Friday, March 5, 2010

Tong Len Meditation (Meditation on Giving and Taking)

Teaching by Choden Rinpoche @ Chokyi Gyaltsen Center, Penang, Malaysia on 25th December 2009. Translated by Geshe Gyalten. Transcribe and lightly edited by Ven.Osel on 14th Jan 2010.

Before listen to the teaching on the practice of giving and taking or tong len, please adjust your motivation by thinking that for the sake of all mother sentient beings, I need to achieve the state of fully enlightenment, and in order to do so, I need to engage onto the path that lead to that state, and for that, I need to understand the teaching, so for that reason, here and now I am going to listen to the teaching.

Today’s teaching is training one’s mind on the spiritual path of Mahayana or bodhisattva. In term of the technique of training one’s mind in the spiritual path of bodhisattva or bodhicitta, it has two major lineages or instructions.

The first instruction is transmitted from Manjushri to Nagarjuna and presence teacher. The second one is taught by Maitreya Buddha, and transmitted to Asanga.

The two lineages of method on training one’s mind in the spiritual path of Mahayana has two, one is training one’s mind in relation to the practice of seven causes and effect, another one is training one’s mind in relation to the practice of taking and giving.

The first one is transmitted from Maitreya to Asanga; the second one is transmitted from Manjushri to Shantideva.

The practice of taking and giving, tong len, is based on the practice of equalizing and exchanging self with others.

The practice of equalizing and exchanging oneself with others is rooted in the text taught by Nagarjuna which said:

I take all the pain and the causes of pain of all sentient beings upon me, and give all happiness and the causes of happiness without exception to all sentient beings.

That is the root source of the practice of equalizing and exchanging oneself with others.

The practice of taking and giving is out of love and compassion one takes all sufferings and the causes of suffering of other sentient beings upon oneself and give all happiness and the causes of happiness which is virtue and karma, and everything to all sentient beings without exception, such practice is the practice of equalizing and exchanging self with others.

Such practice is the practice for only sharp faculty bodhisattva. Why? It is because such practice is so powerful and so profound, that’s why such practice sometime is called secret practice. Why? Because such practice cannot conceptualized by other beings, the mind with less faculty, they cannot think about it, that’s why the practice is called secret practice. Even the Foe Destroyer, the Arya who achieved liberation, they cannot bear to engage in such practice, because such practice is so strong, deep and profound.

In order to be able to directly engage in such practice of equalizing and exchanging oneself with others, one needs to generate great compassion and love. In order to generate great compassion, which is the mind wishing to free all sentient beings from all types of sufferings, first one needs to generate the wish wishing oneself to free from all sort of sufferings. Without having the mind wishing oneself to be free from all types of suffering, there is no way to generate strong sense of compassion which is to wish all other sentient beings to be free from all sufferings. In order to generate strong sense of wishing oneself to be free from all sort of suffering, first one needs to generate or develop healthy fear of falling into the lower realms, or experiencing the infinite suffering of future lives.

The practice of engaging in the means of overcome the danger of future is the path of the person of small scope. In order to engage in the means of liberate oneself from samsara or suffering is the path of the person of middle scope. Engage in the path of great compassion is the path of the person of great scope. So in order to generate/ practice on the path of the person of great scope, first one needs to engage in the practice of the path of the person of small scope and middle scope.

In order to explain the teaching of the great scope which is the teaching on tong len, usually the master needs to go through all the paths right from the beginning like meditation on relying on the spiritual master, meditation on precious human rebirth, meditation on the great value of precious human rebirth, meditation on impermanence and death, meditation on the law of cause and effect, meditation on renunciation, meditation on training one’s mind on three higher training that which is the higher training on morality, higher training on concentration and higher training on wisdom on realizing selflessness of person, and then teach the meditation technique of compassion, love, then come the practice on equalizing and exchanging oneself with others. All the previous path have already explained in the previous class in conjunction with the teaching on Three Principals Aspect of the Path.

