Tonglen - Introduction & Meditation

Andrew Neel

Welcome to the practice of Compassion: TONGLEN

Tonglen is one of the “mind training” techniques from Tibetan Buddhism that reverse our ordinary state of mind of selfishly seeking happiness and pleasure for ourselves and those close to us. Instead, we willingly open ourselves to the suffering of others. In translation, tonglen practice can be called “taking and giving” one of the practices of exchanging self with others.

These mind-training techniques were developed a thousand years ago in India and Tibet. The Tibetan word for this class of techniques is lojong. Lojong’s mind-training meditation practices transform life’s difficulties into the causes for a happier more meaningful life. These practices were compiled and preserved by the Tibetan Buddhist master Geshe Checkawa in a concise prayer called the Seven Point Mind Training.

Tonglen is a meditation practice that combines meditating on loving-kindness with meditating on compassion. Love and compassion in the context of Tonglen have different meanings from their everyday definitions. 

The word for loving-kindness in Sanskrit is Maitri (metta in Pali). In its Buddhist definition, this type of love doesn’t mean the magnetic craving we feel toward a romantic partner but simply wishing others to be happy. Compassion, on the other hand, karuna in Sanskrit, doesn’t mean merely empathizing with others’ problems, but actively wishing to take away their problems.

The practice of tonglen can be accomplished in a series of steps that grow in power and intensity, gradually expanding the scope of your compassion from one person to your close family and friends, to all sentient beings. 

“Tonglen means "taking in and sending out". This meditation practice is designed to help ordinary people like ourselves connect with the openness and softness of our hearts. Instead of shielding and protecting our soft spot, with Tonglen we could let ourselves feel what it is to be human.” Pema Chodron

In this audio, you will listen to the full "Introduction to Tonglen" and will then practice with the guided meditation.

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51.9 MB
22 minutes

Tonglen - Introduction & Meditation

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