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Jundo
07-08-2017, 05:19 PM
Dear All,

I would like to thank Kokuu for taking the lead in guiding this Tonglen (Giving and Receiving) Practice Circle. Tonglen is an ancient Practice originating in Tibet but now adopted by many Zen and other Western Buddhist Sangha, for the transformation of suffering, anger, sadness and the like within ourselves and in the world, and transforming the same through visualization into peace, joy, acceptance and other positive emotions.

I recommend this Practice and this group to all our members who may struggle with such suffering. Kokuu himself has lived with serious and difficult health issues for many years, and this Practice has helped bring him some strength, Wisdom and Compassion toward his own suffering and the suffering of others. I am sure that it will for so many of you too.

Gassho, Jundo

SatTodayLAH

Kokuu
07-09-2017, 03:11 PM
Thank you very much, Jundo. I am very pleased to be able to share this practice with members of the sangha, although doubtless some (or many) already have some familarity with it. I claim no mastery or ownership but am happy offer some basic instruction in the practice of Giving and Receiving (tonglen) here.


1. Background

The Practice of Giving and Receiving (Tonglen) is part of a set of practices originating in Tibetan Buddhist practices but being adopted by Zen and other Buddhist groups of many kinds. The aim of these practices is to transform, through visualization, the human way we encounter difficulties into the way a symbolic Bodhisattva would approach them with openness, forgiveness and compassion.

The teachings are said to have been initially given to the Indian master Atisha Dipamkara by Serlingpa, a teacher in Indonesia, and Atisha is said to have been responsible for bringing them to Tibet in the eleventh century where they have become an intrinsic part of Tibetan Buddhist dharma.

The following instructions contain the heart of the practice of Giving and Receiving (Tonglen):

Train in taking and sending alternately. Put them on the breath.

And Begin the sequence of taking with you.

In some respects Tonglen is similar to sending Metta (see our Recommended Daily Metta Practice HERE (http://www.treeleaf.org/forums/showthread.php?6020-RECOMMENDED-DAILY-Metta-PRACTICE)) but Tibetan Buddhism has a tendency to amalgamate a number of practices into one and Sending and Receiving is certainly one example of that. As well as developing Metta, Giving and Receiving is part of a series of practices which aim to increase our concern for others while being less concerned with oneself. Usually we try to hold onto all the good things for ourselves and avoid the bad elements of life. This practice completely turns that way of thinking on its head.

Giving and Receiving is also a method of experiencing the suffering of others and feeling connected to them. It is a way of opening the heart to what we fear and then using that open heart to send out metta. When the heart is open, there is no separation between our self and others. This is a pure Mahayana practice designed to increase the aspiration for awakening to help all beings (bodhicitta).

A Practice such as Tonglen and Metta can go hand-in-hand with our core Practice, Shikantaza. Although we do not engage in such Practices during Zazen, it is good each day to engage in such an additional Practice for developing compassion, and to work on helping others in our lives. It is hoped that Giving and Receiving may occupy a warm and helpful place in our practice and our hearts.

Further Reading
Joan Halifax Roshi - Tonglen (https://www.upaya.org/dox/Tonglen.pdf)


2. The Practice

The basic instruction of Giving and Receiving (Tonglen) is to breathe in the suffering of others and breathe out love and joy. This is most commonly done as a visualisation of seeing the suffering as black smoke which is breathed into the heart and the love and joy as white light going out as the out breath from the heart. Visualizing such imagined images helps us to truly feel such emotions.

As with the Metta Verses it is best to decide what kind of suffering from which people you are going to practice and sticking with that. Personally, I have found that using a kind of suffering you are familiar with or that is affecting you (maybe a war, famine or natural disaster that is currently occurring) works better than something more abstract. If you are sick, grieving, depressed etc. these can work well too. However, it is up to you. It can be good to start small and work up to really traumatic events to avoid being overwhelmed. Feeling strong emotions is not a totally bad thing but working with your neighbour’s grief over the loss of their dog (and, by extension, the grief of all people who have lost a loved companion animal) is just as important as practicing with the victims of a brutal terror attack.

There are a few things worth noting as this point:

1. Giving and Receiving is not a magical or mystical practice and we are not actually breathing in the suffering of others (although if you could, would you hesitate?) but transforming our own mind and heart. We find that we have boundless capacity to take in the poisons of the world, and boundless capacity to send forth goodness. The more negativity that can be taken in, the more peace and goodness there is to breathe out into the world. It takes time, but the Practice becomes very balanced and natural.

