My students often come to me and ask: "My friend's or my

relative's suffering is disturbing me very much, and I really

want to help. But I find I cannot feel enough love actually to

be able to help. The compassion I want to show is blocked.

What can I do?" Haven't all of us surely known the sad frustration

of not being able to find in our hearts enough love and

compassion for the people who are suffering around us, and

so not enough strength to help them?

One of the great qualities of the Buddhist tradition is its

development of an array of practices that can really help you in

situations like this, that can truly nourish you and fill you with

the power and the joyful resourcefulness and enthusiasm that

will enable you to purify your mind and unblock your heart, so

that the healing energies of wisdom and compassion can play

upon and transform the situation you find yourself in.

Of all the practices I know, the practice of Tonglen, which in

Tibetan means "giving and receiving," is one of the most useful

and powerful. When you feel yourself locked in upon

yourself, Tonglen opens you to the truth of the suffering of

others; when your heart is blocked, it destroys those forces

that are obstructing it; and when you feel estranged from the

person who is in pain before you, or bitter or despairing, it

helps you to find within yourself and then to reveal the loving,

expansive radiance of your own true nature. No other

practice I know is as effective in destroying the self-grasping,

self-cherishing, and self-absorption of the ego, which is the

root of all our suffering and the root of all hard-heartedness.

One of the greatest masters of Tonglen in Tibet was Geshe

Chekhawa, who lived in the twelfth century. He was

extremely learned and accomplished in many different forms

of meditation. One day when he happened to be in his

teacher's room, he came across a book lying open at the following


Give all profit and gain to others,

Take all loss and defeat on yourself

The vast and almost unimaginable compassion of these

lines astounded him, and he set out to find the master who

had written them. One day on his journey he met a leper,

who told him that this master had died. But Geshe Chekhawa

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