Learning Kindness from Death

Meditation on Death 03

It was when I went to a restaurant in London to have a meal. One of the staff members was very rude to us, including many other customers. It was unnecessary rudeness that harmed both himself and others. Despite trying to hold back my emotions and not letting someone else’s behavior affect my mood, I couldn’t help but feel upset. As I was struggling to enjoy my meal, a child sitting at the table next to us started swaying his body to the music playing in the restaurant. When our eyes met, I also nodded my head to the rhythm, encouraging the child’s excitement. He smiled even wider and became more excited. At that moment, my irritation vanished completely. The child’s bright energy dispersed like clouds, shielding my eyes from the dirty, mean things that were unseen in the child’s world. 

Upon returning home that afternoon, I immediately meditated. I sat on the balcony and closed my eyes to the sky, which was gradually turning pink. The process of letting go of all attachments, including my desire to see the sunset, was both satisfying and enjoyable. When I finished my meditation and opened my eyes, the sky was ethereal like never before. It was like I saw the sky for the first time, like a newborn baby.

No matter how much I meditated or read books, I still found myself getting frustrated and anxious about many things in the world. I felt restless, thinking that I should be free from such emotions by now. I disliked my own behavior of judging, caring too much, and feeling annoyed when people behaved differently from my standards. At times, I even kept only those who matched my tastes close to me. However, even they occasionally disappointed me. 

Moreover, the men around me seemed to have no clue about communication. When someone talked about A, they would respond with irrelevant talk about C, not even B, boasting about their own knowledge. It was a conversation devoid of empathy or exchange, solely focused on showing off what they knew. I pretended to listen and inwardly clicked my tongue at their imperfections and thought they would be fine if only they fixed those parts.

But what I disliked the most was my own critical nature, constantly judging and thinking, “Why is this person like this, and why is that person like that? It would be so much better if they just fixed that one thing.” I wanted to be someone with a gentle heart who didn’t see the flaws of others. I acknowledged that I was the one who suffered the most from my own judgments, but it wasn’t easy to let go of my discerning mindset.

Only thoughts of death made me generous. After all, both me and them, like leaves carried by the wind, will spin through the world and quickly vanish. What meaning is there in arguing about right and wrong?

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”

It was said by a clergyman named Ian McLaren. For the beings who share the same fate of crumbling into pieces with me, it wouldn’t be bad to be infinitely generous.

However, while I could overlook human’s petty flaws, I could not stay calm when I saw villains who engage in actions that go against morality and ethics. From those who drive recklessly with no regard for others to dictators who invade other countries in the century of intelligence and peace, they all trample upon my peace in the same way.

After my love for humanity was shattered by them and the grimy traces of life were shown to me, it was much easier to meditate on death. I even felt a sense of relief at the thought of departing from this complex existence.

Knowing that we, like the dew on a spider’s web in the early morning, could disappear at any moment was comforting. What meaning is there in judging right from wrong or in evaluating others based on the standards of a person who will soon vanish? How could a puny little thing that will fade away so easily live with such narrow-mindedness, acting like her standard is of absolute truth?

Nearly a thousand years ago, the Islamic poet Rumi said, “Beyond the concepts of good deeds and bad deeds, there is a vast field. I will meet you there.”

The emotions of hatred and disgust were appalling, like garbage emitting a foul odor and harmful, like poison spreading through my veins. I decided to think of this world as a stage for a play, where everyone is playing their assigned roles. The world is bound to have a diverse array of people, and if there were only those who suit my taste, the monotonous and dull nature of that world would be undoubtedly absurd.

I am playing different roles in the worlds of everyone. In someone’s world, I may be cast as a villain, which could be completely opposite or exactly the same as the real me. If the combination of my roles in everyone’s world is the real me, then I might be an existence that takes on various forms, just like a god. Can I accept that I am seen as a villain in someone’s world? Which world is the most important world to me? What is my role in that world?

When the questions continued to pile up, I closed my eyes and contemplated death. After meditating on death, I could briefly embrace a generous and warm heart like that of Moominmamma.

Moominmamma nodded. She was dipping her snout in the water and looking at the bottom. ‘There’s a nice gleam down there,’ she said. ‘It’s your golden bracelet,’ said Moomintroll. ‘And the Snork Maiden’s necklace. Good idea, isn’t it?’ ‘Splendid,’ said his mother. ‘We’ll always keep our bangles in brown pond water in the future. They’re so much more beautiful that way.’

My role model, Moominmama, is always kind, even when her son throws her golden bracelet into the pond, or her husband breaks a dish. Taking death and Moominmama as my guide, I have tried to round out my sharp edges.

Recently, my go-to cafe changed ownership; even the cafe’s name and staff were changed. The new employees were uniformly unfriendly and rude. I felt upset and didn’t even say thank you when they handed me my coffee. Even the suspicion flashed across my mind that they might be racist.

One day I went to the cafe after meditating. And the lingering peace after the meditation made me want to be someone who can maintain a positive mood and respond with kindness regardless of others’ behaviors. I realized that the cafe staff was probably doing their best to navigate through life in their own way without harboring ill intentions toward me. So, I smiled and thanked the sullen-faced staff and gave them a good tip. This kind of interaction continued for several days.

Recently, the cafe employee who used to greet me with a grumpy expression told me his name. He even told me the names of his colleagues and gave me a discount coupon while I was waiting for my coffee. I could see his smile for the first time, and a deep sense of joy welled up in my heart.

Sometimes I practice seeing life from the perspective of people passing by outside the window or waiting at a traffic light. Imagining the world as seen through the eyes of the man with dreadlocks and a pierced nose, I feel refreshed, realizing that I am just a small part of his world. He must have his own unique thought process and perspective. If the world he has seen throughout his life is like a movie, then the movie I see from my perspective is also unique. We are the directors of our own movies. The movies of our lives, spanning the entire universe and all of the time, are one and only. The perspective in my movie will be a generous and kind one.

It feels like the adhesive surface where my ego and soul are attached has become a bit loose. I drink the thoughts about death like iced tea. The hatred towards the world dissolves like sugar. 

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