The Coronavirus pandemic has become a global crisis affecting all aspects of our lives. All the traditions of the Buddhadharma encourage us to use suffering and obstacles as fuel for the development of wisdom and compassion. The current pandemic is giving us the opportunity to reflect on the First Noble Truth of Suffering and how to adopt the Bodhicitta aspiration in these circumstances. While we can’t eliminate epidemics, we can always change our response to the fear of pandemics. Below, Phakchok Rinpoche, Tulku Migmar and Samye senior teachers offer some suggestions to help in this situation.
How can we do this individually as practitioners?
Fear arises from the threat of harm to us and those dear to us. Fear is usually expressed as anxiety and despair. It can lead to poor judgments, unkind behavior, and unwise actions. As practitioners, we can meet our experience of fear with meditation and investigation. How do we do that? We can begin by returning to our practice of calm abiding. During shamata meditation
, we can soothe the afflictions of hope and despair.
is of great benefit for diffusing self-cherishing and creating sympathetic connections to others. When we become more stable and compassionate and even joyful once again, we will be better able to support others with their fears and anxiety.
During this time, Phakchok Rinpoche also encourages us to focus on our main practice, as it will be easier and more effective for us. As he said in a recent statement to his students:
“The key points are (1) to do your main practice with focus, (2) to chant Guru Rinpoche’s mantra and supplications to Guru Rinpoche that you already know, and (3) to do sang puja if you already know it, and to do all of this with the dedication and aspiration for the good health of human beings. Essentially we should accumulate virtue to purify the karma of those who are going through difficulties of environment, health, finance, and happiness that have been created by the collective karma of human beings.”
Self-Assessment and Self Care
Once re-centered with calm abiding or other practices, assess and reduce your own personal risk. Meditate daily and maintain your own health, especially if you have compromising medical problems. Wash your hands and follow the recommendations of your local health authorities. And cultivate a cheerful attitude–that brings benefit for yourself and those around you who also worry.
The health of others and the community depends on the health of each individual.
What can a Bodhisattva do for others?
We begin to help others when we are calm and healthy. This allows us to assess our community situation and needs clearly and compassionately. Each location around the globe offers differing recommendations, depending on their particular situation, resources and leadership. Follow the advice of trusted and knowledgeable sources in your area or country- ministers of health, centers for disease control, and competent medical practitioners.
Speak from your meditative experience of calm. Do not spread rumors or half-truths as these can incite fear and anxiety. Do not hoard food, medical supplies or paper goods as this can create more shortages and hence more suffering. Be prepared to share resources. Support those who are housebound with food, errands, or just a friendly remote communication.
Support Your Community
Volunteer as appropriate to your personal situation and the requests of your community. Protect others by not going out when feeling ill, when asked to do so by your community, or when testing or tracing is required. And remember that even if you are young and healthy, and you show no symptoms, you could inadvertently transmit the disease to someone more vulnerable. In that case, donating money or needed supplies might be the kindest and most appropriate action.
The health of individuals depends on the health of others and the community. We are truly all inter-connected.
Mr. Chan, the Minister of Trade for Singapore said, “While we may be anxious individually, we can also draw strength as a community, and we must remember to reach out to the weaker and more vulnerable ones in our society.“
In the long term, consider what strengths and deficits your community demonstrates and how you can help personally, politically, and educationally for epidemics and climate changes in the future.
Ani Marcia and the Samye Team