Tong-len and Tsa-tsa Practice

Tong-len and Tsa-tsa Practice

Date Posted:
January 2013

A new student advised Rinpoche that she was impressed by his projects, especially children’s education, and she always made dedication after her Vajrasattva and Avalokiteshvara sadhanas to be part of his projects. She requested practice advice.

My very dear Julie,
Thank you so much for dedicating for my projects after doing Vajrasattva and Avalokiteshvara.


  • 300,000:  Refuge
  • 90,000:  Tong-len, taking and giving, using different prayers and with meditation. There are three different prayers—from Nagarjuna, Lama Chöpa and Sakyasri. Take sentient beings suffering, the oceans of suffering including the subtle imprints, then give away your three times’ merits and all your happiness up to enlightenment—temporary happiness, liberation and enlightenment. Give your own body, enjoyments and wealth.  [See Rinpoche's advice on how to do tong-len.]
  • 60,000:  Guru Yoga on the basis of Lama Tsongkhapa Guru Yoga, counting migtsema with meditation.
  • 20,000:  Vajrasattva
  • 500,000:  Tsa-tsas – the Thirty-five Buddhas; three types of deity (rigs sum gon po; Manjushri, Chenrezig and Vajrapani on one tsa-tsa).

Making tsa-tsas is a very unbelievably powerful way to purify negative karma and accumulate merit. Buddha said, “How many atoms it has, that many times you are born as a wheel-turning king in the human realm. How many atoms it has, that many times you achieve shamatha, the meditation of the formless realms. How many atoms it has, that many times you achieve the arya paths—this means the bodhisattva arya path where you don’t experience birth, death, sickness or old age; you have a spiritual body. Or the Hinayana arya being who has direct perception of emptiness. Then, how many atoms it has, you can have the merit to achieve enlightenment.” This is just a short list of the benefits of making tsa-tsas. So, there are unbelievable merits from making statues.

Don’t worry, don’t rush. Do as much as you can. You can do some in retreat and some during the day. Do more when you have time. Just practice in the life. Don’t worry so much. I think why it came for you like this might be something particularly related to your karma. [See Rinpoche's advice on what to do with tsa-tsas.]

  • 400,000:  Dorje Khadro
  • 500,000:  Water bowls

At the Kopan nunnery they do water bowls every year with the nuns and students from around the world. They do this together, so they finish many bowls. You don’t have to do all the bowls at once, just come when you can. Then, even if you offer less and others offer more, you offer all together.

In Tibet, there was a lama who lived like that with many students; they performed the offerings together and then offered them all together at one time. This way you quickly finish. Then sometimes you can do it by yourself. You can do it at the house or in a place where there is water. Of course you may need a large table or plank, then put the bowls on that—don’t put the bowls on the road, otherwise when people walk past they might hit the bowls and spill the water. Ha ha. I’m just joking!

I hope you don’t have to go to hospital after all these practices! (It’s a joke.) Don’t worry, this is your life practice. You are unbelievably lucky. Most sentient beings and most people in this world are not Buddhist and it’s very hard to collect merits unless they have a good heart and compassion.

Effortful lam-rim experience:

  • Five months:  Guru devotion by following the outlines in Liberation in the Palm of Your Hand
  • Four months:  Lower path
  • Two months:  Middle path
  • One month:  Bodhicitta
  • Three months:  Emptiness

The two months on emptiness is for effortful experience, but emptiness is something you have to meditate on every day using the Heart Sutra, the Four Analyses or even one verse or one stanza on emptiness.

After the effortful experience, try to get the effortless experience no matter how many months or years it takes. Go back through starting from guru devotion, then the lower path, the middle path and the higher path.

After generating bodhicitta put more emphasis on tantra, generation and completion stage.

At least every day, for realization of the path, for enlightenment and to enlighten all sentient beings, the minimum practice is to recite a lam-rim prayer and do direct meditation on the lam-rim. Also, recite your own deity’s graduated path (the prayer is at the end of the long sadhana of the deity.) You must at least do these two as a minimum practice.

Your deity: Yamantaka, Kalachakra, Most Secret Hayagriva. You can choose which one you have more feeling for and closer to, but it is good to take initiations for all three deities.

With much love and prayers...