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    Modern version of the Eternal Knot by Charles Huttner
A View on Buddhism
Teksty w jezyku polskim     Deutsche Seiten

TONGLEN - TAKING AND GIVING

PAGE CONTENTS
Introduction
A sample meditation session

"Without attuning body, speech and mind unto the Doctrine,
What gain is it to celebrate religious rites?
If anger be unconquered by its antidote,
What gain is it to celebrate religious rites?
Unless one meditate on loving others more than self,
What gain is it merely from the lips to say: 'O, Pity (sentient beings)"
Milarepa (From Evan Wentz 'Tibet's Great Yogi Milarepa')

INTRODUCTION

This meditation technique can be extremely powerful when practised correctly. To me, it represents the full idea of a Bodhisattva; a being who wishes to help all sentient beings, without concern for his/her own interests. It is adviseable to read the pages on Meditation Theory (chapter on Vipashyana) and Meditation Practice if you are not used to (analytical) meditation..

In case you find this meditation very difficult to do, it may well be a very positive sign! It is definitely extremely difficult to let go of our selfish attitude and deciding to give all one's own happiness and positive karma to others and take upon oneself the suffering of all sentient beings. If you do this meditation seriously, it cannot be easy - unless you are an extremely advanced practitioner. If you realise that doing this practice is too difficult when trying to focus on all sentient beings, it may be helpful to start at an easier level; instead of being surrounded by all other sentient beings, you can imagine sitting opposite yourself of a future lifetime and practice giving and taking. If that works well, try to imagine your mother, father or a good friend with whom you practise. Next, one can try to think of ones entire family, friends or neighbourhood, and so gradually expand it to include everyone, even animals and life forms we cannot even see.

This meditation works in many ways, to name but a few:
- reducing selfish attachment
- increasing a sense of renunciation
- creating positive karma by giving and helping
- developing loving-kindness and bodhicitta
- it refers to all of the 6 Perfections: giving, ethics, patience, joyous effort, concentration and wisdom.

A SAMPLE TONGLEN MEDITATION SESSION

Set yourself a time, like 15 or 30 minutes for the session, put a clock in front of yourself.
Take a couple of deep breaths to relax, check if your body is relaxed and reasonably comfortable.
Set the motivation: for example recite the refuge prayer:

I go for refuge to the Buddha,
I go for refuge to the Dharma,
I go for refuge to the Sangha. (3x)
Setting the mind towards enlightenment:
By virtue of giving and so forth,
may I become a Buddha for the benefit of all sentient beings. (3x)
The four immeasurables:
May all sentient beings have equanimity, free from attachment, aggression and prejudice.
May they be happy, and have the causes for happiness.
May they be free from suffering and causes for suffering.
May they never be separated from the happiness that is free from suffering. (3x)
The seven-limbed prayer:
Respectfully I prostrate with body, speech and mind;
I present clouds of every type of offerings, actual and imagined;
I declare all the negative actions I have done since beginningless time,
and rejoice in the merit of all Aryas and ordinary beings.
Please teacher, remain until cyclic existence ends
and turn the wheel of Dharma for all sentient beings.
I dedicate the virtues of myself and others to the great Enlightenment.

Short breathing meditation (maybe 5 minutes or so):

Concentrate on the tip of your nose, and feel the breath going in and out.
To help your concentration, you can count every out-breath as one, and count from 1 to 10. When you arrived at 10, simply start at 1 again. All the attention is with the feeling of the nose and the counting, nothing more, nothing less.
Regularly check yourself if you are still concentrated, do not get angry when distracted, simply return to counting from 1.
Just before the end of the session, release the concentration on the counting and the tip of your nose, and simply be aware of how you feel.

Giving and taking; try to imagine the following:

- Visualise all sentient beings around you: enemies in front, friends behind you all sentient beings are in the form of human beings.
- First visualise that all their sufferings take the form of black clouds of smoke that surrounds them, and inhale this smoke.
- Direct the smoke to your heart where you visualise a black spot, representing your own egoistic self-cherishing mind.
- The destructive force of all the black smoke of suffering goes to this self-cherishing mind, completely destroying it

Take some time to do this.

- Now imagine exhaling bright white nectar and light towards all beings. This white nectar is your own potential for happiness which you give away.

Take some time for this part. When you are used to both practices, you may try the following:

- If possible combine both above practices of inhaling black smoke and exhaling light and nectar with every in- and out-breath. If this takes too much effort, simply return to either giving or taking.

Near the end of the session, let go of the thoughts of giving and taking, and take some time to sense how you feel now.

Next, try to make some sort of brief positive conclusion, like: "this meditation is too difficult, so I need to practice more", "this was really great, I should do this more often" or "I must work harder to control my selfish mind", something like that - but it must be your own conclusion.
Then try to concentrate very strongly on this conclusion, but without discussing it in your thoughts: just try to hold on to the feeling that the conclusion gives you and try to focus intensely on it for just one or two minutes.

Dedicate the positive energy of the session to whichever goal you like, use for example:

May all sentient beings have equanimity, free from attachment, aggression and prejudice.
May they be happy, and have the causes for happiness.
May they be free from suffering and causes for suffering.
May they never be separated from the happiness that is free from suffering. (3x)

and below prayers:

By this virtue may I soon
reach a Guru-Buddha-state,
and lead each and every being
to that state of Buddhahood.

May the precious Bodhicitta
not yet born, arise and grow
may that born have no decline
but increase forever more.

And any specific wishes that you may have.

 

Many links on this practice can be found on this page of Tamo. and this page contains commentaries of five teachers.

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Last updated: September 11, 2011