There are a couple of prefaces I feel like I should give as someone engaging in a Vajrayana practice. First, I am not a monk (surprise!). This means that I am not as well-focused as a Buddhist monk might be. Although I’ve been relatively good, I don’t always have time or mental space to engage in my practice as well as I should. Of course, this is related to being human!
Second, I am a Westerner who was not raised in a Buddhist tradition. I have practiced inconsistently, and only formally took refuge in a sangha this year—and from afar at that. Nonetheless, I have had good support and many good online resources. Yet I am also a bit of a “mad spiritualist” who has both taken up a Kagyu Buddhist practice on top of an Enochian practice.
Those nuances having been laid out, a bit of background about Ngöndro practice. It is considered a preliminary practice to the generation and completion phases of Vajrayana practices. The key to Ngöndro, I have found, is sustained propagation and emanation of love toward all sentient beings. Bodhicitta is considered the highest form of this love, and comes in relative and absolute forms. Essentially, on the one hand, one wishes for all sentient beings to realize Buddhahood (relative bodhicitta), and on the other hand, one also recognizes the inherent emptiness of all phenomena (absolute bodhicitta). Note that both forms are required for a wholistic view of bodhicitta. Without relative bodhicitta, one can easily lapse into nihilism. Without absolute bodhicitta, there is little hope of making progress: to some degree, things would just be as they are and the ability to actually realize Buddhahood would be limited due to some essential quality of fixity that could never be changed (this gets into the larger idea of all of reality having Buddha nature).
Incorporating bodhicitta into the Ngöndro path is vital. In practice this means I do not count progress towards reciting a mantra if I have not held bodhicitta towards all sentient beings while doing so. The practice I do is visualizing myself as the yidam Chakrasamvara in union with His dakini consort Vajravarahi as I recite his mantra.
The effects of this are what one would expect: working on the subtle body system and energetic changes. I’ll add that my path has surely not followed a “protocol,” but rather has mutated in interesting ways. Vajravarahi has joined with three other beings: Tara as well as the Enochian entities of the Daughter of Fortitude (or Babalon, if you prefer Crowley’s name), who is associated with the Aethyr of ZIP, and Galvah, identified with the “Mother in Heaven” by Aaron Leitch. At each of the four directions (and for each of the four faces/elements of Chakrasamvara) they unite with me in this visualization. I have also had a personal spirit consort who has arisen and taken her place at various directions but has settled within my torso (for now), enmeshing her heart with mine for further subtle body work.
It has been just under a year since I received the empowerment to begin practice and began doing so. I cannot pretend that things have gone entirely smoothly, and indeed during this past year it has been a rollercoaster across different dimensions of my life (for example, a close relative started treatment for cancer just before I took the empowerment). This, in turn, has made practice more difficult. Nonetheless, returning to the practice again and again has been helpful each time, and I intend to take less time than a year to finish the second half of the 100K mantra recitations, and then to move on to 100K prostrations.
Other effects of the Ngöndro practice are an easier time incorporating the sense of the clear light mind/dharmakaya, as well as not noticing any conflict between this practice and Enochian (if anything, they sort of complement each other well in my view, and the entities seem to understand each other and why, in my case, I use both). Beyond that, I don’t have a good conclusion, since nothing has been concluded, so I will simply sign off for now with the intent of giving more updates as they are relevant.