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Compassion for Ukraine

“When the war in Ukraine started, we immediately gathered our community online to do the practice of tonglen,” says Ella Reznikova, one of Karmê Chöling’s meditation teachers and a native Ukrainian. This online meditation and tonglen session is called “Compassion for Ukraine.” It has met daily since the war in Ukraine began, and now has fifty to a hundred people joining in daily via Zoom from around the world. It focuses on the painful situation in Ukraine, but also expands the practice to include all who are suffering in the world.

From time to time, people are invited to give a short talk during a session. John Rockwell, a senior Shambhala teacher and student of Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche for over forty years, connected deeply with the plight of the Ukrainian people and has attended many of the daily tonglen sessions. At one point, John gave a talk on “wrathful compassion,” which inspired Karmê Chöling to invite him to teach a weekend program that explores this theme more deeply. 


Compassion as a weapon?

The program’s title, Weapons of Compassion, sounds like an oxymoron. When asked about the title of this program, John Rockwell said, “Compassion is not always peaceful. It can be a weapon or sharp tool to cut through our confusion and aggression. This sharpness is always based on clearly seeing what is needed in a situation. Therefore, we always begin with sitting meditation to clearly see our mind and environment before practicing tonglen. Tonglen is a brief, contemplative practice in which we tune into the tenderness of our heart that already exists and release it further. This is a very normal experience in our everyday life. When we see a friend in pain, we spontaneously open our hearts to them. We want to help them.”


Tonglen: Compassion for all

Tonglen is a traditional Buddhist practice of “sending and taking.” On the outbreath, we wholeheartedly send out our sense of well-being, health, and sanity to those who are suffering. On the inbreath, we take in the pain, sickness, and confusion of others and let this dissolve into our heart. This practice is a key training in compassion and wisdom.

While many of us experience compassion towards those we love, it is much harder to feel this for strangers, especially for those we feel indifference or hatred. This is why further training and practice is crucial. We must begin with ourselves and our own confusion, attachment, and anger. Step by step, through the sitting practice of meditation and the contemplative practice of tonglen, we penetrate to the heart of our anger and small-mindedness and release the natural softness of compassion and sharp clarity of awareness. 


Join us for an in-depth Tonglen Retreat

Everyone is warmly invited to join us for Weapons of Compassion: The Four Karmas, a weekend retreat led by John Rockwell, November 4-6. You do not need to have any prior experience with meditation or Buddhism. This retreat can be attended online, or in person at Karmê Chöling, a Buddhist meditation center in Barnet, Vermont since 1970.

Register for Tonglen Retreat


Daily Tonglen Practice for Ukraine

As well, everyone is warmly invited to join— whenever you wish—the online Compassion for Ukraine meditation and tonglen sessions (20 minutes sitting, 10 minutes tonglen) plus discussion (optional). See Daily Tonglen Gathering for Ukraine for the description and Zoom link.


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