Tonglen Meditaiton

B. Alan Wallace, 10 Apr 2020

Guided Meditation

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[Guided Tonglen Meditation]

So, once again, I invite you to find a comfortable position, whether seated cross-legged or sitting upright, generally, if you can be comfortable. For this practice it would be preferable to have your spine straight and erect, as we face the world and face our fellow sentient beings in all directions around about, above and below.

But we begin, as always, by relaxing, releasing, and letting awareness descend into the field of the body, right down to the ground, experiencing ourselves as being held, supported, even nurtured by the earth. And setting your body at ease, resting in stillness is very helpful for maintaining the continuity of attention, let your body be still. Adopt a posture of vigilance with your spine straight, sitting at attention. Relaxed, still, and vigilant, settle your body in a state of natural equilibrium, dynamic equilibrium. And relax deeply into the breath. With every exhalation especially, release thoughts, release memories, release everything that’s in the mind – hopes and fears. Let it all go with every out-breath and allow the body to breath without intervention, without regulation, without preference, without effort. With every out-breath let your awareness come to rest, releasing its entanglement with, its identification with all the movements of the mind. Let them come, let them go, but rest in stillness as you set your mind at ease, which means not to calm, to suppress, to regulate your mind. You gently allow your mind to gradually, gradually settle in its natural state by not identifying with it, by resting in the ease of resting in awareness itself, the simple experience of being conscious.

With your awareness at ease, allowing yourself to release all thoughts; that is to say, not identify with thoughts pertaining to the past or the future. No getting entangled with the thoughts that orbit around the present moment generally in the mode of I, me, and mine. Let them circle, let them rise and pass without dwelling on the past or anticipating the future. Settle your mind in its natural state, relaxed, still, and vigilant. The qualities of awareness, the stillness in the midst of movement.

From this stillness just for a short time, a couple of minutes, rest in that flow of self-knowing, self-illuminating awareness and peripherally be aware of the rhythm of the respiration, the sense of ease and release with every exhalation, a deepening relaxation, the stillness within the movements of the breath.

And now, from this stillness let’s activate the luminous quality of consciousness, awareness of consciousness having two qualities, of cognizance, the experience of knowing, but luminosity, which includes the power of creativity and imagination, the power of visualization. The mind is creative. Let us put it to good use, from this stillness of awareness, this inner silence. Let us attend to ourselves, each of us, as a human being, embodied, emminded, each of us having a mind, a personal history, having a future of one kind or another, each of us wishing to be free of suffering and its causes, wishing to find happiness, an enduring sense of wellbeing and its causes, and let us, in accordance with the classic teachings, tracing back to Atisha and earlier – Shantideva, to Nagarjuna, to the Buddha himself – let us first of all cultivate compassion for ourselves, embracing the aspiration may I be free of suffering and its causes. But drawing on the luminosity, the creativity of your awareness, I invite you to symbolically visualize your own pristine awareness, your buddha nature, with its primordial purity, the wellspring of all well-being, of all virtue. Visualize this, if you will, symbolically, as an orb of radiant white light in the center of your heart, your heart chakra, and from this center look upon yourself, watch over, care for, look after yourself as you attend to yourself with compassion, and imagine all the sufferings, all the travails that you feel you may encounter in the future and the causes of suffering, the inner causes of suffering that may on occasion dominate your mind, carry you away in the future, lead you into misery.

Imagine the suffering and its causes as a darkness that may unfold as the future presents itself and attend to yourself in the future, this person you will become and continue to become and become, always evolving and changing. Look upon this individual with compassion and, with each inhalation, arouse the aspiration, may I be free of suffering and its causes in the future. May I be free. And with each in-breath imagine the suffering and the causes of suffering that may lie in wait for you and draw them in, draw in this darkness. All that you fear, you dread, imagine drawing it in. May I be free. And draw in this darkness, syphoning it into this orb at your heart and, breath by breath, let all of it be drawn in and extinguished in this immeasurable light at your heart, without trace.

And breath by breath, imagining yourself becoming free. Not that you will avoid every unpleasant circumstance, that adversity will never rise up to meet you. The fruition of our karma will continue to ripen, but we don’t need to be caught in its grip. The afflictions will arise, but we don’t need to identify with them. There is no need to succumb to fear or even mental suffering. Imagine being free of the inner causes of suffering, whatever appearances may arise to us. Imagine that inner strength, that unconquerability, imagine being free.

