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“If you practice more kindness and tolerance, you will find more peace.” The Dalai Lama

Tonglen: Exchanging Self for Others

Pema Chodron writes: “Tonglen has to do with cultivating fearlessness. It opens your heart and gives you courage. In tonglen, you breathe in pain; you acknowledge the suffering of the world. You explore the discomfort of the human condition. And then, with every out breath, you open. You connect with your feelings of joy, well-being, satisfaction and tenderheartedness."

"This practice brings the realization that you can feel both suffering and joy – that both are part of being human. Your heart will open, and you will become less concerned with personal protection. You will cultivate fearlessness and compassion. And that will be of great benefit to others.”

Pema Chodron gives detailed Tonglen practice instruction in her book, The Wisdom of No Escape and the Path of Loving Kindness. And in a CD called, Good Medicine: How to Turn Pain into Compassion with Tonglen Meditation.

The Dalai Lama says that he does Tonglen every day, and in particular for the Chinese officials who torture and kill Tibetans. He says: “I visualize them and draw their ignorance, prejudice, hatred and pride into myself. I do this with such strong feeling that if later I hear about atrocities, the intensity of my own negative feelings is reduce to the point of groundlessness."

"There are many Buddhist practices that cannot actually be achieved – like this one – but are there for developing strong will and determination and openness. For example, you cannot actually give away your happiness and take other’s suffering on yourself. But the practice will certainly increase your compassion.”

The Dalai Lama suggests beginning the practice with “equalizing,” which means, “to realize that each and every sentient being wants happiness and does not want suffering, just like you.” With that in mind, he imagines that this practice actually reduces suffering in the world, but he says that “whether this meditation really helps others or not, it gives me peace of mind. Then I can be more effective, and the benefit is immense.”

Books Available from Amazon

The Wisdom of No Escape And The Path of Loving Kindness, by Pema Chodron, ($10) and the same book in a pocket edition: Awakening Loving-Kindness, ($7). This book is a series of meditation instruction talks by the American Buddhist nun who is among the most popular modern meditation teachers.

How to Practice: The Way to a Meaningful Life, by the Dalai Lama ($20) A practical explanation of Buddhism and Buddhist meditation techniques that includes instructions for several practices.

Good Medicine: How to Turn Pain Into Compassion with Tonglen Meditation, by Pema Chodron (CD, $17) Sixteen recorded talks and guided meditation practices in Pema's charming, intimate style.

The Compassion Box by Pema Chodron,($18) comes with a 43-minute CD with Chodron's spoken instructions on tonglen meditation, a pocket-sized book, and 59 lojong cards with the teachings on one side and Chodron's commentary on the other.

When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times, by Pema Chodron ($13) and on CD ($24). How to free ourselves to face fear and obstacles, and offer ourselves unflinchingly to others. The graceful, conversational tone of Chodron's writing gives the impression of sitting on a pillow across from Pema herself.

Training the Mind and Cultivating Loving Kindness, by Chogyam Trungpa, ($10). This book introduces and explains 59 slogans that can be used to breath life into your daily meditation practice.

Links

The Tibetan Government in Exile maintains information about the Dalai Lama at their site: www.tibet.com

Pema Chodron’s biography and teaching schedule is on her website: www.gampoabbey.org And there is also information about Pema through the Shambhala organization: www.shambhala.org

Biography of Chogyam Trungpa The Shambhala organization carries on his teachings in centers worldwide. www.shambhala.org.

The Insight Meditation Society, founded by Sharon Salzberg and others, offers training in Loving Kindness and Vipassana meditation techniques, including Tonglen. Their site has links to other centers teaching these practices.

The Shambhala organization offers both Buddhist and Shambhala meditation programs all around the world. Check the site www.shambhala.org.