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Buddhadharma : Fall 2005
buddhadharma| 47 |fall 2005 Judith Lief: There is a lot of pretense when one gets involved in the spiritual path. we are such a conceptually advanced culture, literate and well- read, and we are at this historic point where great varieties of teachings of all sorts and traditions are available at the touch of a computer button. it’s so easy for the conceptual mind to take over. Because conceptually we understand something, we think we have realized something. we are strong on con- cept and not so strong on seasoned practice. But if we actually hold to the principal witness, it will let us know that. buddhadharMa: People often wonder whether they practice sending and taking to really help others or simply to cultivate their own bodhicitta. if you do sending and taking, thinking of a person who is ill, do you actually have an effect on their health? aLan waLLaCe: it can happen. i just received an e-mail not long ago from a friend of mine in Thailand who has been working for years there with people who are dying from aids. she was with a woman whose daughter had just died, and the woman was experiencing inconceivable grief. suddenly the thought occurred, “why don’t i practice tonglen?” as soon as she started, the woman visibly experi- enced a sense of relief. immediately there seemed to be some effect. But one doesn’t bank on that. The primary reason for engaging in the tonglen practice is to overcome your own tendencies for prioritizing your own well-being over that of oth- ers. nevertheless, one hears many anecdotes about people being able to affect others with whom they have a strong karmic connection. Ken MCLeod: To look at doing tonglen as actually having an effect on others is right in the area of hoping for results. regarding the anecdotes about magical occurrences, was it the practice, the quality of the person, or the karmic connec- tion that brought about the result? it is very dif- ficult to attribute a given result to a given cause; doing so is a kind of magical thinking. i do not encourage people to approach things that way at all. This is a practice that refines your attitude to the world and not something you use to heal people. Jamgön Kongtrül is very clear about that in his commentary. Judith Lief: i think the practice of tonglen does help to connect you with another person sometimes, especially in the context of health and healing. simply being present with another person doing tonglen has an immediate effect on the connect- edness of self and other. Beyond that, though, i ➤ continued page 85 michAeldAVidmurphy