I didn’t get to reply to you earlier. It is very good that you have quite a lot of prayers to do. Lama Tsongkhapa Guru Yoga is recommended; it is very good as a daily practice. Within that, there’s The Foundation of All Good Qualities, which contains the whole path and gives the imprints for the path to enlightenment. If you do this every day, sooner or later you are bound to have realizations and achieve enlightenment; to liberate numberless sentient beings from the ocean of suffering and bring them to enlightenment.
You also mentioned reciting the Three Principal Aspects of the Path. It is also very important to do the Vajrasattva practice with the four remedial powers, so that it becomes a perfect confession.
One very important practice that is missing, is prostrations to the Thirty-five Buddhas in the morning. Do this in the morning, but it’s good if you can do it more often. If possible, do the prostrations to the Thirty-five Buddhas before your Vajrasattva practice and mantra recitation.
In the morning, you can start with reciting the names of the buddhas. Repeat each name three times—that’s very good. At least do that with your prostrations. Meanwhile in the evening, just repeat the names once. If you can do it in the evening, just recite the names only one time, but do the last part when you finish, otherwise it doesn’t become a complete confession practice.
Also, you can do the practice of Guru Devotion with the Nine Attitudes and integrate this into your practice of Lama Tsongkhapa Guru Yoga. How do you do this? When you recite the Foundation of All Good Qualities, recite the first stanza, then do the Nine Attitudes. Integrate the practice like that.
If you are reciting the long version of the Six-session Guru Yoga, then integrate the Nine Attitudes into this practice where it talks about the guru, “… seeing this I forsake my body and even my life; Bless me to practice what will only please you.” You can do the Nine Attitudes here.
Your main deity is Vajrayogini. What you need to understand is: to become enlightened and to lead all sentient beings to full enlightenment, you should learn the complete path of Vajrayogini.
Do the longer Vajrayogini sadhana, but for the other sadhanas do the short ones. This way, you can spend more time meditating on Vajrayogini while chanting mantras. Chant the Vajrayogini mantra, not only while you are doing the sadhana but when you are walking around. Then when you die you will be able to easily remember the mantra of Vajrayogini, and Vajrayogini will bring you to the pure land.
Therefore, the most important practice now is to develop the mind on the path to enlightenment. Why? Because your main purpose in life is to liberate numberless sentient beings from the ocean of samsaric sufferings and bring them to full enlightenment.
For that, you need to achieve enlightenment first. Therefore you need to actualize the graduated path; therefore you need to meditate and train the mind in the path.
One meditation you should do every day is guru devotion, but how long you do it for depends on your daily time. Sometimes you may spend longer doing it, at other times you may do it for a shorter time, depending on your time in the daily life. But you should do the daily guru devotion meditation until you have generated stable realization.
Train the mind in the graduated path of the lower capable being – that means from perfect human rebirth to karma. Do this for five months. Spend one week for each meditation topic up to karma, for example, then come back and repeat again.
Spend two months on the graduated path of the middle capable being, following the outline commentary for your meditation. You can use Liberation in the Palm of your Hand, Geshe Sopa’s lam-rim text or Lama Tsongkhapa’s lam-rim teachings.
Spend three months on the graduated path of the higher capable being, three months on bodhicitta, and three months on great insight, emptiness.
These topics are the main focus of your meditation during those times. After that, start again from the perfect human rebirth, and continue one-by-one. You can spend weeks, months and even years meditating on these topics until you achieve realizations.
So this is the main practice, how to develop the mind in the path to enlightenment; in other words: how to make it possible to attain enlightenment.
Each year do retreat with whatever time you can find—days or months. Do a particular preliminary retreat combined with lam-rim, or lam-rim retreat combined with the preliminary practice. Also, from time to time do deity retreat, tantric retreat.
- 200,000: Refuge
- 300,000: Generating the Four Immeasurable Thoughts. These are not just words for reciting; you should think about the meaning.
- 10,000: Vajrasattva mantra
- 50,000: Dorje Khadro Fire Puja
- 50,000: Mandala offerings
- 300,000: Guru yoga (on the basis of doing Lama Chöpa/Guru Puja, but mainly Lama Tsongkhapa Guru Yoga, then count the migtsema mantras 300,000 times. If you are in retreat, do Lama Chöpa in the morning, then count the migtsema.) This guru yoga practice is very important.
Write the Diamond Cutter Sutra from time to time, but you don’t have to rush. You don’t have to finish it quickly, unless you have time. Write some of it each day. This also leaves positive imprints to realize emptiness.
By doing these practices , you make it possible to achieve lam-rim realizations. This is by:
- Doing preliminary practices to purify obstacles;
- Creating extensive merits;
- Training the mind in guru devotion—seeing the guru as Buddha with full effort, by applying the Buddha’s quotations and reasonings.
- Then the fourth one is the actual body, meditating on the path, as I have already explained to you.