Before taking the sufferings of others upon oneself, first one needs to generate the strong sense of unbearable sense of other people’s suffering, that which is compassion. In order to develop the strong unbearable sense of other people’s suffering, first one needs to generate the unbearable sense of suffering upon oneself. Without having a strong sense of determination to free oneself from one’s sufferings, there is no way to generate a strong sense to free others from suffering. If one is not able to generate the strong sense of freeing other sentient beings from suffering, then one cannot take the other beings’ suffering and causes of suffering upon oneself.

To engage in the practice of this training, first one needs to reflect on the disadvantages or the shortcoming of self cherishing or self centered attitude. Once one meditates or contemplates on the shortcoming or drawback of self cherishing attitude, then one being able to develop strong wish to overcome the self cherishing thought. Then one needs to reflect on the advantages on cherishing others, through the force on reflecting the advantages on cherishing others, it causes you to generate strong sense of feeling wishing others to be happy. Through such meditation it causes oneself to develop a strong sense of unbearable on other people’s suffering than one’s suffering, also it causes oneself to generate strong sense of happiness for other rather than oneself.

Before one engages in the training on tong len, one needs to train one’s mind in such meditation technique that’s why in Lama Choepa text, at the point on practicing tong len, it said, “Thus, taking suffering and the causes of suffering of others upon oneself…”. ‘Thus’ mean the previous reason has been given.

When you look at the causes of suffering that we are experiencing in our daily life and in this world, it is the result of self cherishing thought. The more the self cherishing thought one have, the more one will have self grasping. The more you have self grasping, the more you will experience pain, mental pain. That means that, in another word, if you have 100% self cherishing thought, then you will have 100% pain, but if you have 50%, then you will have 50%. If you have no self cherishing thought, then you will not have pain or suffering. Any form of suffering or pain or problem or difficulty in this world or with individual, it is mainly caused by the self cherishing attitude. All the positives, happiness and peace mainly caused by cherishing other beings. So reflecting on these the disadvantages on self cherishing thought and advantages on cherishing other beings, it will lead you to engage in the practice of tong len.

All sufferings cause by self cherishing thought, all happiness cause by cherishing other beings. For example, the happiness of higher rebirth is caused by the mind of cherishing other beings. The suffering of lower realm and the cause of lower realm is cause by the mind of self cherishing thought. How? Out of self cherishing thought mind, one engages in order to benefit oneself only, one forget about the interest and benefit of other people, then one engage in the ten non-virtues like killing, sexual misconduct etc. As a result, one reborn in lower realm and experience different kind of suffering. That is why the cause of lower realm and suffering of lower realm is caused by the mind of self cherishing thought. Whereas the mind of cherishing other beings cause the higher rebirth and happiness of higher rebirth because out of caring and love for other beings, then one stop the harmful action which causes harm to other people, that’s why one restraint oneself from the ten non-virtues like killing, lying etc. As a result of that, one cause oneself to be born in higher rebirth and experience all different form of happiness in higher rebirth.

If you create negative karma through engaging in ten non-virtues out of self cherishing thought, then one is going to experience 2 kind of result, one is ripening result, and another one is result similar to the cause, or result similar to the karma that one created. If one creates the negative karma, i.e.killing, then that negative karma give rise to two result, ripening result and result similar to the karma.

For ripening result, one will experiences one reborn into lower realm. As for result similar to the karma of killing, it is that one experience so many sickness, disease and one will have short life. It is the same to the karma created through stealing, it also has two results one will experience, the ripening result and result similar to the cause. The ripening result is to be born in lower realm, the result similar to the karma is that one will very often one loses one’s thing, one’s money, wallet and all kind of stuff. For the result similar to the karma of sexual misconduct is frequently disagreement or fighting between couples.

The Foe Destroyer, the Arya, even though they achieved liberation through the force of engaging in three higher training - higher training on morality, higher training on concentration and higher training on wisdom, yet they fail to engage in the practice of love, compassion and bodhicitta which is the mind to cherish other people, they fail to achieve the state of Buddhahood, they end up with liberation only.

There is no need to say much about the disadvantage of self cherishing thought and advantage of cherishing other people, we can look at the situation of a child of an ordinary being, and the situation of Buddha. Our ordinary people situation filled of suffering it is because of self cherishing thought; whereas in the situation of Buddha, they always experiencing everlasting peace and happiness without any suffering, and respected and pay homage by all beings, it is because of the result of the mind on cherishing other beings. So this is the advantage and disadvantage on self cherishing thought and cherishing other beings.

