“After Death, the Wonderful World Moves On,” by Stephen J. Lyons. The Wall Street Journal, 5/1/2016.
The story goes that a Buddhist priest was sitting on a river bank when he noticed a scorpion struggling in the water. He reached down and lifted the scorpion onto the land and was promptly stung. His disciple asked why he bothered to rescue such an ungrateful creature. The priest replied, “Don’t blame the scorpion; he is only following his dharma. To rescue is my dharma.”
Dharma is our basic, divine nature. (Not to be confused with karma, the source of both good and bad results from our actions.) Animals follow their dharma naturally, but our human intellect leads us astray. Caregiving is part of our human dharma.
Stephen Lyons in the WSJ article describes his experiences visiting a nursing home once a week with his guitar to sing folk songs to Alzheimer’s patients. He tells of visitors who spent the better part of every day—day-in, day-out— stroking the hand and quietly describing the news of the day to an unresponsive loved one who only stares into space. They were adult daughters visiting their mothers or older women visiting their spouses. There were men, too, visiting their wives. Many visitors stayed until mealtime to feed them.
That is real dharma, far beyond anything I have experienced, but shows what all of us are capable of in our finest hour. I kid you not.