Forum for discussion of Tibetan Buddhism. Questions specific to one school are best posted in the appropriate sub-forum.
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“Give all profit and gain to others,
Take all loss and defeat on yourself.”
---- Geshe Chekhawa
Tonglen is an ancient Tibetan practice. It literally means, “giving and receiving.”
It is an extremely powerful way to connect with self and others—particularly when there are interpersonal difficulties, or conflicts within ourselves about ourself.
When we find ourselves locked up in ourselves, Tonglen open us to the truth of the suffering of ourselves and others; particularly when our heart is blocked, Tonglen opens our heart and destroys those forces that obstruct it.
One day on his journey, he met a leper, who told him that this master had died.
However, Geshe Chekhawa persevered, and his rather long efforts were rewarded when he found the dead master’s principal disciple.
Geshe Chekhawa asked this disciple, “Just how important do you think these teachings contained in these two lines are?”
The disciple replied: “Whether you like it or not, you will have to practice this teaching if you truly wish to attain Buddhahood!”
Geshe Chekhawa was astonished by the reply, almost as much as he was when he first read the first two lines.
He stayed with this disciple for 12 years to study this teaching and to take to heart the practice of Tonglen.
During that time, Geshe had to face a variety of different ordeals: criticism, hardships and abuse.
Furthermore, the teaching was so effective, and his perseverance in the practice so intense, that after six years he had completely eradicated any self-grasping and self-cherishing, and was transformed into a master of compassion.
Tonglen can potentially break down barriers between “self” and “other.”
By actually being willing to take on others’ pain, we experience our commonality with all of those sentient beings who suffer just as we do.
Tonglen brings us from the abstract thinking level of compassion to the disciplined practice of sending and receiving.
The happiness and kindness we give away is the wealth we typically try to hoard for ourselves alone.
By offering it freely, through Tonglen, we acknowledge that no person can be happy or content in isolation.
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Yes, tonglen has vast benefits. I once asked my lama what practice I could do to benefit the spirit of someone in my town who had died tragically, and he said simply to do tonglen, which implies that even spirits could benefit from the positive energy one sends out during this meditation.
As the article pointed out, there are many variations of tonglen. The type I do right now involves breathing in my own negative thoughts, thinking of them disappearing inside me, and breathing out positive energy which all beings can benefit from. The important thing is to breathe naturally. I've read about other types which involve taking in the pain of others. And some other types involve visualizing oneself as a deity while doing tonglen. But I'll take things one step at a time.
My lama says that the true nature of our mind has the power to cleanse endless amounts of negativity without ever becoming tainted itself. He says what the world needs now is the positive energy sent out by meditations such as tonglen.