The following is a list that most practitioners follow on the “Quick Path to Enlightenment.” These steps include:
PHASE I: Find and become a disciple of an authentic, competent vajra master whether it be a monk or nun, a virtuous layperson, a lama, a rinpoche, or a dharma king.
PHASE II: Read, listen to, understand, and practice “What Is Cultivation?” and develop eight fundamental right views. This will enable you to have sufficient merit to receive esoteric teachings. You continue to practice these eight after you receive the esoteric teachings of tantra.
The first three consists of understanding the reasons for practicing any form of Buddhism and need to be understood prior to taking refuge.
1-Realize and fear impermanence (death and reincarnation)
2-Develop firm belief in the suffering of samsara.
3-Develop renunciation (mind to leave samsara).
5-Maintain diligence, study the exoteric or open teachings of the Buddha as taught in the Tripitaka and in the books and discourses by H. H. Dorje Chang Buddha III and practice the Four Unlimited States of Mind, the Ten Virtues or Good Characteristics, the Six Paramitas, and the Four All-Embracing Bodhisattva Virtues cutting off the bad karma of greed, hatred, and ignorance.
6-Obey all the precepts. If you violate the sacred precepts, you cannot become enlightened in this lifetime.
7-Develop concentration by maintaining steadfastness and immovability, not being attached to either joy or sorrow or any other emotional states (eight winds), and building dharma wisdom. Wisdom, per se, cannot be taught. It is the result of keeping the precepts as well as developing concentration and cultivation to eliminate karmic obstacles.
8- Generate bodhichitta.
If during your practice you have wrong behavior, you will have problems. You must check yourself as you cultivate yourself. The Buddha said that you need to retain “beginner’s mind” throughout your practice. No one else will check you. You must develop a conscience that monitors your own behavior. You need to regain the ability to hear that inner voice that tells you what to do. Your progress on this path and your “accomplishments” will be your proof of correct cultivation. No accomplishments only means you don’t have it right. This is not something that you can blame on anyone else—not your parents, your guru, some higher power, etc. You have to accept responsibility for your evolution, knowing that there are higher beings who will help you, if you are moving in the proper direction. How do you know what the proper direction is? You listen to discourses and read books by genuine dharma kings and great rinpoches and observe the cause and effect of your actions.
PHASE III: Perform necessary “Preliminary Practices” of esoteric Buddhism, study and avoid the “128 Evil and Erroneous Views” and other required esoteric texts as determined by your vajra master. You may also receive certain initiations and empowerments to eliminate negative karmic obstructions and plant the karmic seeds to accelerate your progression.
PHASE IV: Request and receive initiation and empowerment to practice tantra to become enlightened and liberated from the cycle of birth and death. Normally a vajra master will observe a disciple for six to twelve years before teaching tantra in order to determine the disciple’s karmic affinity to receive the dharma—his or her level of cultivation, devotion, determination, and loyalty as well as where the disciple puts benefiting living beings. The generation of bodhichitta is absolutely essential to be able to successfully practice tantra. Most practitioners follow the above program step by step. There are special cases where this approach does not apply. Some people may have learned these lessons and perfected these practices in a previous life or they may have received a special dispensation from their vajra master due to special karmic conditions. The guru can only give this dispensation if he or she has the permission of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas and that can only happen through the inner tantric initiation process.