Tonglen the Tibetan Practice of Giving and Receiving

by | Sep 6, 2023 | Meditation

Tibetan Buddhism is known for its deep philosophical insights and practical teachings that can be integrated into daily life. One such practice is ‘Tonglen,’ a profound meditation technique that is rooted in the art of giving and receiving. This ancient practice is more than just a meditative exercise; it is an art that teaches selflessness, compassion, and the interconnectedness of all beings. This article explains some of the nuances of Tonglen, its impact when practiced daily, and how it can transform your life.

Discovering Tonglen the Tibetan Art of Compassion

Tonglen, literally translated as ‘giving and taking,’ is a Tibetan Buddhist practice that encourages the practitioner to breathe in the suffering of others and breathe out compassion, happiness, and relief. This practice, steeped in compassion and altruism, is considered a powerful tool for purifying the mind and developing a compassionate heart. It is an act of empathy where you take upon the pain of others and give them relief, comfort, and happiness.

The practice of Tonglen is based on the understanding that all beings wish to avoid suffering and desire happiness. It is a recognition of the shared human experience and nurtures a sense of oneness. By practicing Tonglen, we step outside our self-centered perspective and open our hearts to the pain and suffering of others.

One of the benefits of tonglen practice is that it breaks the habitual pattern of avoiding suffering and seeking pleasure. It is about reversing this process by willingly taking in the pain and giving out joy. This practice can seem counterintuitive at first, but it is a transformative process that leads to the cultivation of compassion and empathy.

The Profound Impact of Practicing Tonglen Daily

Practicing Tonglen daily can have a profound impact on your life. It helps to dissolve the barriers we erect between ourselves and others, fostering a sense of interconnection and shared humanity. Daily practice of Tonglen can reduce feelings of isolation and loneliness, as we begin to understand that suffering is a universal experience, not isolated to us alone.

Tonglen also sharpens our ability to empathize. As we consciously take on the pain of others, we become more sensitive to the suffering around us. This increased sensitivity can deepen our relationships and make us more understanding and patient individuals.

The practice of Tonglen cultivates courage and resilience. By willingly accepting suffering and working to alleviate it, we build mental strength and toughness. This can help us face our own challenges with a sense of calm and resolve, rather than fear and avoidance.

Transform Your Life with Tonglen and the Gift of Giving and Receiving

Tonglen is more than a practice; it’s a way of life. It’s about giving and receiving, about understanding the balance of life, and about cultivating compassion, love, and empathy. It’s a transformational process that can change the way you perceive yourself and the world around you.

By embodying the principles of Tonglen in daily life, we can learn to approach our own pain and suffering with compassion, rather than avoidance or fear. This can bring about a profound inner transformation, leading to increased peace, happiness, and spiritual growth.

Giving and receiving can be a powerful tool for social change. When we learn to see the suffering of others and respond with compassion, we become more inclined towards acts of kindness, generosity, and social responsibility. This can contribute to creating a more caring, compassionate society.

Tonglen is a profound Tibetan Buddhist practice that can transform our relationship with suffering and happiness. By engaging in this practice of giving and receiving, we can cultivate deep compassion, empathy, and understanding. It teaches us to embrace suffering as a part of life and to respond to it with love and kindness.

Through Tonglen, we can discover our shared humanity, and learn to live more compassionately, courageously, and meaningfully.

"Tonglen reverses the usual logic of avoiding suffering and seeking pleasure and, in the process, we become liberated from a very ancient prison of selfishness. We begin to feel love both for ourselves and others and also we begin to take care of ourselves and others."Pema Chödrön


"Meditation is not about getting rid of all your thoughts; it’s learning not to get so lost in them that you forget what your goal is. Don’t hate your thoughts, but don’t let them rule you. If you find yourself particularly resistant to meditation, that’s likely why you need it so much."Deepak Chopra