Techniques practiced at Palpung Samten Choling

The descriptions here are intended as review for practitioners who have been studying this meditation technique at PSC. For more information about taking and sending, either of the books mentioned listed is recommended. Before undertaking this practice, it is best to receive instruction directly from a qualified practitioner, if possible.

Water Bowls and Flowers

Our group has studied taking and sending meditation (tonglen) in conjunction with its associated slogans from The Seven Points of Mind Training, or Lojong practice. However, this is a basic mahayana meditation technique that can be practiced on its own.

The first method of taking and sending described here is based on the method described by Pema Chodron in her book Start Where You Are. The last step is from the technique taught by Jamgon Kongtrul in The Great Path of Awakening. When practicing at home, one may spend as much time as needed on each step.

  • Flash on openness (absolute bodhicitta). (You could simply begin with a period of shinay meditation.)
  • Visualize breathing in through your nostrils a tarry, black, hot, heavy substance, which dissolves in your heart center; and breathing out refreshing, cool, white moonlight.
  • Visualize the tarry black substance as the suffering of a particular person, and the cool white light as your own happiness and virtue. When you breathe in, you take in that person’s suffering and dissolve it, and when you breathe out, you relieve their suffering and send them your happiness and virtue.
  • Extend the visualization to include all beings who are experiencing the same kind of suffering as the person you originally visualized.
  • Extend the visualization to include all beings.
  • (from Jamgon Kongtrul) “With great joy, think that all of them immediately attain Buddhahood.”

At Palpung Samten Choling, we have studied tonglen (taking and sending meditation) using the method described by Jamgon Kongtrul in The Great Path of Awakening (translated by Ken McLeod):

  • First, do the preliminary practice of Guru Yoga as described in the text.
  • Imagine your own mother [or another person who has been especially kind to you] present in front of you, and think about the kindness she has shown you and the suffering she nevertheless experiences.
  • Think that all beings have been your mother throughout an infinite number of lifetimes.
  • Develop compassion toward those for whom it is easy to feel compassion, such as friends, relatives, beings in the hell realms, etc.; then extend it to enemies and people who hurt you; then to all beings impartially, and generate the determination to clear away their suffering and make them happy. “Train in this way until the feeling of compassion is intolerably intense.”
  • Meditate joyfully that all the negativity of all beings comes to you, and that they receive all your virtuous activity, happiness, wealth, etc.
  • As you breathe in, imagine a black, tarry substance collecting all the suffering and negative actions of all beings, entering through your nostrils, and being absorbed into your heart, freeing all beings of suffering. As you breathe out, imagine all your happiness and virtue flowing out through your nostrils as cool, white moonlight and being absorbed by all beings.
  • “With great joy, think that all of them immediately attain Buddhahood.”