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Tonglen (giving and taking) is a powerful practice of wisdom and compassion. This method comes from the Seven Point Mind Training teachings, based on experiences of revered masters such as Nagarjuna, Shantideva and Langri Tampa. Tonglen profoundly challenges our habitual, self-centered experience which is founded on delusion. It is a potent method of developing bodhicittha, the fully awakened, joyful heart.
In short, I will offer, directly and indirectly, every benefit and happiness to all beings, my mothers. I will practice in secret taking upon myself all their harmful actions and sufferings.--"The Eight Verses of Thought Transformation," Langri Tampa
This practice is an opportunity to see how understanding interdependence leads to deep compassion and how that can set a basis for experiencing the true nature of “no self, no other, no problem.”
One who wishes swiftly to protect oneself and others should engage in the secret and holy practice of exchanging self for others. -- Shantideva
Thus, venerable compassionate gurus, inspire me so that all negativities, obscurations and sufferings of mother beings ripen upon me right now and I give my happiness and virtue to others, securing all wanderers in bliss. — "Guru Puja" by the First Panchen Lama, Lobsang Chokyi Gyaltsen
Who could imagine that taking on others' suffering could lead to contentment? It’s unfathomable, yet it works if we work it. Together, we will use the three wisdoms of studying, contemplating and meditating on tonglen. There will be time for silent meditation and for open discussion. Please join us in the interesting and joyous exploration.
What we’re working with in our basic shamata-vipashyana practice-and specifically with the tonglen practice-is the middle ground between acting out and repressing. We’re discovering how to hold our seat and feel completely what’s underneath all that story line of wanting, not wanting, and so forth. --"Start Where You Are," Pema Chodron
As the mind training practice directs, we will begin the sequence of sending and taking with our own selves, since we cannot practice effective compassion for others unless we give up attachment, aversion and ignorance toward our own selves. We will contemplate the continual flow of kindness and generosity coming toward us each moment of our lives from family, friends, strangers and difficult people. Looking deeply at their particular sufferings natural compassion can arise. Then, we can gather the courage to imagine releasing them from all suffering and establishing them in happiness. This connection can cut through to reality and place us in peace.
NOTE: This will be a silent, non-residential retreat. We will meet from 9:00-3:00 p.m. each day. As you are able, you will be encouraged to carry forth the silent retreat in your own home as best you can from 3:00 p.m., December 8, until you return the next morning. It is best if you can attend the entire retreat, but if you can only commit to one day, please email Zopa at firstname.lastname@example.org to explain and request to come only one day. Our text will be “Tonglen Retreat -- A Buddhist Mind Training Tradition” which Lama Michael compiled in 2009, based on teachings by Khyabje Kalu Rinpoche. You may contact the Registrar to request this booklet after you register for the Retreat.
Supplemental Readings and Online:
"The Great Path of Awakening" by Jamgon Kongtrul
"Enlightened Courage "by Dilgo Khyentse
"Buddhism with an Attitude" by Alan Wallace
"Start Where You Are "by Pema Chodron
"Essential Mind Training" Translated by Thubten Jinpa
I look forward to joining you on this heart warming Tonglen Retreat. --Zopa Herron