When we engage in the meditation on taking, motivated by the great compassion we generated in the previous meditation, we imagine we take other’s suffering upon ourselves. This meditation has limitless benefits. First, it makes our compassion practical by giving it a means to fulfill its wish to free all living beings from their suffering. Second, it destroys our self-cherishing mind completely because only a mind that cherishes others more than ourselves would be willing to take on others suffering. Third, it creates the causes to be able to actually take on others suffering in the future, not just in our imagination. In this sense, the meditation is tantric in nature in that by bringing the result into the path it functions to ripen that result. Fourth, it functions to ripen our bodhichitta because we see how amazing it is to be a Buddha who has the ability to do this, and so we therefore naturally wish to become one. Fifth, it dramatically increases our faith because it takes a leap of faith to willingly take on the suffering of all living beings since our natural fear is we will be crushed by such a thing, but then by doing so we realize that far from being crushed we become liberated ourselves. Sixth, it is an extremely powerful method of purification because taking their suffering upon ourselves motivated by compassion is exactly karmically opposite of all of the negative, harmful actions we have engaged in against living beings since beginningless time, so it neutralizes virtually all of the negative karma we have with respect to whose suffering we take on. Seventh, it provides us with a universal method for transforming adverse conditions into the path because we can imagine every problem we encounter is us having actually taken on and are now working through the negative karma of others. So instead of us suffering from adversity, we joyfully and courageously look at our difficulties as us working through others’ suffering so they do not have to. Eighth, it deepens significantly our understanding of emptiness by helping us realize how samsara and nirvana are karmically created appearances.
The meditation itself is very simple. First we generate cherishing love for all living beings (or a group of beings), then we consider their suffering. On this basis, we generate compassion for them, wishing to free them from their suffering. We then ask how can we do so? Through the practice of taking. With a mind that is willing to suffer ourselves so that others do not have to, we then imagine that we take on all of the suffering, delusions and negative karma of all living beings in the form of a black smoke which gathers from them into our root mind. We imagine that we direct all this universal suffering against our own self-cherishing mind, like evil turning in on itself destroying itself. This destroys completely our self-cherishing mind and we generate a feeling of profound joy strongly believing that we have actually freed all living beings from their suffering and that we have completely destroyed our own self-cherishing mind, the root of all suffering. We then meditate on this feeling of joy. The perfection of this meditation is engaging in the meditation understanding how it is a powerful cause for becoming a Buddha ourselves. The ultimate perfection of this meditation is engaging in the perfection of this meditation combined with an understanding of how ourselves, others, our act of taking and the final results of our meditation are all empty.
It has already been described how others are the beings of our karmic dream, but it is worth repeating. If we dream of somebody in a wheelchair, who put them there? We did. Is there anyone there really in a wheel chair? No. So does it matter that they are in one? Yes, it does, because they conventionally appear to suffer. In the same way, when we see somebody in the waking world (which is just a different level of dream) in a wheelchair, we can ask the same questions, who put them there, is there anyone really there and does it matter. Through the force of the ripples of our past karmic actions, we have constructed a dream world full of dream-like beings who experience all sorts of different forms of suffering within the dream. Ultimately, there is no one really there experiencing anything, but conventionally what is there is the appearance of suffering sentient beings. Understanding their emptiness, we feel a profound feeling of personal responsibility – we put them in their suffering situation and therefore it is our responsibility to free them from it. How? By undoing all that we did to them, directly or indirectly. We do this by taking upon ourselves all of their suffering, delusions and negative karma. Just as we can karmically construct them to be suffering sentient beings through our deluded actions, we can karmically construct them to be liberated beings through our compassionate wisdom action of taking.
Sometimes people mistakenly think that we are not really liberating beings from their suffering by engaging in the practice of taking, it is just our imagination. In reality, the extent to which we engage in the practice of taking conjoined with an understanding of emptiness is the extent to which we actually free others from their suffering, delusions and negative karma. But this occurs with a karmic lag. All karmic appearances have a certain duration to them resulting from the intensity of the original action. Right now, the karma for the appearance of a world of suffering is ripening, and these appearances all have a certain duration to them. But through engaging in the practice of taking and engaging in the mental action of strongly believing we have undone the harm we have inflicted upon them, we plant new karmic seeds on our mind. Over time, the seeds which produce the appearance of suffering will exhaust themselves and the seeds which produce the appearance of liberated beings will ripen. Then beings will appear to us as having been liberated through our practice of taking. Some people object by saying, “well that must be nice for you to see them as liberated, but they still see themselves as suffering so what good does your view do?” The answer to this objection is quite profound. As ordinary beings, we still grasp at a duality between view and action. We view things in a particular way, and on that basis we act. For a Buddha, their pure view IS their pure action, and their pure action IS maintaining pure view. They do not maintain pure view because it is objectively true (nothing is), rather they maintain this view because doing so functions to ripen others into pure beings. Thus, the duality between pure view and compassionate action collapses into one and the same. Thus, there is no contradiction between saying a Buddha sees all beings as having already been liberated (in fact, as having always been enlightened) and saying Buddhas work tirelessly to free all beings from all suffering. If we can understand the profundity of this, our practice of taking and even more so our practice of self-generation take on profoundly different meanings.
Even if we don’t understand fully, we should apply effort to improve our understanding of how compassion, taking, emptiness and karma interrelate. Doing so will greatly deepen our wisdom and our enthusiasm for such practices.