From the Tibetan Book of the Dead:


0 son/daughter of an enlightened family, 5 what is called "death"

has now arrived, so adopt this attitude: "I have arrived at the time

of death, so now, by means of this death, I will adopt only the

attitude of the enlightened state of mind, loving kindness and compassion,

and attain perfect enlightenment for the sake of all sentient

beings who are as limitless as space ..."

Recently one of my students came to me and said: "My

friend is only twenty-five. He's in pain and dying of leukemia.

He is already frighteningly bitter; I'm terrified that he'll drown

in bitterness. He keeps asking me: 'What can I do with all this

useless, horrible suffering?'"

My heart went out to her and her friend. Perhaps nothing

is as painful as believing that there is no use to the pain you

are going through. I told my student there was a way her

friend could transform his death even now, and even in the

great pain he was enduring: to dedicate, with all his heart, the

suffering of his dying, and his death itself, to the benefit and

ultimate happiness of others.

1 told her to tell him: "I know how much pain you're in.

Imagine now all the others in the world who are in a pain like

yours, or even greater. Fill your heart with compassion for

them. And pray to whomever you believe in and ask that

your suffering should help alleviate theirs. Again and again

dedicate your pain to the alleviation of their pain. And you

will quickly discover in yourself a new source of strength, a

compassion you'll hardly be able now to imagine, and a certainty,

beyond any shadow of a doubt, that your suffering is

not only not being wasted, but has now a marvelous meaning."

What I was describing to my student was in fact the practice

of Tonglen, which I have already shared with you, but

which takes on a very special significance when someone is

terminally ill or dying.

If you have an illness like cancer or AIDS, try as intensely

as you can to imagine every other person in the world who

has the same disease as you.

Say to yourself with deep compassion: "May I take on the

suffering of everyone who has this terrible illness. May they

be free from this affliction and from all their suffering."

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