Posts tagged ‘suffering’

In Buddhism, people can attain enlightenment in many ways. They can also do different things once they are enlightened. One choice is to enter nirvana, where all suffering ends. A person who choose this is called an arhat.

A second choice is to stay in the world to help others find enlightenment. A person who chooses this is called a bodhisattva.

The difference between them is explained in a story.

Two men were wandering in the desert when they came to a compound, surrounded by a high wall. The first man climbed the wall. Giving a cry of delight, he leaped down on the other side.

The second man also climbed the wall. At the top, he saw that the walls surrounded a beautiful oasis with springs and gardens. He wanted to enter the garden. But he thought about all the other people who were wandering in the desert. Instead of entering the oasis he returned to the desert, determined to help other wanderers find the oasis.


One of these men was an arhat, and one was a bodhisattva. Which was which?

Tibetan Buddhists have a visualization practice called tonglen. This is a way of awakening the compassion that lies within all people, as well as a way of overcoming the fear of suffering.


Try practicing tonglen yourself. Think of a person with a specific problem like sickness, greed, or meanness. Try to pick a person you don’t especially like. Close your eyes. Imagine that you are lifting this problem out of his or her body and taking it into your own body, where it is destroyed.

How did your attempt at tonglen feel? Do you think that practicing it often would change your attitude to the person you chose? Explain.

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