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  • Writer's pictureAnchorage Sangha

Instructions Tonglen Meditation

Tonglen is a meditation practice through which we can give rise to the loving and compassionate intention known in the Buddhist tradition as bodhicittaBodhicitta is the sincere and genuine wish that all sentient beings be freed from suffering and its causes and that they achieve a state of ultimate happiness.

Tong means giving, and len means receiving. What do we give and receive when we practice tonglen? We mentally give others all of the happiness that we possess, as great or as small as it may be, and we receive the suffering and difficulties that other beings experience. The purpose of this practice is to reduce our fixation on ourselves and to develop love and compassion for others. Through this meditation, we turn our mind inside out—we step out of our self-centeredness and turn our minds toward the needs and circumstances of others. As our concern for others begins to increase, the intense fixation we have on ourselves, and our disturbing emotions, begins to decrease. As this process unfolds, we begin to feel more ease and peace of mind.


When we practice tonglen, the easiest way is to join the visualization with the inhalation and exhalation of the breath. On each breath we either give or receive. Breathe through the nose and the mouth. This will help you develop calm-abiding at the same time. The meditation begins with one person then broadens in scope as we progress through each step.

We hold the mind one-pointedly on the breath. As you breathe in, you think that all the sufferings, non-virtues and negativities of sentient beings comes into you in the form of black light. It comes through your mouth and dissolves into your heart. Then you think, “May that person be free from suffering.”

When you breathe out, think that all of your happiness and the causes of happiness flows to other in the form of white light that look like moon rays. All of your assets, good fortune, talent, wealth, virtue, all of that positive energy dissolves into the beings before you. As you breathe out think, “May these beings have happiness.”

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