While it is very difficult to awaken to Buddha within oneself, every effort to do so should be made. Putting Buddha's teachings of love, mercy, and compassion into action is something everyone can do. It is not limited to the temple community, but open to the world. Everyone's life is precious and must not be wasted. Give, speak kind words, help others, and cooperate, not for personal gain, whether material or spiritual, but rather solely for the sake of the act itself. Rather than a means to an end, proper practice is, in essence, an end in itself. This is the true practice of Buddhism and the bodhisattva ideal.
It was six months ago while visiting a hospice that I was overwhelmed by an unexpected encounter with a terminal cancer patient to whom I offered prayers and words of encouragement. She was 70 years of age and was quite alert. She greeted and welcomed me, saying that she was most appreciative of my weekly visit. After a few minutes of conversation we recited together the Three Refuges Prayer (Sanki Rai Mon)and Ten Verse Kannon Sutra of Timeless Life (Enmei Jikku Kannon Gyo) with her juzuon her hands which were in gassho.
After reciting sutras she closed her eyes and several minutes went by; with a faint but happy smile she looked at me and said softly, "Thank you for praying for me. I now feel calm and all my worries seem to have disappeared. I feel much better and energized. I feel blessed and I don't feel alone. I am not afraid of being by myself even though I may have to go very soon. Now I feel I am together with the Buddha spiritually and also my family is with me. I am happy that I am alive today and I want to share with you this precious feeling of gratitude. I am so grateful for all the blessings I have received throughout my lifetime, from my parents, grandparents, children and grandchildren and friends. I am so thankful. I have no regret."
With her hands in gassho she nodded at me gently saying, "Thank you, I feel so arigatai (so thankful)." With tearful eyes, a few minutes of silence went by and she continued in her faint voice, "Reverend Komagata, I am so thankful for your weekly visit and prayers. Oh, I wish I could offer you something as an expression of my gratitude but I am sorry I have nothing to offer you. Honto ni gomen nasai. (I'm really sorry.) I don't know if I am still alive tomorrow but while I am living today, may I pray for you, now? That's all I can offer you." And in her calm tone of voice she prayed for my good health and happiness.
Overwhelmed but composing myself, I smiled and told her, "Thank you." With a soft charming smile she reciprocated and whispered, "Thank you." These were the last words she spoke to me. On the following morning the family called me saying shehadpassed on peacefully.
Life is precious. Every living moment of life is precious regardless of one's physical condition of life. This woman, however, lived to the fullest even though she knew that her life was coming to an end. Her unselfish desire to share with me her genuine thoughts of gratitude by offering me words of prayer was most appreciative. I went to see and encourage her to live positively for this very moment of life; instead, she demonstrated gracefully that, even under the extremely difficult circumstance of facing death and dying, she could find happiness by practicing giving with a selfless heart and mind. This was the most beautiful act of "giving" I have ever received from someone.
The fundamental essence of giving must be practiced in our daily life through our physical actions, the words we speak and the thoughts we have. This is a practice of the bodhisattva vow of giving and sharing. It is not difficult. All we must do is to practice giving wholeheartedly in an ordinary and natural way without prejudice or conditions.