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Tibetan Healing Meditation:Tonglen May all beings have happiness and the cause of happiness

Updated on July 9, 2012

Meditate to Heal Others through Compassion

Have you ever been overwhelmed with compassion for a fellow human being and wished you knew something helpful you could do for him/her? Well, there is a Tibetan meditative practice called Tonglen that will help, and not just the person that is suffering, indeed Tonglen aids the meditator too. I must warn you, however, because Tonglen is an advanced practice. Consequently, it should not be undertaken within the first few years of meditating because the absorption of energy can be overwhelming. Let me explain.

What transpires during Tonglen is that the meditator breathes in whatever energy is causing the suffering and literally pulls it inside him/herself. (This energy may be a result of mental or physical pain, fear, anger, guilt, disease, doubt, or frustration). Now, on the out-breath, the meditator consciously sends from his/her heart chakra--healing, peace, joy, well-being, peace of mind and fulfillment to this person. As a result, the person who does the meditation can easily become depleted psychically. In order to avoid this result, one must have developed a strong sense of not only self-compassion but also equanimity as an advanced practitioner of meditation (and possibly yoga too).

Compassion for Others

Have you ever wanted to help take away another's pain?

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Envisioning Dark and White Light

It may be helpful to envision a dark light coming into you while you are receiving the disturbing energy while simultaneously breathing in. Now at the top of the breath, neutralize the darkness with your mind, and on the out-breath visualize a white light zooming out of your heart chakra (or the crown of your head, or both) and send loving-kindness towards the person who is ill. These images below may allow you to visualize how the darkness becomes lighter and less heavy as you breathe for the ill person. Another name for Tonglen that the Tibetan monks use is "giving and receiving."

Darkness to Light

The darkness overwhelms us at times.
The darkness overwhelms us at times.

The Battle Between the Two Energies

This is the pause at the top of the breath.
This is the pause at the top of the breath.
Light is revealed!
Light is revealed!

Mantras

After doing Tonglen, mentally say the equanimity mantra for the next several days during meditation.

This mantra is:

“All beings are responsible for their own actions.Suffering or happiness is created through one’s relationship to experience, not by experience itself. The freedom of others is dependent on their actions, not on my wishes for them. Ultimately, all beings have to free themselves. “ --(Lama Surya Das, Awakening the Buddha Within)


A second mantra that is useful to close all meditation practices is the following, typically Buddhist mantra:

May all beings experience happiness and the cause of happiness.

May all beings be free from suffering and the cause of suffering.

May all beings develop compassion and equanimity.

May all beings remain attached to Source which is utmost Joy.

May all beings be free from too much attachment and too much aversion.

The Happiness of a Tibetan Monk!

Shifting to Positive Energy is a Must!

CAUTION! Do not do Tonglen for an extended period of time. Practice ten minutes a day at the most, and remember to neutralize at the top of the breath and also to dedicate the meditative session to this person during the final moments of the practice. Finally, it can be extremely advantageous to finish a session like this with one or both of the following mantras. This can be helpful because your energy needs to be restored to maintain your own balance and equanimity. It is easy to be pulled into negative energy; we all know this to be fact. When one wakes up on the ‘wrong side of the bed’ as they say, isn’t the rest of the day a total loss? Shifting one’s energy isn’t hard to do, but it is absolutely necessary when performing Tonglen.

For Whom Shall I Perform Tonglen?

Obvious recipients for whom a person performs Tonglen include one’s own family members, friends, colleagues, neighbors. Yet, you may do this for people you have never met as well. Indeed, it is possible to do this practice for groups of people, such as trapped miners, victims of earthquakes or tsunamis. In fact, you may even do this practice for someone who has passed on, especially if this person suffered a great deal in his/her life.

One technique that Buddhist meditators use when doing Tonglen is to start with someone close to them, then move to someone that is neutral (like the cashier at the grocery store), and continue with someone whom one dislikes. Furthermore, you extend your reach geographically to one’s city, state, nation, hemisphere, planet, galaxy, universe, multi-verse, etc… if you so wish. There really is no limit and it is quite beneficial to one’s meditative practice and to one’s karma, or state of grace.


Guided Meditation by Tulku Tsori Rinpoche

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    • profile image

      hiker987 5 years ago

      This is a very interesting description of a selfless and giving practice. I imagine one has to cultivate both imagination and visualization to get the most out of this activity. I think the world would be a different place if more people practiced compassion!

      thanks for sharing this idea.

    • Peter Geekie profile image

      Peter Geekie 5 years ago from Sittingbourne

      So much can be achieved by thought; it is immeasurably powerful and uncontaminated.

      Thank you.

      Kind regards Peter

    • yoginijoy profile image
      Author

      yoginijoy 5 years ago from Mid-Atlantic, USA

      Thanks, Peter. I agree--everything that exists was once a mere thought in someone's mind, no? Take care. I appreciate you stopping by and commenting. Peace.

