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(tib.: ngon dro) Literally, to go before or preliminary. These practices are found in all schools of Tibetan Buddhism and are usually done 100,000 times each; there are many preliminary practices, but the four main ones are usually: recitation of refuge and bodhicitta prayer, mandala offering, prostrations, Vajrasattva mantra recitation. Sometimes the four main ones are: guru yoga, Vajrasattva mantra recitation, prostrations and mandala offerings. The Gelug tradition adds five more: guru yoga, water bowl offerings, Damtsig Dorje purifiyng meditation, making tsa-tsas (small sacred images, usually made of clay), Dorje Khadro burnt offering.
Generally these practices help us to develop the two accumulations of merits and wisdom, necessary to our progression on the path. They help us to purify negativities which are obstacle to our practices, develop our faith and joy in the practice of Dharma. They also help us to stabilize our concentration. Here are more specific benefits of some of the preliminary practices:
- preliminary practice of guru yoga is mainly done to receive the blessings of the guru in order to achieve realizations of the path to enlightenment
- Vajrasattva practice and prostrations with meditation on and recitation of the holy names of the Thirty-five Buddhas are done to pacify obstacles
- mandala offerings are done particularly to collect merit, the necessary condition to have realizations of the path to enlightenment.