Just over a year ago, I heard the Metta Sutta expounded by a monk at the
funeral of one of the Buddhist Hospice Trust's staunchest, most
generous, and most devout supporters. MK lived alone for many years
and was regarded by some as eccentric, as she was Austrian, of strikingly ascetic appearance, spoke
in very heavily accented English and, although she was almost totally deaf, frequented every Buddhist talk or exposition of the Dharma she could get to, usually sitting in the front row nearest the speaker.
In her last few years, confused, isolated, and resolutely adamant about remaining independent, she was treated like a wounded animal by local youth, teased and mocked, and her few possessions stolen by casual burglary.
In the weeks leading up to her death she was knocked over by someone on a
pavement bicycle, went to hospital with a broken hip, entered into
rapid decline with signs of agitated confusion (common after trauma in
old people), wouldn't eat or accept treatment, and had no visitors
except the hospital chaplain who contacted me, and Ananda Networker Netta Wills who took her vegetarian food to tempt her towards health, and comforted her.
By the time I made arrangements to visit her she had already died. There were only six people at
her funeral, as she had no family. I handed out some Swiss Ricola
Herbal Sweets to mourners, because she always carried them and pressed them on
everyone she met: they were almost her personal "signature". She used
to say something like "Zey are for children not suitable to be given"
Why am I recounting this anecdote? Well, mention of the Metta Sutta
brought the memory of MK to the front of my mind. And the mundane
circumstances of her death which were in every sense of the word
commonplace. But I am confident that she died as she had lived in a
state of Buddhist grace, of sublime abiding, fruit of her lifelong generosity and
devotion to Buddha, Dharma and Sangha.
The Buddha's Words on Kindness (Metta Sutta)
This is what should be done
By one who is skilled in goodness,
And who knows the path of peace:
Let them be able and upright,
Straightforward and gentle in speech.
Humble and not conceited,
Contented and easily satisfied.
Unburdened with duties and frugal in their ways.
Peaceful and calm, and wise and skillful,
Not proud and demanding in nature.
Let them not do the slightest thing
That the wise would later reprove.
Wishing: In gladness and in saftey,
May all beings be at ease.
Whatever living beings there may be;
Whether they are weak or strong, omitting none,
The great or the mighty, medium, short or small,
The seen and the unseen,
Those living near and far away,
Those born and to-be-born,
May all beings be at ease!
Let none deceive another,
Or despise any being in any state.
Let none through anger or ill-will
Wish harm upon another.
Even as a mother protects with her life
Her child, her only child,
So with a boundless heart
Should one cherish all living beings:
Radiating kindness over the entire world
Spreading upwards to the skies,
And downwards to the depths;
Outwards and unbounded,
Freed from hatred and ill-will.
Whether standing or walking, seated or lying down
Free from drowsiness,
One should sustain this recollection.
This is said to be the sublime abiding.
By not holding to fixed views,
The pure-hearted one, having clarity of vision,
Being freed from all sense desires,
Is not born again into this world.
Dedicated to the memory and to the merit of Marghareta Khan, lately supporter and generous benefactor of the Buddhist Hospice Trust and Inner Work School.