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Bodhichitta: Tonglen meditations with Lama Surya Das

Learn why the Dali Lama stresses this Buddhist teaching and these meditations above all other.  Lama Surya Das shares the art of “inter-meditating” and two powerful Tonglen meditations from his book “Make Me One with Everything” and shows how we can we transcend the mundane into the sacred.  Learn how to inter-meditate and see the world through someone else’s eyes.

Make Me One with Everything (Lama SUrya Das)

What is Inter-meditating?

Lama Surya Das defines inter-meditating as a means of meditating with “others” and describes it as an intentional connection in order to realize non-duality. In a world that focuses on competition and looking out for number one, inter-meditation is the panacea for the growing sense of separation and isolation that we are experiencing as a society. It’s in non-dualistic that there is no essential difference between inward and outward, us and them, ying and yang. Instead, it takes two parts and joins them together as a whole.

“Inter-meditation is authentic love making – spirits connecting on multiple levels at once, both conscious and unconscious”. P3


How is inter-mediation different than most common meditation methods?

Meditation today has an inward focus with the meditation gaining insight through introspection, mindfulness, concentration, and self-inquiry. Inter-meditation is inclusive that doesn’t just involve letting go of people, feelings, or events, but letting them come and go. It’s about connection and letting things be.

“We Buddhists call the result of overcoming the duality of self and other Bodhichitta, the awakened heart/mind that has empathetic compassion for all beings  – our best Selves”. P4

“I have observed that closed-eye solitary meditation might not be the best for everyone, as much as it often helps to redress our extreme outward focus, materialistic seeking, and coyote-like desire systems. In fact, closed-eyed introspective meditation might even be contraindicated, such as for extreme introverts or those suffering from paranoia or other pathological symptoms where solitude and separation could cause more harm than benefit.  For some people, other forms of inter-and co-meditation practice, such as yoga, hymn singing, tai chi and chi gong, sacred chanting, Sufi dancing, devotional prayers, and the like are more helpful and healthy than just sitting.  Inter-meditation is the antithesis of navel-gazing and narcissism, or the religion-as-escape, yoga-as-commodity, spirituality–as-a-vacation, “How can I make me happy and permanently feel better?” trends that seem so in vogue For some, mindfulness has become mere mental calisthenics and concentrative exercise. When we apply mindfulness as mental floss, a routine of daily mental hygiene to maintain physical and mental health and well-being, we miss at least half of its most product spiritual benefits”.  P13-14

Benefits of Inter-Meditation

According to Lama Surya Das, inter-meditation has the following benefits:

  • Allows us to see through the illusory veils of separation.
  • Transports us beyond individual self and ego into Universal Self.
  • Takes us into the infinite space and transpersonal.
  • Connect more deeply in our relationships in a subatomic and universal way.
  • Help vanquish fear and anxiety caused by our sense of separateness
  • Heal psychological, spiritual, and physical ailments.
  • Requires no equipment and can be done anywhere, anytime, quietly or in a crowded subway.
  • Dissolves comparison and judgment through an inner listening that encourages you to be fully present.
  • Become better lovers, workers, friends, and parents.
  • Brings a genuine peace and tranquility
  • Offers an antidote to distraction and feelings of overwhelm and powerlessness.

What is LoJong and Tonglen practice?

Lojong is from the Tibetan Mayahan tradition of Buddhism and is focused on how we can relate fully to our experiences in order to open up and love others by removing the defenses and delusions that separate us. Lojong shows us how to recondition our habitual patterns and self-centered tendencies of egotism, dualism, and self-clinging.

According to Lama Surya Das, Tibetan Buddhists consider Lojong to be the most powerful agent for sacred transformation and daily-life character development. He shares that the Dalai Lama stresses it above all other public teachings. Lama Surya Das explains Lojong as a practice that affects a genuine change of heart.

Lojong (Tib. བློ་སྦྱོང་,Wylie: blo sbyong) is a mind training practice in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition based on a set of aphorisms formulated in Tibet in the 12th century by Chekawa Yeshe Dorje. The practice involves refining and purifying one’s motivations and attitudes. Find out more about the fifty-nine or so slogans that are designed to remove undesired mental habits that cause suffering in the Wiki article: here ” Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lojong

Within the Lojong is a Tonglen practice, which is a breath-centered meditation. The translation of Tonglen is “giving and receiving”. It involves putting ourselves in someone else’s skin to help identify and feel the suffering of others.

How to practice Tonglen?