Through continuously meditating on the disadvantages on self cherishing thought, then it cause you to come to a conclusion that you must get rid of self cherishing, which is number one enemy to me that cause all pain and suffering. Then as a result of continuously meditating on the mind of cherishing others, then it will cause you to come to a conclusion that I must try to generate the mind on cherishing other beings, then it will come to the practice on tong len. In the past you cherished yourself only, then you are going to replace that mind, now you are going to cherish other beings. In the past you gave up working on the interest of other beings, now you replace this, now you are going to solely work for the interest of other beings.

When you have a strong feeling that “If other people have happiness and the cause of happiness, I don’t concern and care about my happiness and the cause of happiness, as long as other people free from suffering and the cause of suffering, I don’t care about my suffering and the cause of suffering.” When we have such strong sense of altruistic feeling, then we can practice taking the suffering of other people, and giving happiness of oneself to other people.

Now how do you meditate on the practice of tong len - the practice of equalizing and exchanging self for others? First you meditate on the disadvantages on the self cherishing thought, then meditate on the advantage on the mind on cherishing other, after that taking suffering of other people, you cannot meditate on it right at the beginning, it is impossible to have the real genuine mind to take suffering and the cause of suffering upon oneself.

How do you begin the practice of tong len? First you begin with oneself. How to begin with oneself? First you take the suffering of yourself. For an example, first you take the suffering of next year to this year. After that, then you take the suffering of next month to this month, and then you take the suffering of tomorrow to today. If you take the suffering of tomorrow to today, then tomorrow you will not be suffering, you will be happy, that’s why first one take tomorrow suffering as oneself is going to suffer to today now and here. If one through the continuous meditation on this method, then one becomes habituated or accustomed, then one can apply this technique with other beings.

After doing the practice of tong len in relation to one’s suffering, then you do the tong len practice in relation with other beings. Taking the suffering of other beings is not taking the suffering of one individual being, it is taking the suffering of all sentient beings. So how to begin with after meditating on taking one’s suffering? One begin with lower realm, for an example, taking the suffering of hell being in hell realm, first you can meditate on taking the suffering of hell realm, the environment, first take the cold element like ice, take in the form of black cloud enter into one’s body, then this black cloud destroy one’s self cherishing thought, then take the excessive hotness of hell realm in black cloud, then it come upon one’s self cherishing thought and then it destroy one’s self cherishing thought. After taking the fault of the environment of hell realm, then you take the faults or the suffering nature of the beings in hell realm in black liquid, then it come after one’s self cherishing thought, and it destroyed one’s self cherishing thought from one’s mind.

The way you take the suffering of other sentient beings is like that, for an example, you take the suffering nature of the environment of hell, and they all come out in the form of black light, just like you shaved hair, when all hair come out, it left only white head, just like that when you take the suffering nature of environment, they all come out in black light form, then in samsara there leave with no suffering.

The black light first come right in the center of your heart, all these suffering ripen on the head of one’s self cherishing thought, when it is ripen on the head of self cherishing thought, then the self cherishing thought got destroyed, so to feel like this.

When oneself familiarize with this meditation, then one can take the suffering of environment in the form of knife or other instrument, then it cuts one’s self cherishing thought.

Now you have taken the faults or the shortcoming of the environment of hell realm upon one’s self cherishing thought, and one’s self cherishing thought is destroyed. Then you give all virtues, positive karma that one created, in the form of white light, they all go to hell realm, and the environment of hell realm become pure land. You visualize in this way.

Then you meditate on taking the suffering of beings in hell realm. The beings on hot hell realm experiencing whole body burn with fire, it is extremely difficult to distinguish the different between fire and the body. The beings in cold hell realm suffering from extreme cold and darkness. So first you take the suffering of beings in hell realm, then all suffering of the beings in hell realm come in the form of black light, enter into your body, reach the center of your heart, all these result ripen on the head of one’s self cherishing thought, and the self cherishing thought got destroyed, so to feel like this.

