I came across the Tibetan Buddhist practice of tonglen (Tonglen – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia the other day and have been profoundly struck by it. I must have encountered it before but I cannot remember. Obviously it did not particularly strike me then. Things have changed. For a start I am much more aware of what is going on in the world, especially the suffering of others in places like Palestine and Iraq, and of the callous injustice and ruthless exploitation by rich and powerful countries and corporations. Paradoxically, the more one withdraws into solitude and prayer the more one feels oneself to be at the heart of things. It always struck me as odd that in the Eucharist all the emphasis is placed on communion with Christ and none, or almost none, on our (by virtue of our joint participation) union with each other. As far as I am aware theistic mystical experience is bipolar, operating in a vertical dimension only. It does not include the experience of communion with others in Christ. Why? And yet, what is the experience of the impulse to practice tonglen if not a sense of union with others?

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