2. We are not transforming the suffering into happiness and joy and breathing that out. We are breathing in the bad from outside and breathing out our love and happiness from within. However, during the meditation, distinctions of inside and outside can cease to become meaningful.

3. We may become fearful that there is not enough room in our heart for all of the suffering in the world but just as the amount of love we have to give is boundless and only increased by the number of people we give it to, so is our capacity to take on the fear and pain of others. However, as said above, it is still good to start small and work up in practice.

Just as with the Metta Verses, we begin Giving and Receiving with our self and this has always been the instruction from the time this practice was first developed. We breathe in our own pain and suffering and breathe out love and joy to ourselves before proceeding to work with the suffering of others. This is an important first step. There is nothing wrong, and everything right, about kindness and healing for ourself so long as we use it as a base to bring kindness and healing into the world for the benefit of all sentient beings.


3. Formal Practice

If we are not practicing Giving and Receiving as part of a Zazenkai or at the end of a Zazen sitting, it is good to have a period of Zazen sitting before starting the practice even if this is only for a few minutes. After this we can proceed with Giving and Receiving on our self, then Giving and Receiving with whatever form of suffering we have chosen to work with. Finally, we expand our focus to Giving and Receiving the suffering of all sentient beings. These three stages can be as little as a minute each or extended for a longer period.

So, the stages are as follows:

1. Zazen (if not already sat)
2. Giving and Receiving for yourself
3. Giving and Receiving for chosen form of suffering
4. Giving and Receiving for all beings

We can close the practice by chanting the Bodhisattva Vows three times to remind us of the Mahayana motivation:

To save all sentient beings, though beings numberless
To transform all delusions, though delusions inexhaustible
To perceive reality, though reality is boundless
To attain the enlightened way, a way non-attainable


4. Informal Practice (or practice ‘on the go’)

Often, we will come across suffering we wish to respond to in the course of our daily life, when it is not possible to go through all of the stages of formal practice. This might include seeing someone crying on the street, watching a traumatic event on the news or your own pain or emotional discomfort.

In this situation, it is perfectly fine to just do stage 3 of the practice for as long as is necessary. Just one breath can be sufficient. This is a traditional use of the practice.

Jishin
07-09-2017, 03:38 PM
https://youtu.be/4uDhwFU9unc

This is a scene from the Green Mile. Tom Hanks has debilitating suffering/STD which is taken from him.

This makes me think of Tonglen.

Gasho, Jishin, _/st\_




JUNDO COMMENT: WELL, PERHAPS A BIT MORE DOWN TO EARTH, LESS VIOLENT AND WITHOUT THE HOLLYWOOD SPECIAL EFFECTS

Guish
07-09-2017, 05:33 PM
Hi Kokku,

I used to do a similar exercise called the "So Hum" meditation. Basically, you visualise breathing in white light and exhaling black smoke. However, I feel very uncomfortable when I do it now as I feel stressed out and panic at times. I am not sure how to practise this one.

Gassho,
Geerish.
ST/Lah.

Kokuu
07-09-2017, 07:36 PM
Hi Guish

This is an additional practice to shikantaza that some people may find helpful but it is absolutely not compulsory. It has been known to help panic as you can breathe in your own panic and breathe out light to yourself but if it doesn't work for you there is no need to force yourself to do it.

Do you feel panic when you do normal sitting meditation or is that okay?

Gassho
Kokuu
-sattoday/LAH-

Geika
07-09-2017, 11:30 PM
I will be adding this to my daily Metta practice, thank you all.

Gassho, sat today, lah

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Jakuden
07-10-2017, 12:06 AM
Thank you Kokuu ❤️this is wonderful. Is there a particular environment or posture in which this is usually done?
Gassho
Jakuden
SatToday/LAH


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Shingen
07-10-2017, 03:22 AM
This is wonderful Kokuu, thank you for making this possible. I look forward to learning and growing with you all. =)

Gassho
Shingen

SatToday/LAH

Taiyo
07-10-2017, 06:39 AM
Thank you for sharing this with us, Kokuu, wonderful. gassho2

Gassho,
Taiyo

SatToday/LAH

Guish
07-10-2017, 07:20 AM
Hi Guish

This is an additional practice to shikantaza that some people may find helpful but it is absolutely not compulsory. It has been known to help panic as you can breathe in your own panic and breathe out light to yourself but if it doesn't work for you there is no need to force yourself to do it.