Upon taking the suffering nature of the beings in hell realm, then you give all your virtue, positive karma, love, wisdom, all your qualities that you have in the form of white light, then they all achieve precious human rebirth, they all become human being, they all achieve precious human rebirth. Then again you offer them teacher, the spiritual master, then the spiritual master give different type of teaching, all the path that lead to Buddhahood, they listen, contemplate and meditate, and as a result they achieve enlighten state, the Buddhahood. So to feel like this.

After you gave them the precious human rebirth, spiritual master who give them teaching and then achieve Buddhahood, then you feel you rejoice, you think that you have done a wonderful job to help them. After doing that, apply the same meditation technique to preta realm. First take the fault of environment of preta, then give them pure land, later take the suffering of the beings of preta, then give them precious human rebirth and teacher, teaching them and they achieve enlightenment. Then the third one is animal realm, then human being, then god, and demi god. You practice this technique in relation to all six realms beings.

Also you can practice tong len when you encounter any suffering beings, some one who is tormented by strong sickness, when you come in contact, you can practice in relation with that sick people. You take all the sickness of that person in the form of black light, then it comes to the center of your heart, ripen that sickness on the head of self cherishing thought of oneself, then it destroy the self cherishing thought, and then you give all the qualities and positive karma and good thing in the form of white light and goes to that sick person, then this sick person is blessed and become well and happy, you can practice in relation to sick person. If you do so, it purifies immeasurable huge negative karma and accumulates the best merit for oneself.

Also when you come in contact with great sinner, like a butcher, you can also practice tong len, you feel like you take all his ignorant mind and negative karma, the habit of killing, all these in the form of black light, come to your self cherishing thought, then it destroy the self cherishing thought, then you give all your qualities and positive karma in the form of white light go into his body, it clears away his confusion on killing, then he got wisdom, then he engages in positive action, you can meditate like this.

You can practice tong len in relation with every beings, except Buddha. Why is that? Buddha has free from all faults and completed with all qualities. Except Buddha, the rest beings, each and every sentient being is having any kind of fault or lack of any kind of qualities. That’s why we can practice taking and giving in relation with all sentient beings, even with the bodhisattva on 10th ground. 10th
ground bodhisattva means that in the next second moment the bodhisattva is going to achieve Buddhahood, the last Bodhisattva who will become Buddha in next moment. Even in relation to that bodhisattva one can practice taking and giving. Why? Because this bodhisattva even though is obscured to become Buddha with small obscuration to omniscience mind, even with that we can practice to take that obscuration upon us, then we give happiness and the cause of happiness which is positive karma to that bodhisattva. To summarize, you can practice taking and giving to all sentient beings.

As we have just said that we cannot practice taking and giving in relation to Buddha, because one cannot take the faults from Buddha because Buddha has no faults and is completed with all qualities of body, speech and mind, but still you can practice giving, how do you do this? You give all your happiness and positive karma to Buddha in the form of offering. You can offer the whole set of universe, all these happiness and positive karma in the form of beautiful environment, like river, flower, mountain, whatever that you like you offer. When you offer it caused them to experience great bliss and they are delighted with that experience. In this way you accumulated the best amount of merit for oneself.

Also one can practice giving to one’s spiritual master, even though one cannot practice the taking part. Because one needs to view one’s spiritual master is Buddha. So since he is Buddha, there is no faults to take, but one can practice giving. The way to practice giving is the same as giving all your happiness and positive karma in the form of throne, dharma wheel, when you offer this, through the force of offering in the form of throne and dharma wheel, then one’s spiritual master live long, healthy and turn the wheel of dharma for the sake of all sentient beings.

To some of this practice, first you reflect on the suffering nature of all sentient beings, dominated by the suffering of suffering, suffering of change, pervasive suffering, all these take in the form of black light, ripen upon one’s self cherishing thought, and then destroy one’s self cherishing thought. Then you give all your happiness and the cause of happiness, that is the positive karma, to all sentient beings, and they enjoy whatever they like. So this is the condense version of the practice of taking and giving.

The practice of taking and giving has incredible benefits. Not only one individual who practice tong len got the incredible benefits, but also the place where the individual reside also get great benefits in that place.

