Suggestions for the Practice of Tonglen
seems like poison as medicine. Use your personal suffering as the path to compassion for all
practice, through our compassion, we take on (embrace without resistance) the various sufferings of all beings:
their fear, hurt, frustration, pain, anger, guilt, bitterness, loneliness, doubt, rage, and so forth. In return,
we give them our loving-kindness, happiness, peace of mind, well-being, healing, and fulfillment.
Sit quietly, calm the mind, and center yourself. Reflect on
the immense suffering that all beings everywhere experience. Allow their suffering to open your heart and awaken
your compassion. You may also choose to invoke the presence of all the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and enlightened
beings, so that through their inspiration and blessing, compassion may be born in your heart. In this way, you
are resting in bodhicitta—the
enlightened nature of the mind. Bodhicitta, is an inexhaustible source of purity, generosity, and
Imagine in front of you, as clearly as possible, someone you
care for who is suffering. Although this may be more challenging, you may also imagine someone you feel
indifferent toward, someone you consider to be an enemy, or those who have hurt you or others. Open yourself to
this person’s suffering. Allow yourself to feel connected with him or her, aware of their difficulties, pain,
and distress. Then, as you feel your heart opening in compassion toward the person, imagine that all of his or
her suffering comes out and gathers itself into a mass of hot, black, grimy smoke.
Now, visualize breathing in this mass of black smoke, seeing it dissolve into the very core
of your self-grasping (ego) at your heart center. There in your heart, it completely destroys all traces of fear
and selfishness (self-cherishing) and purifies all of your negative karma.
Imagine, now that your fear, self-centeredness and negative
karma has been completely destroyed, your enlightened heart (bodhicitta) is fully revealed. As you breathe out, imagine you are sending out the radiance of loving-kindness,
compassion, peace, happiness, and well-being to this person. See this brilliant radiance purifying all of their
negative karma. Send out any feelings that encourage healing, relaxation, and openness.
5. Continue this “giving and receiving” with each breath for as
long as you wish. At the end of your practice, generate a firm inner conviction that this person has been freed of
suffering and negative karma and is filled with peace, happiness and well-being. You may also wish to dedicate the
merit and virtue of your practice to the benefit of all sentient beings.
: Used with permission from
Neil Steven Cohen at Naljor Prison Dharma Service, PO Box 1177, Mount Shasta CA 96067. (