Musings of a Spring Afternoon
In the hallway of my home hangs a plaque that reads: “Let all that you do be done in love.” I had thought that I understood what it stands for, but sometimes I wonder.
We all talk about love. It’s the stuff that
makes your heart beat faster, the thing that sometimes brings tears to
your eyes, and the thing that makes the world go round … but what really
is “love”? People often confuse “love” with “like” and they say things
such as, “I love going shopping”, or “My children just love pizza, they
won’t eat anything else”, or “My husband loves golf, he won’t do anything
else on his days off”. We all love our families and our children and want
the best for them. I often wonder why it is then, that people who love
each other can cause each other so much pain, and whether it is possible
to prevent hurting the ones you love.
Through the dharma, we learn that if we welcome birth, then we must also greet death as part of the package of life. If we accept one, we cannot refuse the other. More importantly, we learn that by practicing all the five precepts, we can help to protect ourselves from the many ills of life, leading to a healthier life. As the father of a young daughter, I often worry about the kind of society that my daughter faces as she grows up. I am happy to say that now that she has taken refuge in the Three Jewels and practices the five precepts, I feel much better.
It is as if we are children playing hide-and-seek with death. Little toddlers think that when they play hide-and-seek, if they don’t see you, you don’t see them. So they hold their hands in front of their eyes and hide in plain sight. That is how most people think about death. They do not think about it at all, as if by doing so death would go away, and then they would not have to deal with it.
I realized, after my parents passed away, how little I knew about them. I lived next to them for so many years while I was growing up, yet I never once went up to them and said, “Mom/Dad, I love you and appreciate everything you do for me.” I just assumed that it was something they already knew. Even when they came to the U.S. in 1990, I would visit them in California every year, but then again, I never hugged them and told them how much I loved them. I guess men don’t do these things. Now that I realize how wrong I was, my parents are no longer around.
So I urge you: “Please do not make the same mistake that I made. If you love someone, go give that person (mother/father/wife/husband/son/daughter) a hug, and say: “I love you. I appreciate your being there for me.”
As Buddhists, we try to make sense of such untimely departures by saying that perhaps she has paid off her debts from past incarnations. We learn two important lessons from our friend’s passing: the first one is that life is so preciously fleeting that we should try to make the most of it by making our lives more meaningful by being helpful to all sentient beings; and secondly, though we cannot decide the length of our lives, we all can decide how good a life we can lead by being mindful in (most) things that we do.
Sarah’s passing also made me think - the next time you say goodbye to a loved one, remind him/her that every word that one says should be a kind one, lest it may be the last word you say to one another. A Holocaust survivor, now in her seventies, regrets that she once had a quarrel with her younger brother. It was 1943 - she was 8 years old and he was 6 - when in a moment of anger, she had shouted: “I’ll hate you forever” - just a few silly words from an angry sister. Moments later, they were both rounded up by the Nazis and never saw each other again. My eyes always get misty when I think about this elderly lady and her regrets.
May all of us live without too many regrets. As
Tibet’s famous poet-saint Milarepa once said, “My religion is to live and
die without regrets.” May we all live fully in the dharma so that we can
benefit ourselves and all sentient beings.
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