Tonglen -The Tibetan Practice of Giving and Taking Accelerates Your Spiritual Growth

| August 10, 2016 | Reply

Tonglen brings you amazing benefits if you can surmount the aversions in you that keep you stuck where you are.

Pema Chodron Tonglen

Tonglen will make you very aware of the things you don't like and don't want to deal with -aversions.​

Do you want more Love in your life?

Do you want to break down the barriers between yourself and others?

Above all, do you want to attain genuine, lasting Spiritual growth?

Then tonglen may be just the practice for you.

Tonglen is very simple and easy to do, but, in the beginning, you may discover some resistance to it within yourself

If you persevere you’ll experience big benefits. Tonglen will quite quickly:

1. Grow Love and compassion in you

2. Destroy the aversions that keep you caught in samsara just as surely as do the cravings that keep you from attaining freedom from rebirths.

3. Destroy your ego

Simple Tonglen Practice

This very basic tonglen practice is from Pema Chodron who is the first Western woman to become a Tibetan Buddhist nun.

“When you do tonglen on the spot, simply breathe in and breathe out, taking in pain and sending out spaciousness and relief.

When you do tonglen as a formal meditation practice, it has four stages:

1. First, rest your mind briefly, for a second or two, in a state of openness or stillness. This stage is traditionally called flashing on absolute bodhichitta, or suddenly opening to basic spaciousness and clarity.

2. Second, work with texture. Breathe in a feeling of hot, dark, and heavy-a sense of claustrophobia-and breathe out a feeling of cool, bright, and light-a sense of freshness. Breathe in completely, through all the pores of your body, and breathe out, radiate out, completely, through all the pores of your body. Do this until it feels synchronized with your in-and out-breaths.

3. Third, work with a personal situation-any painful situation that’s real to you. Traditionally you begin by doing tonglen for someone you care about and wish to help. However, as I described, if you are stuck, you can do the practice for the pain you are feeling and simultaneously for all those just like you who feel that kind of suffering. For instance, if you are feeling inadequate, you breathe that in for yourself and all the others in the same boat, and you send out confidence and adequacy or relief in any form you wish.

4. Finally, make the taking in and sending out bigger. If you are doing tonglen for someone you love, extend it out to those who are in the same situation as your friend. If you are doing tonglen for someone you see on television or on the street, do it for all the others in the same boat. Make it bigger than just that one person. If you are doing tonglen for all those who are feeling the anger or fear or whatever that you are trapped in, maybe that’s big enough. But you could go further in all these cases. You could do tonglen for people you consider to be your enemies-those who hurt you or hurt others. Do tonglen for them, thinking of them as having the same confusion and stuckness as your friend or yourself. Breathe in their pain and send them relief.”

So Pema Chodron’s tonglen practice is very simple:

1. Breathe in pain and suffering -yours or another’s.

2. Breathe out relief from pain and suffering.

(This relief can be just a relaxation of the tightness that arose inside you when you opened yourself to more suffering, sending compassionate Love, healing or any other form of relief.)

What meditation really does to us

I can hear some of you already, ‘What! Take on MORE pain and suffering? I’m meditating to GET RID of my pain and suffering. I want more love and light, not more darkness!”

You, like me, probably started meditating to improve your quality of life -to escape some from suffering -from stress, emotional or physical pain, a loss in your life…

I was looking for escape from chronic physical pain.

After 20 years of practice, and searching out the planet’s best meditation teachers, I’m still suffering.

In fact, my suffering has increased exponentially as my meditation has deepened. I’ve not only plumbed the depths of my own pain, I now feel the pain of an ever expanding body of other beings.

As my meditation deepens and my awareness expands, I experience more suffering -not less.

This goes on until, like Christ on Gethsemane, you experience the suffering of all sentient beings -an utterly overwhelming, crushing experience that changes you irrevocably.

Want to know what I know about pain and suffering now?

Realizing that my pain and suffering are simply of no importance was critical in changing my entire motivation for meditation.

But pain and suffering has and continues to play a very important role in my Spiritual practice.

They are the goads that drive me deeper and deeper, bringing me closer and closer to moksha (liberation).

Without them I would become quite a lazy fellow.

Taking on the pain and suffering of others through meditation and doing healing for them has:

1. Grown my own Love and compassion

2. Expanded my awareness of all phenomenon very quickly

3. Accelerated ego destruction

You can enjoy these same benefits and more through tonglen.

Next post I’ll share a very specific advanced tonglen practice given by the Venerable Lama Thubten Zopa Rinpoche that specifically targets your ego.

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