Balancing Tonglen practice: can it get too spacious and become something else?

A student writes:

When I was exploring the tonglen* practice, I found after a while the giving and receiving aspects sort of balanced out. There was a predominant sense of equanimity and vastness while still retaining the sense of energetic movement of love and compassion.

I can’t quite recall how the connection with the breath evolved, but the experience itself did evolve out of a close connection with the breath and its energetic qualities.

So I’m wondering if this experience of equanimity is part of tonglen or if the practice had merged into something else?

Lama Shenpen responds:

I am not sure what ‘tonglen’ practice in itself would be as it is a device or technique that is relative Bodhichitta which we can employ to help generate the realisation of ultimate Bodhichitta.

Although it is said to be important, it is not essential – but the result of practising it is essential! Presumably the ultimate goal of tonglen is to not need it any more because you have realised ultimate Bodhichitta which is boundless equanimity with equal love for all beings.

What you describe is moving in the direction of ultimate Bodhichitta and so as far as I am concerned it is good practice.

Maybe there is a danger there of slipping into a Shamata meditation sense of equanimity that has dulled out a bit on the insight and compassion elements? Only you can tell about that – perhaps you need to discuss it more in a meditation interview?

Lama Shenpen Hookham

*Tonglen is the practice of  ‘sending and taking’ using the breath, as described in the Lojong mind training instructions. Lama Shenpen has been teachings on this topic throughout the year. Catch up on the recorded teachings on the YouTube Channel Here. The next live, online teaching from Lama Shenpen continuing the theme of Love & Compassion and mind training, will be next Saturday 18th July at 9.30am BST. Find out full details and how to book HERE.

If you would like to make an offering in appreciation of Lama Shenpen’s teachings, please do so HERE.