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The Sun Magazine

Essays, Memoirs, and True Stories

Noble Heart

Christians And Buddhists On Compassion

In the Vajrayana Buddhist tradition, we talk about how we can discover wisdom behind our passions and delusions. If you simply cut out your passion or your desire, you can’t work with the world of non-compassion. It would be equivalent to going through surgery and removing your eyeballs, tongue, heart, and sexual organs. Some people might think that is the way to become a monk or nun, but I’m afraid such an approach doesn’t quite work. Compassion is not so much a matter of removing the organs of passion, aggression, and delusion; compassion means working with what you have. If you are hungry, you need your tongue and teeth to eat with. It is a natural thing. We don’t punish ourselves because we have a tongue and teeth. Instead, we work with them. When we have a problem, we don’t throw it away as if it were a piece of garbage. We pick it up and work with it.


She was so soft and beautiful that she frightened me. . . . The attraction I felt for her was so urgent, I didn’t want to injure it with idle chatter. Finally, of its own accord, my voice asked, “Do I somehow know you from before?” It sounded like I was talking under water.


“Suffering” is a word used to express so many kinds of experience that its precision of meaning has been lost. The Latin verb ferre means “to bear” or “to carry,” and “suffer” derives from it, with the prefix “sub” meaning “under.” This is reminiscent of the term “undercarriage” — that which bears the weight of a vehicle above the wheels — which is an apt image of the meaning of suffering in human life.


Rosie’s Way

Richard presses the buzzer. A dry, rasping sound echoes off the cracked, peeling walls and bounces up from the marble vestibule floor that needs cleaning. A muffled voice calls, “Who is it?” although we have let Rosie know, in advance, the exact hour of our arrival, and we are almost right on time.


The raggediest fisherman at the farthermost lake in the most distant corner of a country at the edge of the world went fishing one day when it was neither sunny nor cloudy, neither fair nor foul, and in a moment when he was not paying much attention he pulled up neither fish nor shoe nor enchanted prince nor pearl but a crystal orb about two inches in diameter that glowed opalescent and filled the fisherman with the desire to hold it. He kept it in his pocket and he took it out every day as he sat alone in his boat at the edge of the world, for orbs are company under such circumstances, and the more he held it the more the orb spoke to him with images. On sunny days it showed him happy scenes from his life and paraded before him reminders of all that gave him pleasure. On cloudy or rainy days the orb showed him his pain: arguments over the price of fish, his wife’s death in childbirth. The more the fisherman took out the orb in his loneliness, the more he saw. The happiness he saw on sunny days made him giddy with laughter. But the images the ball showed on dark days reached deeper and deeper in his soul and seemed to be scooping out the marrow in his bones and leaving him hollow.

The Heavenly Smile Studio

“I’m the most popular photographer in Minneapolis,” I told Eddie on Suday. He looked at the ground as if he’d seen a millipede. “Of course,” he said slowly. “Because you didn’t intend to be.”

*NOTE: Original copies of this issue are no longer available. Unbound, laser-printed copies will be provided for print orders.

Readers Write

Earned Wisdom

I’m ten years old, sitting in my father’s den with a copy of Norman Mailer’s The Naked and The Dead in my lap. I picked it out of the hundreds of books lining the walls in the floor-to-ceiling shelves, because I thought it might be a dirty book. It’s a big disappointment. Not only are there not any “good parts,” I can’t even make any sense out of it. This annoys me enormously, because I really don’t understand why anything in the adult world should be inaccessible to me.

Personal Stories By Our Readers ▸


To a worm in horseradish, the whole world is horseradish.

Yiddish Saying

More Quotations ▸

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