Tong-len Practice

Tong-len Practice

Date of Advice:
February 2015
Date Posted:
August 2015

Rinpoche gave this advice about the practice of bodhicitta with tong-len (taking and giving) for a meaningful, happy and beneficial life. This letter was sent to a student who had written to thank Rinpoche for bringing him so much happiness through his publications. The student had also requested Rinpoche to be his root guru and spiritual guide. 

My most dear one,
Thank you very much for your kind letter expressing your feelings about reading my books. That could be also from past life prayer or connection. It could be. I accept what you request. However, you try your best and I will try from my side.

The meditation on bodhicitta that you said you are doing is the best practice, that makes you achieve all the realizations and attain enlightenment in the quickest way. It is also the quickest way to free the sentient beings from the oceans of samsaric suffering and bring them to full enlightenment. Especially if you are doing the practice of bodhicitta with tong-len—taking numberless sentient beings’ suffering and the causes of suffering into your heart, onto yourself, and destroying the self-cherishing thought as well as the ignorance, the root of your samsara, the oceans of suffering of samsara. The real I, which is the false I, which is like a dream, like a hallucination, an illusion—like thinking the reflection of your face in the mirror or on the ocean is a real face—that is destroyed, that is realized to be empty, as it is empty. So you can do a short meditation on emptiness like this. Meditate on shunyata, emptiness only.

When you take the sufferings of others, do so with compassion. When you dedicate to others, your body is in the form of numberless wish-granting jewels and all sentient beings receive whatever they want from that, and they achieve the dharmakaya and rupakaya. Dedicate all your enjoyments and all your belongings to the numberless six realm sentient beings, so they receive everything they want and achieve the dharmakaya and rupakaya. Then you dedicate all your past, present and future merits and their results, as well as all the good things in this life and in your next rebirth. Dedicate all the enjoyments in good rebirths from life to life, then the everlasting happiness of nirvana, and next, the ultimate happiness, the peerless happiness, the total cessation of all the obscurations and completion of all the realizations. So you dedicate all of this to numberless hell beings, numberless hungry ghosts, numberless animals, numberless human beings, numberless asuras, numberless suras and numberless intermediate state beings. And from that they achieve everything, the dharmakaya and rupakaya.

When you take the suffering and its causes—wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow—this is the most powerful purification. Negative karmas and obscurations collected from beginningless rebirths are purified. It is most amazing, most amazing, most amazing, most amazing, most amazing!

When you give, for example, when you give your enjoyments—let’s say you have many hats and shoes to wear at different times, by making charity of each of these hats to the numberless sentient beings of each realm you collect more than skies of merits, and by sending shoes to the numberless sentient beings in each realm to wear at different times, in different seasons, inside and outside—you collect skies of merit so many times. If you have one dollar or a billion, trillion, or zillion dollars in the bank, when you dedicate that to the numberless sentient beings in each realm you collect merits more than the sky, numberless times.

This is what makes life most meaningful, happy and beneficial for sentient beings. On the other hand if you leave out renunciation, which is the preliminary for bodhicitta; if you don’t have that realization [of renunciation], then your bodhicitta will be very limited, just dry. Even if you have some feeling for bodhicitta, it will be very limited and also you won’t have compassion for every sentient being. To actualize compassion for all sentient beings you need as a preliminary the feeling that it is unbearable that sentient beings are experiencing the suffering of samsara. For that, you need to realize how your own suffering of samsara is so unbearable. Without that, you won’t feel much when you think about others experiencing the suffering of samsara. Your compassion to others will be like tsampa sprinkled on the river—it doesn’t mix with the water but just stays on the surface. You will have no real feeling from the heart. Sometimes your compassion for sentient beings is just between the lips and not strongly from the heart.

To have strong renunciation of your future lives’ samsara, realizing how it is in the nature of suffering, you need to have strong renunciation of this life. You need to see that there is no meaning in working for this life, that it only becomes the cause of suffering and particularly of the lower realms. Being able to see that the works of this life are only suffering and generating total renunciation to this life’s happiness depends on the root of the path to enlightenment: realizing that each one of your gurus is numberless buddhas. Here, guru means anyone with whom you have received a Dharma connection, even just the three words OM AH HUM, or a few verses received with the recognition that you are the disciple and the person giving the transmission is the guru.

To realize that each one of your gurus is numberless buddhas, you need to train your mind in meditation, looking at them all as Buddha using logic, quotations and sometimes your own experience. That is extremely important, most important. If that happens, everything can happen—all the common realizations of sutra and the particular tantric realizations up to enlightenment can happen. If that is not done, then completing the realizations up to enlightenment doesn’t happen.

The Condensed Meaning of Tantra, the Fifty Verses of Guru Devotion says:

It is said by the Vajraholder (Vajradhara—the Buddha in the tantric aspect as father and mother in union):

Realization depends upon following the Dharma master. Realizing this, completely please the Buddha with all the phenomena. What need is there to say a lot? Attempt that and that. Do whatever pleases the Guru. Avoid all that displeases. Then common and sublime realizations will be achieved in this life.

The main lam-rim for you to study and contemplate is the Red Lam-rim but I don’t think that is translated into English yet, so use Essence of Refined Gold, which is in English. Study it four times from beginning to end.

Do effortful meditation on the lam-rim outline three times, starting with correctly devoting to the spiritual friend, then do effortless meditation.

In order to have success in actualizing the whole path to enlightenment from guru devotion onwards, you need to purify the negative karma and defilements collected from beginningless rebirths and collect the necessary conditions, so much merit. Then you can actualize the realizations of the path to enlightenment. Therefore, you need to do preliminary practices. These are specific preliminary practices that need to be done according to my observation:

Recite the Diamond Cutter Sutra at least once each week for your whole life. You can do more, but recite the sutra at least once. It’s like an atomic bomb. It pacifies the obstacles to achieving enlightenment for sentient beings and collects inconceivable, inconceivable, inconceivable merits. It eliminates the root of oceans of samsaric suffering—the ignorance holding the I as existing from its side while it’s not, which is a totally wrong concept.

Your deity: Vajrayogini, Kalachakra. Whichever one you feel stronger, closer to, choose that.

With much love and prayer, thank you very much...