Dharma, Real Dharma, No Dharma
The Dharma is information.
Real Dharma is genuine realisation of genuine experience.
In that moment of realisation, there is no Dharma.
Be careful of clinging to the exotic; it can destroy the Dharma.
Tonglen is the Tibetan word for ‘giving and receiving’
“In the practice, one visualizes taking in the suffering of oneself and of others on the in-breath, and on the out-breath giving recognition, compassion, and succour to all sentient beings. As such, it is a training in altruism.
“The function of the practice is to:
Reduce selfish attachment
Increase a sense of renunciation
Purify karma by giving and helping
Develop and expand loving-kindness and bodhicitta
“The practice of Tonglen involves all of the Six Perfections; giving, ethics, patience, joyous effort, concentration and wisdom. These are the practices of a Bodhisattva.
“The Dalai Lama, who is said to practise Tonglen every day, has said of the technique:
“Whether this meditation really helps others or not, it gives me peace of mind. Then I can be more effective, and the benefit is immense.” “
This is the information, the ideal, about the practice of Tonglen: it is the Dharma theory only, and as such, is psychological. It’s the first step on the Bodhisattva path, and is called ‘bodhichitta’ – genuine loving kindness – which is the enlightenment-mind that strives toward awakening, empathy, and compassion for the benefit of all sentient beings. We need the right psychological foundation for the real practices.
So what is the real practice, the real Dharma?
It is easily to sit and mentally send out loving kindness to all sentient beings, and breath in their suffering. It’s not painful or challenging at all, and there is no discomfort.
But when it comes to talking face to face with someone who is suffering – or perhaps an ‘awkward customer’ – we need more than theory. We need to be genuinely spacious, generous, intelligent and skilful. We need genuine loving kindness, genuine selflessness. We need to take the time to empathise and see it from the other’s point of view. Not many can do this. Not many Buddhists can do this: I speak as that awkward customer.
In genuine, compassionate empathy, there is no me and no Dharma, but just pure, genuine openness to be one with another’s problem. We actively fall silent to allow clarity to listen, which offers the other person space and time to express themselves.
After forty five years in various spiritual communities, I still haven’t met anyone with this capacity – not even teachers. That is how rare it is. The theory is simple. The practice is not. The reality is uncomfortable, which indicates that there is ego present.
There’s a Tibetan practice called Chod (pronounced Chur), to cut through ego. The Chod practitioner seeks to cut through fear by rituals set in graveyards at night, and visualisations of offering their body by (mentally) chopping it up in a tantric feast in order to put their understanding of emptiness to the ultimate test.
Does it work? What do you think?
There is a lot of theory out there … the scariest practice is talking to a theorist. We may find that we have forgotten to be a genuine friend and have become a genuine fiend!
The real Dharma challenges ego,
and bursts it wide open.