Do you feel panic when you do normal sitting meditation or is that okay?

Gassho
Kokuu
-sattoday/LAH-

Hi kokuu,

Sitting meditation is now fine. In my early years of meditation, I experienced sudden moments of frustration or anger which I believe were stuck emotions. There were periods of involuntary movements of my hands or legs. Nowadays, its's bliss or chit chat in the mind or both. I'm not someone who does panic in life. I may get anxious but it settles down as I go along. I'll try it today and let you know,

Gassho,
Geerish.
ST/LAH.

Seishin
07-11-2017, 10:09 AM
Kokuu

I will certainly try to add this to my daily practice, it sounds a wonderful concept. I still find it difficult to find love and compassion within but I know it is there as it surfaces when needed. Guess I just don't feel it 24*7.

Way back in my martial arts days I did practice something similar to this but as was said earlier, in the opposite way. Clean white positive energy being breathed in to cleanse and rid the body of negativity and toxins, represented by exhaling black air. This could have been Wing Chun in origin but I'm not sure as it was decades ago. So I can see how this would work in reverse and allow those feelings of love and compassion to be closer to the surface - I do recite the metta verses daily but little has changed with my own regard but it is what it is.

Deep bows for bringing us this practice.

SIFSRTM

Toby
[emoji120] [emoji120] [emoji120]

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Tai Shi
07-11-2017, 11:59 AM
Hi Kokuu, I also practiced something that was to bring love and compassion to the front of my life. In my working life I was a college English teacher, and I do some of this now with a class I supervise to some degree as a participant only as another member. The idea is to keep a dream journal, and we keep some little ideas to the fore the night we might "catch" a dream." This is absolutely nothing like the ideas of Jung, or Freud, but only the ideas of everyday life. In my own life, I recorded some ideas about everyday andry and then ridding myself of such anger. This is simply a dream journal, and sometimes I would read an idea, or meditation just as I was getting into bed, and something nothing. Dreams were not always remembered, but if I dreamed about my teeth, for example, I might see if I needed a dental check-up. As in my case sometimes I recorded something when I would wake in the middle of the night, and some nights there was nothing. I came to some important realizations about women and eventually married. We have been married 35 years, and I am still learning everyday about love and compassion.

For me with you, I want to be a clean slate, open to anything. Again sometimes I see different kinds of shortsightedness, and lack of empathy. I want to learn anything you have to offer. I do have gratitude to some degree, and I can offer you my gratitude.

Tai Shi
std
Gassho

Kyonin
07-11-2017, 04:35 PM
Thank you Kokuu!

This is a wonderful practice and I think we will all benefit from it.

Looking forward to participate.

Gassho,

Kyonin
Sat/LAH

Hoseki
07-11-2017, 06:20 PM
Gassho

Hoseki
Sattoday

Kokuu
07-12-2017, 10:41 AM
Is there a particular environment or posture in which this is usually done?

Formal practice is done seated on the cushion but otherwise you can do it wherever and whenver you like as the need arises.

Sogyal Rinpoche writes about it in The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying and he teaches the practice to terminally ill patients, the majority of whom do the practice lying down.

Gassho
Kokuu
-sattoday-

Kokuu
07-12-2017, 10:44 AM
Way back in my martial arts days I did practice something similar to this but as was said earlier, in the opposite way. Clean white positive energy being breathed in to cleanse and rid the body of negativity and toxins, represented by exhaling black air.

Toby, I think a lot of people have done this practice as a form of 'energy cleansing' and it reflect what Guish talks about of the practice he did.

Flipping it the other way around does have a different effect for sure! I don't know if anyone feels love and compassion 24/7. It sounds fine to me if it is there when you need it but am not a teacher so Jundo might have a different perspective!

Gassho
Kokuu
-sattoday/LAH-

Kokuu
07-12-2017, 10:46 AM
Marriage is one definite way to learn about compassion, Tai Shi! Interesting about your dream diary.

I will let you know when the first practice session is and hopefully you will find it a pretty simple practice to do.

Gassho
Kokuu
-sattoday-

Meitou
07-16-2017, 11:25 PM
Thank you Kokuu, I've practised Tonglen occasionally over the past few years, specifically when I've felt myself turning away from the suffering of others because I couldn't 'bear it' , I will now make it a regular practice. I can't sit with you in person, Sundays are out for me, but will be with you in spirit.
Gassho
Frankie

Satwithyoualltoday/LAH

Kokuu
07-17-2017, 09:50 AM
I can't sit with you in person, Sundays are out for me, but will be with you in spirit.

