Posted by: Upāsaka Subhavi | 05/13/2013

Karuna Bhavana and Tonglen

The video above is a nice introduction to the traditionally Tibetan Buddhist practice of tonglen which I have come to see as nothing other than the formal practice of karuna bhavana. Since I first heard of tonglen many years ago I was inspired to experiment with it but for one reason or another would give it up before it became a habit–something which I am now beginning to think was a shame.

I think much of that had to do with my attachment to the idea that, because it is not found in the Pali Canon, it wasn’t an authentic or legitimate practice. If it is not already obvious I am now beginning to rethink that stance and am more and more comfortable with a heteropraxy informed by an orthodox understanding of the Dhamma. In other words, where I see practices in other lineages or traditions that inspire me and seem not to contravene the Teachings I am less and less afraid to experiment with them simply because they are not Buddha vacana.

I will try to flesh out how I am using this practice in the next few posts but it seems to me to be quite an elegant and effective way to cultivate maha-karuna for oneself and all beings. Of course, there are many variations to the practice of tonglen and some immediately appeal to me whereas I have less affinity for others so  will concentrate on the former since I don’t intend to do an exhaustive review of them all. Finally, if anyone has links or resources to share with regard to techniques for cultivating any of the brahma viharas I would be grateful for them.

May all beings be free from suffering!



  1. […] Karuna Bhavana and Tonglen ( […]

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A hub for the music, culture, knowledge, and practice of Irish stick-fighting, past and present.