Then imagine that their illness and tumors leave their body

in the form of smoke, and dissolve into your illness and

tumors. When you breathe in, you breathe in all their suffering,

and when you breathe out, you breathe out total healing

and well-being. Each time you do this practice, believe, with

complete conviction, that they are now healed.

As you approach death, think continually to yourself: "May

I take on the suffering, the fear, and loneliness of all others all

over the world who are dying or will die. May they be all

freed from pain and confusion; may they all find comfort and

peace of mind. May whatever suffering I am enduring now

and will endure in the future help them toward a good rebirth

and ultimate enlightenment."

I knew an artist in New York who was dying from AIDS.

He was a sardonic character and hated institutional religion,

although secretly some of us suspected he had more spiritual

curiosity than he admitted. Friends persuaded him to see a

Tibetan master, who immediately understood that the greatest

source of his frustration and suffering was that he felt his pain

was of no use to himself or to anyone else. So he taught him

one thing, and one thing only: the Tonglen practice. Despite

some initial skepticism, he did practice it; and all his friends

saw he went through an extraordinary change. He told many

of them that, through Tonglen, the pain that before had been

pointless and horrific was now infused with an almost glorious

purpose. Everyone who knew him experienced firsthand

how this new sense of meaning transformed his dying. He

died in peace, reconciled to himself and his suffering.

If the practice of taking on the suffering of others can transform

someone who has little experience of practice before,

then imagine what power it has in the hands of a great master.

When Gyalwang Karmapa died in Chicago in 1981, one of

his Tibetan disciples wrote:

By the time that I saw him, His Holiness had already had many

operations, some parts of his body removed, things put inside

him, his blood transfused, and so on. Every day the doctors discovered

the symptoms of some new disease, only to find them

gone the next day and replaced by another illness, as if all the

diseases in the world were finding room in his flesh. For two

months he had taken no solid food, and finally his doctors gave

up hope. It was impossible for him to live, and the doctors

thought the life-supporting systems should be disconnected.

But the Karmapa said, "No, I'm going to live. Leave them in

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