In this excerpt from his book, “Make me One with Everything”, the Lama Surya Das shares how to practice Tonglen”

  1. Still your mind, relax, and center yourself. Find a heart-space of compassion and love. Meditate for a moment on who is suffering- you, your friend, your enemy, the world.
  2. Begin with yourself- right where you are. Ride the breath—as you inhale, concentrate on the good in your life, and as you exhale, let go of your challenges, conflicts, the things that separate you from others and everything. As you inhale, it might be helpful to offer these words: May the difficulties, doubts, and fears in the world be absorbed into the empty nature of my mind. And as you exhale: May all beings have all my happiness, conviction, and fearlessness.
  3. Continue to inhale and exhale, equalizing the outside and inside and reversing the tendency to be attracted to the wanted and averse to the unwanted, past the illusions of our own satisfaction or self- interest.
  4. Breathe- visualize and imagine inhaling the difficulties of those close to your heart, exhaling the goodness. Open the circle outward until it encompasses all beings throughout space and time.
  5. Whatever you meet, bring it into your breath, your heart, your path. Face it. Don’t try to get around it, hope it isn’t there, or ignore it.


Co-Meditating with the Dali- Lama (pg 67)

Co-Meditating with your Enemy (pg 82/99)


About Lama Surya Das – Buddhist Teacher, Scholar, and Author

Tonglen Meditation with Lama Surya DasLama Surya Das is one of the foremost Western Buddhist meditation teachers and scholars, one of the main interpreters of Tibetan Buddhism in the West, and a leading spokesperson for the emerging American Buddhism. The Dalai Lama affectionately calls him “The Western Lama.”

Surya has spent over forty five years studying Zen, vipassana, yoga, and Tibetan Buddhism with the great masters of Asia, including the Dalai Lama’s own teachers, and has twice completed the traditional three year meditation cloistered retreat at his teacher’s Tibetan monastery. He is an authorized lama and lineage holder in the Nyingmapa School of Tibetan Buddhism, and a close personal disciple of the leading grand lamas of that tradition. He is the founder of the Dzogchen Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and its branch centers around the country, including the retreat center Dzogchen Osel Ling outside Austin, Texas, where he conducts long training retreats and Advanced Dzogchen retreats. Over the years, Surya has brought many Tibetan lamas to this country to teach and start centers and retreats. As founder of the Western Buddhist Teachers Network with the Dalai Lama, he regularly helps organize its international Buddhist Teachers Conferences. He is also active in interfaith dialogue and charitable projects in the Third World. In recent years, Lama Surya has turned his efforts and focus towards youth and contemplative education initiatives, what he calls “True higher education and wisdom for life training.”

Lama Surya Das is a sought after speaker and lecturer, teaching and conducting meditation retreats and workshops around the world. He is a published author, translator, chant master (see Chants to Awaken the Buddhist Heart CD, with Stephen Halpern), and a regular blog contributor at The Huffington Post, as well as his own AskTheLama.comblog site where he shares his thoughts and answers questions from the public each week.

Surya Das has been featured in numerous publications and major media, including ABC, CNN, MSNBC, NPR, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, Boston Herald, New York Post, Long Island Newsday, Long Island Business Journal, San Francisco Chronicle, Los Angeles Times, The Jewish Free Press, New Age Journal, Tricycle Magazine, Yoga Journal, The Oregonian, Science of Mind, and has been the subject of a seven minute magazine story on CNN. One segment of the ABC-TV sitcom Dharma & Greg was based on his life (“Leonard’s Return”). Surya has appeared on Politically Correct with Bill Maher, and twice on The Colbert Report.

Surya is the author of thirteen books:

The Snow Lion’s Turquoise Mane: Wisdom Tales from Tibet (1992)
*Awakening the Buddha Within: Tibetan Wisdom for the Western World (1998)
*Awakening to the Sacred: Creating a Spiritual Life from Scratch (1999)
*Awakening the Buddhist Heart: Integrating Love, Meaning and Connection into Every Part of Your Life (2000)
Letting Go of the Person You Used to Be: Lessons on Change, Loss and Spiritual Transformation (2003)
Natural Radiance: Dzogchen Pith Instructions (including seven guided meditations on CD) (2005)
The Big Questions: How to Find Your Own Answers to Life’s Essential Mysteries (2007)
Buddha Is as Buddha Does: The Ten Transformative Practices of Enlightened Living (2007)
Words of Wisdom (2008)
The Mind is Mightier than the Sword: Enlightening the Mind, Opening the Heart (2009)
Natural Great Perfection: Dzogchen Teachings and Vajra Songs (with Nyoshul Khenpo) (2009)
Buddha Standard Time: Awakening to the Infinite Possibilities of Now (2011)
Make Me One With Everything: Buddhist Meditations to Awaken from the Illusion of Separation (May 2015)

 *The three books that comprise his best selling Awakening Trilogy; the first trilogy of American Buddhism.

Lama Surya Das resides in Concord, Massachusetts.


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