“May I be the protector to the vulnerable;
a guide to those traveling;
a bridge for the farther shore.
May the suffering of all completely cease.
May I be the healer and medicine,
nursing all the sick of this world,
until everyone is well.”
(Shantideva was an 8th century Indian Buddhist scholar. He wrote Bodhicaryavatara describing the development of the Mind of Enlightenment ~ available online at
Tonglen is a Tibetan Buddhist practice. It means ‘giving and receiving’.
It involves gentle breathing ~ no effort.
The practitioner visualises someone sitting in front of them, someone they know is suffering (and who isn’t!)
The practitioner then INHALES and visualises the pain and suffering of the other coming into themselves. (You can visualise this suffering as black smoke or whatever connects you to the idea)
Then instantly within the heart space of the practitioner the pain of the other is transmuted via compassion, into healing.
The Practitioner then EXHALES towards the visualised one, and breathes out peace, healing, contentment and so on. (You can visualise this as radiant light coming from you or whatever works best for you to hold the visualisation.)
At the end of the practice, be clear that you are finished with it. Be peaceful and calm and grounded in your own energy.
It is easiest to begin Tonglen with visualising your loved ones ~ friends, family and so on.
But later you can also practice with those who have harmed you, and so on.
The point is to cherish other beings as they are the same as yourself. You will not ”take on” their karma or suffering through this practice. The purpose is to awaken the motivation of the BodhiSattwa, to realise that that there is no ”other”, dualism is false, and that as long as others suffer we cannot be indifferent.
Of all the practices I know, the practice of tonglen is one of the most useful and powerful. No other practice I know is as effective in destroying the self-grasping, self-cherishing, self-absorption of the ego, which is the root of all our suffering and the root of all hard-heartedness. (Sogyal Rinpoche)
”….We should be careful of each other,
We should be kind.
While there is still time…”
SELF ~ TONGLEN
A very valuable practice.
The practitioner visualises an image of themselves sitting in front of them, so close you could touch that image.
Make this visualisation clear.
Then be aware of the suffering and sorrow within your own visualised self.
INHALE and absorb that suffering into your heart space.
Transmute it with the gentle awareness of compassion.
Then EXHALE love and compassion and respect and healing to your ‘self’ ~ treating yourself as you would a beloved other, wishing for yourself the alleviation of suffering just as you would wish for a beloved child.
OM TAT SAT