Thank you, Frankie.

I am hoping someone will teach me how to record a session then those who cannot be there can sit along later should they wish to do so.

Gassho
Kokuu
-sattoday/LAH-

Washin
07-17-2017, 07:58 PM
Thank you for sharing this, Kokuu.

I did something similar to this Practice a time ago (but I did it during zazen then)
and will participate in the Tonglen Practice circle now. Particularly I intend to do the stage 3
for all the suffering which currently has place in the East of my country.

Gassho,
Washin
sat and lah

Tai Shi
09-08-2017, 02:07 PM
I believe I have often thought about my and my family so I will begin Tonglin Kokuu and this practice will help in many wzys for father and brother. And, mostly how I see ther

Gassho
Tai Shi
st, lah

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Kokuu
09-08-2017, 04:39 PM
I believe I have often thought about my and my family so I will begin Tonglin Kokuu and this practice will help in many wzys for father and brother

gassho2

Khalil Bodhi
09-09-2017, 02:22 AM
Kokuu,

I'm so glad that this Sangha is taking up tonglen practice. It had been transformative for me. I look forward to learning and practicing with you all during this time of jukai.

Gassho,

KB


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Tai Shi
09-17-2017, 06:46 PM
So who am I trying to imp-ress--I just want to know a few basics, Kokuu, so I can try to use this in my daily sit. Either here please or in a PM--Thank YOU so much Kokuu.

Tai Shi
st
Gassho

Kokuu
09-17-2017, 07:30 PM
Hi Tai Shi

The instructions are in the first comment in this post but if that is too complicated the basics are this:

1. When you breathe in, imagine breathing in the suffering of others, either one person (often someone close) or a group of people who are suffering (such as those involved in a natural disaster). You can imagine that coming into you as black smoke if you wish.

2. When you breathe out, you imagine breathing out joy, love and peace to the same people. You can imagine that as white light.

This is in essence turning the thinking on its head of keeping away from suffering and wanting joy. Instead we take in the suffering and send out the joy. This is a practice designed to increase our compassion for others.

Let me know if you need any more!

Gassho
Kokuu

Onka
07-24-2020, 08:43 PM
IHey Kokuu
I'm going to keep an eye out and hopefully join you in this practice.
Gassho
Onka
st

Kokuu
07-24-2020, 08:51 PM
Onka, it is on Sunday night at 8pm UK time so I imagine that will be something ridiculous in QLD like 5am...

Gassho
Kokuu
-sattoday/lah-

Onka
07-24-2020, 09:37 PM
Onka, it is on Sunday night at 8pm UK time so I imagine that will be something ridiculous in QLD like 5am...

Gassho
Kokuu
-sattoday/lah-

Yep. 5am Monday morning. I usually get up between 4am and 5am every day for Zazen so it shouldn't be too ridiculous. I look forward to practicing with you all.
Gassho
Onka
st

Kokuu
07-24-2020, 10:39 PM
Yep. 5am Monday morning. I usually get up between 4am and 5am every day for Zazen so it shouldn't be too ridiculous. I look forward to practicing with you all.

Wonderful! I will look for you.

Gassho
Kokuu
-sattoday/lah-

Tai Shi
07-25-2020, 04:36 AM
Iíve found Tonglen practice sometimes difficult because though mild I do have emphysema. In breath perhaps one person, out breathe group, this helps me sometimes.
Tai Shi
sat
Gassho.


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Tai Shi
10-06-2020, 02:16 PM
Hi All, when I practice Tonglen, and I think of myself, there is a time when we are allowed to think of ourselves, and I think, practice with my form of arthritis. Jundo has give permission to add the Spondylitis Association of America to our Treeleaf charities, I have decided to give a small monthly donation of 5 dollars. I'm not asking for donations here, just some help in placing this non-proffit charity in our Treeleaf Zendo list because I don't know how. The charity link is already on my Facebook although there may be a different type of link. Please check with Jundo, then can someone place the link into our charties because I don't know how to do this. This is all I ask, just help with link in our list, not donation.Please pm me so I know one person has done so, and I can post my gratitude, and that it is done. Thank you from the bottom of my heart!!!
Gassho
deepest bows
sat/ lah
Tai Shi