Overcoming Fear During Tonglen Practice: Vajra Protection
Overcoming fear is an important thing to understand so that we are not overwhelmed by obstacles. Phakchok Rinpoche responded to a student during his teaching in Gomde Denmark who expressed feelings of fear, particularly when practicing tonglen, or taking and giving practice. And the fear can come on very strongly, like a physical tightness in the chest. This fear comes often when we begin to seriously practice tonglen–because we’re getting at our egos!
Here, Rinpoche explains a very simple visualization that helps us to deal with fear. Vajryana contains many methods and this is one aspect that we may all use to feel more protected and not alone. We know that the Tibetan Buddhist tradition speaks of protection, using protection cords, and medallions as well. But in this case, we visualize, or imagine a protective ground, circle, and tent.
In this link, you can find very detailed drawings and description of a protective vajra tent, or dome.
Begin by visualizing a single vajra. So from one vajra, millions of vajras magically appear. When you
sit down, also imagine that the ground around you is covered in single vajras. Imagine these vajra filling up every single space. Then, think that these vajras also form a impenetrable wall as well as a dome-shaped vajra top. All around you appear half vajras ,standing up, covering this space–forming a solid wall.
Overcoming Fear of Obstacles
Vajras are very strong; this Sanskrit term contains two meanings: indestructible, and also a powerful thunderbolt. Therefore, we think that because we erect this vajra fence, not even a single particle of air can go in or out. Now obstacles are not going to be a problem. If you do this vajra protection every day, you sill slowly develop confidence that nothing external can hurt you. It is a very good practice.
Overcoming Fear Practice: Combining with Tonglen
You can adapt your tonglen practice to include the vajra protection. First, when you practice tonglen, don’t look down – look up into space. Then repeat,
“Wherever space pervades, my eyes pervade. Wherever my eyes pervade, my compassion pervades.
Wherever my compassion pervades, I send my freedom from suffering.”
Then rest, (as Rinpoche demonstrates in the video above), mingling space with compassion. When we practice tonglen, we first need to pervade all of space with compassion. Chokgyur Lingpa teaches this in the 9 Yanas instruction; we begin by visualizing light. And this light grows stronger and bigger; this light pervades all of space. To make it very simple, we look with your physical eyes into space and then think, “Wherever space pervades, my eyes pervade.”
Don’t hold on to appearances but don’t push them away. Just repeat, “Wherever space pervades, my eyes pervade. Wherever my eyes pervade, my compassion pervades. I wish all beings to be free.”
Then, the moment your compassion pervades all of space, at that time you practice tonglen from within the vajra protection dome. In that way, the vajra tent protects you from your fear.
Compassion as Ultimate Protection
Because we practice tonglen,we are healed deep down. And then, once we feel more secure, and don’t need the external protection, we no longer need to visualize the vajra protection – its job of protecting is done. Then our compassion can grow and that itself is the real protection. Now we don’t need to protect ourself and instead we now you become a protector. A bodhisattva is a protector – a protector of beings. But as ordinary sentient beings, we have not yet become protectors. We need to protect ourselves first, even though we aspire to protect beings.
Guru Rinpoche Taught Protection Visualization
Guru Rinpoche explained three to four different levels of vajra visualization like this in his teachings. So, we can understand that he thinks that protection is very important. Many practice manuals include the visualization of vajra protection circles, so we make use of this technique frequently. Developing familiarity and confidence in the practice will bring great benefit.