For tonglen meditation, I take one of two approaches. In this article I describe one of those approaches.
The tonglen meditation is known as “taking and giving”. Taking on the suffering of others, so that they do not experience it for themselves, which has the side-effect of diminishing my own self-cherishing. Giving out the potential happiness that I have accrued, so that others might experience my happiness. The “others” can be all beings in the world, the beings in your own country, or specific groups as I describe below.
Of course, you start out by taking away your own suffering and giving yourself happiness. You’re awesome too so obviously we don’t want you to suffer only to have happiness, please don’t forget that.
The first approach for tonglen meditation is based on specific people who are experiencing a specific problem or situation, that I am also familiar with. This might be a friend’s health scare, me becoming tired with the monotony of work, or something else that is very real and I have a reasonable understanding of the emotions that accompany the situation. I can be emotionally insensitive sometimes and this familiarity with the situation makes the meditation more real. Otherwise I find that the meditation is too fluffy and vague.
Now, with a clear understanding of their suffering, take away their suffering; with a clear understanding of what happiness would mean to them, give them that happiness. Whether happiness would mean giving your money, possessions, or even your body, then visualize gladly giving others happiness in those forms.
The tonglen practice has the following benefits:
- To reduce the distance between myself and others, by seeing the same desire for happiness and avoiding the same problems like I do.
- To work with my own self-cherishing and work towards cherishing others.
- To really benefit others I need to achieve full, perfect, complete enlightenment.