And we return to the future you and how you will unfold, transform over the days, years, lifetimes to come, and bring to mind, invite into the space of your awareness what is your aspiration, what do you strive for, what is the happiness that you seek? Do you seek liberation? Do you seek awakening? And breathe that loving aspiration, and with your every out-breath arouse the yearning: may I find that which I seek. May I be truly well and happy, with all my hedonic needs met, and cultivating deeply the causes of genuine well-being. And breathe out this light from your heart, embracing your future, suffusing it with the light of loving kindness, the light of joy, as a recipient of all the blessings of the buddhas and bodhisattvas. With every exhalation breathe life and breathe light into this vision of the joy and satisfaction that could be yours. Wish yourself well.

We begin with ourselves. We are, after all, in the center of our own mandalas, the center of our own world. And now let us expand. Expand the field of your awareness and illuminate it by the power of your imagination to embrace those who are around you. In your home, wherever you live, wherever you are now, there are others sentient beings around you, human and nonhuman, each of them wishing to be free of suffering, in many cases not knowing what are the causes of suffering and, out of delusion, cultivating those causes that will bring them distress and misery. Attend to those around you, embrace them in this field of awareness and, with each inhalation, imagine drawing in, as you did before, the darkness of suffering, the darkness of mental afflictions and, above all, the darkness of ignorance and delusion that lies at the root of all suffering. And with each in-breath arouse the aspiration of compassion, draw in the darkness, extinguish it, breath by breath. And imagine those around you finding, experiencing the relief that they’ve been looking after or looking forward for so long. Imagine the turbulence of their minds calming. Imagine them finding peace and safety. Imagine the outer causes of suffering, such as this virus and all the repercussions of this virus in the outer world, may this pass swiftly. May we all be wise and compassionate, working together to vanquish this mindless foe.

Draw in the darkness of suffering of others, extinguish it in the light of your heart, and then, as you’ve done before with every out-breath, when each one around wishes for happiness fundamentally just as you do, breathe out the light of loving kindness. May you all, like myself, be well and happy. Imagine them being suffused by this light, reveling in this light of loving kindness and of joy, finding the happiness that is their heart’s desire.

And now, breath by breath, at your own pace, expand the field of your awareness, encompassing more and more beings in an ever-increasing sphere of loving kindness and compassion and breath out and breath in, as you’ve done before. Expand above and below and to all the sides, out over your town, your county, your state or province, above and below, especially where there’s great pain and great fear. Due to the pandemic or so much other suffering – the suffering of refugees, the suffering of other illness, the suffering of poverty, the suffering of loneliness, of conflict, of war. Wherever there’s suffering and its causes, breathe it in and free those who are bound by it and let the light of your loving kindness fill the world. Be the unknown friend to everyone around you – your country, your continent, round about this entire world, this planet. Be the unknown friend to everyone here.

And once you’ve embraced this whole world with light, drawn in and extinguished the darkness that obscures us all, once your heart has enfolded the world, this glowing, radiant planet, like a supernova, let your awareness expand in all directions, a burst of light, extending out through space, through this galaxy and all other galaxies, wherever there may be sentient beings. Breath in – may each one be free of suffering and its causes, may each one be forever free, may each one find the happiness that they most deeply seek, the joy of liberation, the joy of awakening, knowing who they are, knowing reality as it is. May each one fully awaken.

But now on this path of this Great Perfection we must go beyond the mere aspiration. We must move to resolve to commitment, speaking from the depths of our own pristine awareness, from the very ground of our buddha nature attend to all beings. From the royal throne of your own primordial consciousness attend to all sentient beings like a loving mother or father. And if you will, arouse this extraordinary resolve: I shall free you all. I shall bring each one of you to your own perfection. This is my promise for as long as space remains, for as long as there are sentient beings, so long shall I remain, and I shall free you, and I shall bring you to perfect awakening, each one. I will not leave one of you behind.

But in order for me to fulfill not only this aspiration but this promise, this pledge, I must adopt this king-like bodhichitta, I must become perfectly awakened myself. How can I lead others where I have not been myself? So, with this motivation, I will now devote myself to this path, this glorious path of the Great Perfection, and with my heart and soul, with all of my being, I shall dedicate myself to this path, so that ever so swiftly I may reach the path of this Great Perfection and proceed with a sense of urgency and passion to realize the perfection of buddhahood by way of this path. And with this motivation I shall dedicate myself to this path over these eight weeks and for as long as it takes, until I’ve come to the culmination of the path and then fully prepared, fully capable of leading all beings to their own perfection.

With this motivation return to the practice of the Great Perfection. We set out on this path. And so let’s rest for a moment in silence, the sublime not doing of resting in awareness.

[End of meditation]

Transcribed by Claire Lamme

Revised by Rafael Carlos Giusti

Final edition by Rafael Carlos Giusti


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