For example, the benefit of taking the suffering of one’s individual headache is that it can purify the negative karma which can cause one to be reborn in lower realm. If that is so, no need to mention about the benefit in taking all type of suffering of all sentient beings upon oneself, so it is unimaginable.

The story of purifying one’s negative karma that caused to lower realm by taking on the suffering headache of one individual is in relation with one bodhisattva who share the same mental continuum with Buddha Shakyamuni. When Buddha Shakyamuni was one of the bodhisattva, his name is called Daughter of the Captain of ship.

The captain of the ship whenever give birth to a son, the son die every time, but when give birth to daughter, the daughter remain, so one time when he give birth to a son, he called the son as daughter instead of calling him as son. So this son got the name of captain’s daughter, and since he was called as daughter, he did not die.

As the daughter of captain grow up, he told his mother that as the tradition of culture at that time, whatever father does, the son follow the footstep of father, carrying the same job, so since the father is a ship captain, then he wants to go on sea with ship. But the mother said that it is very dangerous and he shouldn’t go, it is not safe, but the daughter of captain did not listen, and the mother in order to prevent him to go on sea, the mother placed her head on the step of door, the daughter of captain did not listen, he stepped over the head of his mother and left for sea voyage. Some how the ship got broken with strong wind, and daughter of captain somehow get hold of one of the breakage, and escape to beach.

When he arrive the beach, he wonder along the beach, he heard a great cry from one small house. When he went into the small house, he saw someone experiencing a great pain causing by a wheel turning in his brain. The daughter of captain asked what happened with you, then he said it is because of the ripening result of the karma caused by stepping my foot on the head of my mother. Then daughter of captain immediately recall his negative karma, and the moment he recalled the negative karma, the sharp wheel come forward to his head and he experience the pain. When he was experiencing the pain, he immediately meditate on taking on whoever created the karma that is same like me which is bound to experience the negative consequence, so all these ripen on me. He immediately meditate like this, and then the wheel go away, and he purify all his negativity. If that is the case, if he is able to remove his pain immediately and purify all negativity with meditation on taking on one negative karma, then if we engage in the practice of tonglen, taking on all the sufferings of all sentient beings upon us, then it purifies immeasurable negative karma.

When we look at Shakyamuni Buddha who is completely free from all faults and completed with all qualities, he was not like this right from the beginning, he was like us over power by self cherishing thought and lack of cherishing others, but through his continuously meditation on compassion and love, and practice on tong len, he able to remove all faults in his mind stream and completed all qualities at last. For an example, once upon a time, he took birth as a chariot puller in hell realm, pulling chariot, as one of the hell being that pull chariot, one of the bodhisattva who share the same mental continuum as Buddha Shakyamuni, he pushes the chariot from back. One day the hell beings pull the chariot can’t pull well, so the guardian of hell realm whip him, then the bodhisattva who share the same continuum as Buddha Shakyamuni developed a strong sense of compassion, he offer his service and help to pull and ask the hell being to take rest, then the hell guardian said that you think you have great compassion? then he hit the head of the bodhisattva with wood and this cause the bodhisattva immediately release from hell realm, liberated from hell realm.

In the beginning when you are not so familiarize with the practice of taking and giving, you cannot take it directly, you take the suffering mentally, then when you become so much habituated with such practice, and when your practice become uncontrived, then naturally spontaneously with such meditation technique and concentration, you are able to actually take the suffering of other beings.

Also you all know that Buddha Shakyamuni through the force of love and compassion, he practice the giving of all his possession, even his body and life, skin and blood.

In term of the substance that one is giving to other beings in the practice of giving, there are three: you give your possession, body and merit. When you give merit, you feel the merit enter into the body of that being, then because of that merit, the being able to generate strong faith toward three jewels, and create the cause for precious human rebirth, and engage in positive karma, and being able to generate love and compassion and wisdom and become Buddha. You can give your merit in such a way.

When you give your possession, you cannot just visualize, even if you have possession but you cannot give so you just visualize, it is not like that. When you have possession, and when you give, you give it actually, you give it as much as you can directly.

