In the second part of this teaching, Khenpo Gyaltsen focused on Geshe Chekawa‘s instructions for training in Relative Bodhicitta. Within this text, the specific training that is explained is Tonglen, the practice of giving and taking.
We begin by giving. And what do we give? All of our merit, our happiness, our bodies—everything that we like and hold dear. We are usually stingy in the sense that it is hard for us to give away even a few cents. So we train by mentally giving everything we value to others. We first build our strength through these mental activties. And then, we can slowly begin to give physically. If we find this very difficult, we can practice as the great bodhisattva Shantideva taught in the Bodhicaryāvatāra. We begin by giving an object from our right hand to our left, and vice versa. This simple exercise helps to loosen our attachment. Eventually, we can begin to give to our family and our friends. And later, we give even to strangers. This is a training process and it will take time.
That is the giving portion. What are we taking in the practice? We take on all the suffering of all sentient beings. Some people may feel stressed or scared of this practice. But we aren’t going to suffer. We are reconditioning our habits; it is a mental exercise.
These two practices are “mounted on the breath”. This means that we coordinate with our exhalation and inhalation. As we exhale, we breathe out all our happiness and goodness. And we inhale all the obstacles, suffering, and sorrow of beings. This is the best way to train in cultivating the mindset of bodhicitta.
Why do we train in this way? The reason we practice bodhicitta is that we recognize that every single sentient being throughout limitless time has been our kind mother or father. And they have shown us unbelievable kindness. We recall the kindness of our own parents as an example. And then we yearn to repay that kindness.
If you are receiving these teachings, you should feel very fortunate and remember that you have a lot of merit due to your past goodness. We should then embrace this opportunity to train genuinely. We have the opportunity to change our bad habits into good ones. And we continually remind ourselves that just like us, all sentient beings desire happiness and do not want to suffer. These reminders help us to loosen our selfish clinging and to genuinely pursue the path to liberation.