively encountering it in our own experience. The English editing is superb--the language is elegant, fluid, and rich without getting in the way of the substance.
As a Kagyu practitioner who remains an active fan after having completed one Mahamudra Ngondro, I found much to carry into my ongoing practice at all levels. As a student and translator of Tibetan Buddhist philosophy in traditional monasteries in Nepal and India, I recognized the scholarly vein of the monastic training in Rinpoche's delivery. Rinpoche peppers the text with seminal and relevant quotes and advice from genuine teachers of Tibetan Buddhism, particularly the Nyingma and Kagyu schools emphasizing the Ngondro as a foundational practice. The result is a text inlaid with nuggets of practical wisdom available for the reader to mine, contemplate, and apply to their practice. Much food for thought on many levels, practical and profound. Rinpoche is particularly effective in demystifying the central role of devotion to all practice.
I would highly recommend this thoroughly engaging book to those who wish to bring their spiritual practice to life. Sound, pragmatic advice that will get you reflecting on your motivation and approach in positive ways throughout the day, and send you to the cushion with fresh and enlivening insight to fuel your practice of awakening. I, for one, foresee returning to its inspiring and grounding blessings again and again. May all beings develop and suffuse their mindstreams with genuine devotion and understanding, bringing it to the complete perfection of buddhahood for the sake of all that lives!