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Om Ma Ni Pe Me Hung

Six Syllable Mantra of Avalokitesvara/Chenrezig:

Buddha of Compassion


May All Beings Benefit!



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Tonglen Meditation:

Increasing Compassion For All Beings (Including Self)

Tonglen means "giving and receiving." Tonglen is intended to uncover and awaken our bodhicitta, 

our enlightened courage, and thus bring us close to realizing our innate wisdom [Buddha] nature.


“Tonglen may benefit others, but that is difficult to assess. But it is clearly beneficial to the practitioner.”
 H. H. Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama


“May I be the protector to the vulnerable;  a guide to those traveling; a bridge for the farther shore.

May the suffering of all completely cease. May I be the healer and medicine,

nursing all the sick of this world, until everyone is well.”

Sometimes people say, “How can I be happy, when there is so much pain and suffering in the world?” It seems to them somehow wrong to enjoy life when they are acutely aware of the suffering of other beings. Their empathy has become an obstacle to joy. Often one will find in such people a good deal of anger and frustration. They believe things are not as they should be, and they feel powerless to make them right.


Cultivation of compassion is a gift we can give to the world and to ourselves. It is a tool for creating peace. When we establish peace in our hearts and minds, we are in a position to share that peace with other beings and begin to relieve some of their suffering. Tibetan Buddhism has developed numerous meditation practices to deepen compassion. One of these is called Tonglen.


Recently, when the Dalai Lama was touring the United States, he recommended the practice of Tonglen. He made it very simple. Tonglen, he said, is giving and taking. As you inhale, take on the suffering of others. As you exhale, give out to them all your gifts, virtues and positive qualities.


Sogyal Rinpoche describes the practice in more elaborate form in The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying. He writes :

“When you feel yourself locked in upon yourself, Tonglen opens you to the truth of the suffering of others; when your heart is blocked, it destroys those forces that are obstructing it; and when you feel estranged from the person who is in pain before you, or bitter or despairing, it helps you to find within yourself and then to reveal the loving, expansive radiance of your own true nature. No other practice I know is as effective in destroying the self-grasping, self-cherishing, self-absorption of the ego, which is the root of all our suffering and the root of all hard-heartedness.”


What do we mean when we speak of a truly compassionate kindness? Compassion is essentially concern for

others' welfare -- their happiness and their suffering. Others wish to avoid misery as much as we do.

So a compassionate person feels concerned when others are miserable and develops a positive intention to free

them from it. As ordinary beings, our feeling of closeness to our friends and relatives is little more than

 an _expression of clinging desire. It needs to be tempered, not enhanced. It is important not to confuse

attachment and compassion.... A compassionate thought is motivated by a wish to help release beings

from their misery.

-- by The Dalai Lama, from Stages of Meditation

Training in the Compassion Practices of Tonglen

By Christine Longaker

Copyright 1997 C. Longaker and Rigpa Fellowship: "Facing Death and Finding Hope"


Giving and Receiving

Tonglen means "giving and receiving." In the Tonglen visualization, we receive, with a strong compassionate motivation, the suffering and pain of others; and we give them, with a tender and confident heart, all of our love, joy, well-being and peace. Normally, we don't want to give away our happiness, nor do we want to take on another person's suffering, but this not-wanting is the voice of our selfish ego. We cherish "I" more than we do "others" and thus everything we think or do has a self-centered motivation. Following our ego's commands all the time keeps us trapped in cycles of hope and frustration, fear and disappointment.

The voice of your ego may warn you that Tonglen could "harm" you, but this is not true. The compassion practices are designed to unravel the selfish patterning of the ego and gradually reinforce your confidence in the radiant wisdom and compassion of your true nature, which is indestructible. Tonglen is a skillful training in a completely new way of being, in which you begin to develop a limitless, fearless and unbiased compassion toward all creation. One key to attaining enlightenment is to develop your compassion so profoundly that you come to love and cherish all other beings more than yourself.


Thus although at first the Tonglen practice appears to be a courageous response to the suffering of others, you will find that training in compassion is actually benefiting you and bringing you further along the path to liberation. The Tonglen practices may also enable you to:

  • Bring difficulties and illness onto your spiritual path
  • Heal your past and present suffering
  • Prevent or relieve burnout
  • Transform your relationship with others

...Finally, doing the Tonglen practice while we are ill or disabled is an extraordinary way of bringing meaning to our suffering, and it enables us to begin using each life experience as a preparation for our death. The Tonglen practice enables us to transcend our suffering by dedicating it to others, thus literally "forgetting ourselves" in the process.


Copyright 1997 C. Longaker and Rigpa Fellowship: "Facing Death and Finding Hope"

Eternal Knot


Instructions for Spiritual Practice by Shakyamuni Buddha

from the Kalama Sutta (Anguttara Nikaya Vol. 1, 188-193 P.T.S. Ed.)

   Do not believe in anything (simply) because you have heard it.

Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations.

Do not believe in anything because it is spoken and rumored by many.

Do not believe in anything (simply) because it is found written in your religious books.

Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders.

But after observation and analysis when you find that anything agrees with reason

and it is conductive to the good and benefit of one and all –

then accept it and live up to it.


"Take advantage of this human boat; Free yourself from sorrow's mighty stream!

This vessel will be later hard to find. The time that you have now, you fool, is not for sleep!"  

Shantideva, Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life, chapter VII, verse 14  




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