The-Tibetan-Book-of-Living-and-Dying

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The-Tibetan-Book-of-Living-and-Dying

202 THE TIBETAN BOOK OF LIVING AND DYINGperson to whom that compassion is directed. As Portia says inShakespeare's Merchant of Venice:The quality of mercy is not strained,It droppeth as the gentle rain from heavenUpon the place beneath: it is twice bless'd;It blesseth him that gives, and him that takes ...Compassion is the wish-fulfilling gem whose light of healingspreads in all directions.There is a very beautiful story that I love that illustrates this.Buddha once recounted one of his previous lives, before hebecame enlightened. A great emperor had three sons, and theBuddha had been the youngest, who was called Mahasattva.Mahasattva was by nature a loving and compassionate littleboy, and thought of all living things as his children.One day the emperor and his court went to picnic in a forest,and the princes went off to play in the woods. After awhile they came across a tigress who had given birth, andwas so exhausted with hunger that she was on the point ofeating her little cubs. Mahasattva asked his brothers: "Whatwould the tigress need to eat now to revive her?""Only fresh meat or blood," they replied."Who could give his own flesh and blood to see that she isfed and save the lives of her and her cubs?" he asked."Who, indeed?" they replied.Mahasattva was deeply moved by the plight of the tigressand her cubs, and started to think: "For so long I have beenwandering uselessly through samsara, life after life, andbecause of my desire, anger, and ignorance, have done little tohelp other beings. Here at last is a great opportunity."The princes were walking back to join their family, whenMahasattva said: "You two go on ahead. I will catch you uplater." Quietly he crept back to the tigress, went right up toher, and lay down on the ground in front of her, to offer himselfto her as food. The tigress looked at him, but was soweak that she could not even open her mouth. So the princefound a sharp stick and cut a deep gash in his body; the bloodflowed out, the tigress licked it, and she grew strong enoughto open her jaws and eat him.Mahasattva had given his body to the tigress in order tosave her cubs, and through the great merit of his compassion,he was reborn in a higher realm and progressed toward hisenlightenment and his rebirth as the Buddha. But it was not

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