The Wish-Fulfilling Jewel

CARING FOR THE DYING makes you poignantly

aware not only of their mortality but also of your own. So

many veils and illusions separate us from the stark knowledge

that we are dying; when we finally know we are dying, and

all other sentient beings are dying with us, we start to have a

burning, almost heartbreaking sense of the fragility and preciousness

of each moment and each being, and from this can

grow a deep, clear, limitless compassion for all beings. Sir

Thomas More, I heard, wrote these words just before his

beheading: "We are all in the same cart, going to execution;

how can I hate anyone or wish anyone harm?" To feel the full

force of your mortality, and to open your heart entirely to it,

is to allow to grow in you that all-encompassing, fearless compassion

that fuels the lives of all those who wish truly to be

of help to others.

So everything that I have been saying up until now about

caring for the dying could perhaps be summed up in two

words: love and compassion. What is compassion? It is not

simply a sense of sympathy or caring for the person suffering,

not simply a warmth of heart toward the person before you,

or a sharp clarity of recognition of their needs and pain, it is

also a sustained and practical determination to do whatever is

possible and necessary to help alleviate their suffering.

Compassion is not true compassion unless it is active.

Avalokiteshvara, the Buddha of Compassion, is often represented

in Tibetan iconography as having a thousand eyes that

see the pain in all corners of the universe, and a thousand

arms to reach out to all corners of the universe to extend his



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