When it comes to giving one’s body, unless one is able to generate uncontrived sense of love and compassion, unfabricated, spontaneous arise, until then one is not allowed to give one’s body directly. Because there is danger of feeling regret after given, so it is not allowed. But you can give mentally, so when you give body, the way to give is that whatever the being is in need, you give it in that form, for example, he needs a land, then you give it in the form of land, house in the form of house, gift in the form of gift, whatever he needs you give your body in that form, you can visualize in that way.

When one engages in the practice of giving one’s merit, there is no point that one feels miserliness, because you don’t need to afraid that you will lose your merit. Instead when you give your virtue, your virtue will increase, it will multiple into hundred million times when you give your merit to other beings. Other beings also receive the benefit, not only that, in reality you gain the most benefit out of it.

In term of getting the benefit from the practice of giving, you can see that when we do puja for other beings, if they are sick, they get recover from sickness, if there is some danger, and if we do puja, they are free from the danger, that’s why during puja we dedicate merit to them, that’s why they get benefit. At the same time if we do puja for those who passed away, then they can be liberated from lower realm. That’s why other sentient being definitely get benefit from the practice of giving.

In term of the reality in directly taking suffering of other sentient beings through the force of taking, normally cannot directly take the suffering of other beings if the power of our meditation and concentration and love and compassion, and the cause and condition are not fully present, one can not able to take the suffering directly. But if the cause and condition are present in the sense that one being able to develop strong concentration and love and compassion, then through the practice of taking, oneself can take the pain of other beings directly upon oneself. For an example, there was a great yogi of love in India, through his power of taking and giving, one time he is able to take the pain of a dog which was beaten by somebody, that pain he took upon himself. But the person who hit with the stick to the dog did not believe, in order to prove that, the great yogi of love showed him the wound of the dog on his body. One being able to generate strong sense of concentration and deep love and compassion, then one can take directly the pain of other sentient beings. Without that, one cannot take the pain directly.

Also on the cause and condition on taking the actual pain of sentient beings through the practice of taking and giving is actually happen for example like Kyabje Pabongka Rinpoche, when they came in contact with someone who has pain and swollen, he engaged in the practice of tong len for three times. On the first time, the pain and swollen got smaller, then Pabongka Rinpoche’s hand got a little bit on it, on the second meditation, the pain and swollen reduce to half, and Rinpoche got half. On the third meditation, everything was gone, and Rinpoche got a big swollen on his hand. If the cause and condition present, one can really take the suffering of others.

Actually to be able to directly take the pain upon oneself, the 2 causes need to be present, one is the person need to have strong faith, another thing is that the practitioner needs to have strong concentration and deep love and compassion. Normal people like us when we engage in the practice of taking, we don’t have to worry about that we will be suffered, it is to train our mind, actually suffering will not happen or ripen on you so no need to worry about that. If you with courageous mind, you take the suffering, what will happen is that it benefits you, it purify lots of negative karma, and makes your mind deepend on love and compassion and make the mind more stronger.

Even though one engage in the practice of taking the suffering and the suffering will not come directly to yourself, but when you engage in the practice, you must not think in this way, you should not think that you are taking the suffering and leave it around you, it is not like this, you take out of compassion, wishing other to be free from suffering, can’t bear other people’s suffering, so you take the suffering, then take it directly to the center of your heart, on the head of self grasping attitude, then meditate like this, some people when meditate like this, they feel some kind of pain in the heart, that is a good indication, because your meditation become proper, why cause pain because it hurt the self cherishing thought, because we have so much attachment toward oneself, can’t let go of “I’ that’s why it hurt the ego, that is the correct meditation. When you experience such thing, now you realized that so far I have deceived by the ego, now I being able to punish the ego, so to feel like this.

Such practice on taking and giving is the gateway to Buddhahood, gateway to liberation for the fortunate one, so far if one being able to receive the teaching and instruction on giving and taking, and practice it in daily life, that would be extremely fortunate, so Rinpoche recommend that don’t just leave it as the teaching, but should try to meditate it on daily basis.

We are extremely fortunate being able to listening to such teaching on taking and giving as this is the teaching related to the high faculty bodhisattva.

With this we finished the teaching on taking and giving, and now we make short mandala offering.

1 comment:

Catherine said...

Thanks so much for sharing this. It is very wonderful. And so is Choden Rinpoche!