    • profile image

      klarawieck 5 years ago

      This type of cleansing drains the energy of the healer to a point where you feel exhausted and sick. You are right in recommending this exercise to those who already have mastered certain degree of meditation and spirituality.

      This is very interesting and I know for a fact it does work. Thanks for sharing.

    • blake4d profile image

      Blake Ford Hall 5 years ago from Now Rising Out of Phoenix Arizona Earthlings

      Wonderfully written article, and so interesting to learn more about the Tibetan practices. The Western world can learn so much from this tradition. Love your work. Keep on Hubbing. Blake4d

    • yoginijoy profile image
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      yoginijoy 5 years ago from Mid-Atlantic, USA

      Klarawieck, you are absolutely right that it will drain a person who is not ready. I am glad that my warning came through loud and clear. It does work as you say, but has to be performed by an advanced practitioner, and then it will aid both parties involved. Thanks for the visit!

    • yoginijoy profile image
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      yoginijoy 5 years ago from Mid-Atlantic, USA

      Dear Hiker987, you are most perceptive! Yes, indeed, it does take a lot of imagination and visualization in the beginning. My photos are an attempt to help the reader visualize the process. I agree 100% that the world would be more peaceful if we all practiced compassion--not just for others, but for ourselves too!

    • yoginijoy profile image
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      yoginijoy 5 years ago from Mid-Atlantic, USA

      Hi Blake4d, I agree the Western world has much to learn! Thanks for the compliment on my writing and for stopping by. Take care!

    • Richawriter profile image

      Richard J ONeill 5 years ago from Bangkok, Thailand

      I love those pictures you used to show the light breaking through the darkness. How creative of you!

      I want to heal the world. I want to help others. Perhaps I should learn this technique or at least practice it. I have tried Meditation on and off for years but never really full-time.

      Great hub and lesson.

      Peace.

    • yoginijoy profile image
      Author

      yoginijoy 5 years ago from Mid-Atlantic, USA

      Hi Richawriter. I'm glad you liked the photographs!

      TOnglen is a good way to help the world through developing one's own level of compassion. It is an advanced technique however, don't pull in the negative energy too quickly or for long periods of time. It will drain you. Follow the strategies and use your own Happiness technique to reset your energy levels.

      I am in solidarity with you! The world and everyone in it is worth the effort!

    • truefaith7 profile image

      truefaith7 5 years ago from USA

      Very fascinating article. It's amazing what the power of positive energy can do! The Tibetan Buddhist traditions are so fascinating....

      Voted up, awesome, and interesting!

    • yoginijoy profile image
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      yoginijoy 5 years ago from Mid-Atlantic, USA

      Hi Truefaith7, Thanks for the votes! I super appreciate them. Yes, the Tibetan Buddhist tradition is quite amazing and so helpful to our modern lifestyle. Thanks for commenting.

    • Alastar Packer profile image

      Alastar Packer 5 years ago from North Carolina

      Meditation is the way to many good things; and Tonglin must be one its more selfless practices. As you point out though yogin its only for the prepared. Thank you for writing about Tonglin. Heard once that a pyramidal-shaped structure, just large enough for a human body and made out of copper is very conducive to meditation- do you know anything on that yogin?

    • yoginijoy profile image
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      yoginijoy 5 years ago from Mid-Atlantic, USA

      Yes, meditation is the way to equanimity as well as other "good things" as you say. That is for sure! Thank you for reading about this topic. I appreciate you coming by to read and comment. No, I have not heard about the copper structure for meditative use, but copper is very much a conduit for energy so on a strictly conceptual level it does make sense to me. I shall do some investigating and see what I can find out. Thanks for the question.

    • profile image

      Daniel Peebles 5 years ago

      Wow... what an excellent article. I am very concerned about breathing in someone else's stuff -- instead -- I would rather just send them love and compassionate energy and hope that this will help them along their journey! Thanks for a great and awesome article!

    • yoginijoy profile image
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      yoginijoy 5 years ago from Mid-Atlantic, USA

      Thanks Daniel. Yes, this practice is something to be concerned about. If you are fairly new to meditation, I agree with you. It is much better to send them love and compassion. In the end, that will be very helpful as well. I appreciate your wonderful compliments. Thanks so much!

    • Vinaya Ghimire profile image

      Vinaya Ghimire 5 years ago from Nepal

      Did not know much about Tonglen. Thanks for this comprehensive article. Most of the Tibetan rituals are not just for the perfection of the practitioner, but also for the world peace.

    • yoginijoy profile image
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      yoginijoy 5 years ago from Mid-Atlantic, USA

      Thanks Vinaya for your comment. Yes, that is correct. It is customary for Tibetan monks to dedicate their meditation to the development of compassion for all sentient beings which will bring world peace.

