Tonglen – the Buddhist practice of embracing the pain and suffering of othersTonglen

Westerner have developed many ways to take away the pain and suffering of others, all of these approaches require someone to do something to or for the ‘suffering’person (medical intervention; allopathic or wholistic and all the other therapies that are so prevalent today. For anyone to ‘do’ anything for another, they must first presume to know what the problem is, and secondly, they must know what to ‘do’ about the problem.

This presumption leads to all manner of approaches to healing, all of which may have some benefit, but if they were as effective as we are led to believe, then why is sickness and suffering so prevalent among so many people?


can be seen as taking on the pain and suffering of others, not a very popular approach to healing, understandably, at least the reluctance is understandable from the point of view of someone who continually identifies with their own pain and suffering. Whilst we have, on any level of our being, attachment, association with, judgement of thoughts, feelings and emotions, we will do our best to avoid adding to our drama. While we see ourselves as separate from the rest of creation we will always try to do something to protect ourselves, to fix our world.

As we begin to see (? through ‘clearing’) that the thoughts and feelings that arise in our awareness are not ours but simply how the body has been conditioned since early childhood, and perhaps before that, our attachment to our personal drama lessens. When we cease judging ourselves, when we stop taking ourselves so seriously, when we can face our own ‘shadow’ without identifying with it, our heart opens. The heart expands in its ability to embrace all thought, all feeling, all emotion because it is not taking that which arises personally. If we do not take emotions personally we can relax into them, knowing that we do not have to take them home with us. This leads to tremendous healing of the self, for it is only old, accumulated imbalance that eventually leads us down the road of sickness (physical, emotional, mental, spiritual).

When we can truly love ourselves, then it is effortless to embrace the pain and suffering of others, because their pain and suffering can no longer harm us, for we have grown so compassionate, in the truest sense of the word, that all thoughts, all feelings, all emotions are welcomed into our heart where they are lovingly accepted. We can embrace the pain and suffering of others without any ill effects upon us whatsoever. And the benefit to the practitioner is one of the most profound gifts we can  give ourselves, for in the process of ‘helping’ others we have healed ourselves on deep, cellular levels.

Tonglen is the name given to this practice, yet Tonglen is not exclusive to Buddhism, in fact it is something that we all do, to some degree or other, already. For the most part we do this without awareness that we are practicing Tonglen, there are some things we can love unconditionally, we don’t have to think about it, others we judge without giving that any thought either.

Clearing is a safe and profound approach to developing your own practice, where you may imagine Tonglen to be out of your reach ‘Clearing’ will demonstrate beyond a doubt, that to some degree or other, you are already on the path of becoming and Tonglen practitioner.

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2 Responses to Tonglen

  1. Corinne says:

    Ha ha, silly me had not yet seen the connection! So this Tonglen practice came onto my path… to lead me back to Clearing again 😉

    Wait, did both just get a little less difficult just now?!!

  2. Jelena Jordanov says:

    Very inspiring text!
    Thank you 🙂

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The moment you become aware is the moment of choice.
— Eric Dowsett