Another Take on Tonglen

Both Andrew and Joseph Parent frequently lead participants in Tonglen Practices which are excellent ways to send caring and compassion into a suffering world. I found an additional take about the practice attributed to Garchen Rinpoche, one of the best, and I thought it worth of a share.

The main practice I did in prison was Tonglen (giving and taking). Khenpo Munsel gave me many special oral instructions on Tonglen that were not in the text.

In Tonglen, we generally say that we are sending happiness out to others and taking others’ suffering in. But for the actual meaning of Tonglen, you have to understand the inseparability of self and other.

The ground of our minds is the same. We understand this from the View. In this context, even if there are many different types of suffering, there is really only one thing called “suffering.” there is only one suffering, he taught. If there is only one suffering, then at this time when you, yourself, have great suffering, you should think, “The minds of the sentient beings of the three realms and my mind have the same ground.” The essence of the suffering of the sentient beings of the three realms and your own suffering is the same. If you see them as the same, if you see them as being non-dual, and then meditate on that suffering in the mind’s natural state, that suffering goes away. At that moment, you have been able to lessen the suffering of all sentient beings of the three realms, all at once.

The “len” of Tonglen means “taking”. First, take in this way. “Tong” means “giving”. If you understand mind’s nature, then you recognize the essence of whatever suffering and afflictive emotions there may be to be emptiness. When suffering does not harm you anymore, the mind has great bliss. If at that time you meditate, making self and others inseparable, then that bliss can diminish the self-grasping of all sentient beings. It can lessen the self-grasping. The happiness that is being given is the bliss that comes from the practice of giving and taking. This is how you should practice.

This is very special. Others do not explain it this way.

Source: Christina Lundberg, “For the Benefit of All Beings

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