    • r jayanthi profile image

      r jayanthi 5 years ago from india

      Yoginijoy, it was a very well written hub ,especially about compassion to others.I loved the photos that gave a very dramatic presentation of the meditation.It is very difficult to take on others misery .

      Our master Choa Kok Sui has taught a very simple meditation called The Meditation on Twin Hearts Which also eliminates misery of mankind as a whole. We use the heart chakra and the crown chakra to bless the earth with loving kindness in general and bless individual persons to help them. I think every one can learn the meditation without first becoming very advanced meditators. I wish all would join us in this meditation. What a beautiful place earth would be!!!

    • yoginijoy profile image
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      yoginijoy 5 years ago from Mid-Atlantic, USA

      Oh, that sounds like a wonderful meditation--I like that it is possible for folks that are not advanced. That is the one draw back of Tonglen. I agree with you the world would be so full of peace, love and joy if everyone would join us. I tend to think they will! We will create that world, I have no doubt! Peace!

    • Lady Enchantee profile image

      Lady Enchantee 4 years ago from My Enchanted Garden

      Namaste, yoginijoy, & thank you so much for this gorgeous explanation of tonglen, "giving & receiving" practice! I've been a student of tonglen for 5 years now, practicing daily, no matter what, & I can say that, for me, it is a light, expansive, joyful way to live.

      I appreciate your willingness to tackle this practice. For the Western world, tonglen is often quite beyond the normally set cultural perceptions.

      Tonglen will open one's perception more fully than most practices...& more rapidly, too! I have found the results are cumulative & the expansive compassion that one enjoys & shares brings greater healing & peace to any environment or community.

      Thank you. My heart is full of gratitude for your willingness to share & explain this important & often misunderstood practice.

      Sat nam.

      Warm regards...Lady Enchantee

    • yoginijoy profile image
      Author

      yoginijoy 4 years ago from Mid-Atlantic, USA

      Namaste Lady Enchantee. Thank you so very much for the wonderful comments and insights. I am most grateful for your interest in my work and also in Tonglen in general. I agree with you that this practice is not well known or widely practiced in the West hence I felt it would be a good topic for hubpages.

      I send you peace, love and joy! Sat nam.

    • Ruchira profile image

      Ruchira 4 years ago from United States

      informative hub, yogini.

      I practice reiki and i could use this kinda technique when I want to send positive vibes virtually to a person. namaste!

    • yoginijoy profile image
      Author

      yoginijoy 4 years ago from Mid-Atlantic, USA

      Great idea! I had never thought of that. Sure, anytime you are within the vicinity of someone that needs an energy shift this can definitely be an aid. If the person receiving the Reiki is ready to listen, tell him/her about Tonglen as well because it can be performed on oneself. It isn't the intention but it will help the individual.

      Do you write about Reiki? I want to learn more about that. It has to be along the same lines as Ayurveda and Yoga, no?

    • Emanate Presence profile image

      Gary R. Smith 4 years ago from the Head to the Heart

      Yoginijoy,

      This is a marvelous hub, well worthwhile the reading. It is useful, interesting, and beautiful. Also informative and reader-friendly!

    • yoginijoy profile image
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      yoginijoy 4 years ago from Mid-Atlantic, USA

      Dear Emanate Presence, You are most generous with your accolades! Thank you so very much. I am very appreciative. Your hub id is quite cool if I may say so.

      Take care!

    • Emanate Presence profile image

      Gary R. Smith 4 years ago from the Head to the Heart

      You may say so :-)

      The id came when I awakened one morning with the words, "Rather than Exert Power, Emanate Presence."

      I enjoy your hub because it brings out the knowing of each person's Presence.

    • yoginijoy profile image
      Author

      yoginijoy 4 years ago from Mid-Atlantic, USA

      It is interesting to note how some folks just emanate so quietly yet gracefully, like the Tibetan monks tend to do. I would love to be able to teach folks how to emanate presence, yet I am not sure if it is teachable or if it is something that as you say, just comes into being one morning. Once it happens though one is always aware.

      Peace. And Thank you for your Presence!

    • Louisa Rogers profile image

      Louisa Rogers 4 years ago from Eureka, California and Guanajuato, Mexico

      Hello yoginijoy,

      I have done tonglen. I do it both as you described and in a more "secular" way, for lack of a better word. I thought you described it very clearly. May you be well and free from suffering. Voted up and useful.

    • yoginijoy profile image
      Author

      yoginijoy 4 years ago from Mid-Atlantic, USA

      Hi Louisa, Do you find that it drains you? or have you been able to keep the balance?

      You too. Maybe you experience happiness and the cause of happiness!

      Thanks for the votes and your blessing too.

    • Louisa Rogers profile image

      Louisa Rogers 4 years ago from Eureka, California and Guanajuato, Mexico

      Hi Yoginijoy--

      No, it doesn't drain me. I balance it with other meditation, though. Be well! Louisa

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