- As for suffering, Buddha has said that separation from loved ones is suffering. Disease and death of loved ones is suffering. How true this is!
- We are all first of all “ Human”. Next comes our jobs and titles. Next comes everything else. Deep down at the root- we are all Human
- Our world has been through enough. There is suffering in our world. However, those insufferable situations are not permanent. So, there is hope
We are all going through a very difficult period in time. Who would have thought that the simple joys of what makes life meaningful would mean so much to all of us? I was an introvert as a child. I used to reflect a lot and keep to myself. However, Buddhism has always been very close to my heart. It offered solace to me in my troubled growing years. I always intuitively felt that Buddhism held the answers to all of my questions. And now, with the onset of the pandemic, humanity has become so very precious to me. I feel like we are all of us brothers and sisters. There are no strangers. I feel an affinity with everyone I meet. So many have passed due to the pandemic.
What has happened seems so unreal. The pandemic has illustrated two key teachings of the Buddha, That of Impermanence (Anicca) and Suffering (Dukkha). We were going on as usual with our lives. We never thought we would face a situation like this pandemic. Suddenly the world has changed drastically, and people have had to adopt a new way of living. This shows how fragile and uncertain the current human situation is.
According to the Buddha, everything is uncertain (This is Anicca) . As for Suffering, Buddha has said that separation from loved ones is suffering. Disease and death of loved ones is suffering. How true this is!
According to the Dhamma - nothing is permanent. Nothing lasts. Everything is in flux. Everything is changing. And so, one can conclude that “This too shall pass”. This pandemic too shall pass.
Eventually, this pandemic should pass. Pass in the sense - we might be able to get on with our lives in a relatively “normal” fashion where perhaps with proper vaccination - our common humanity will survive and we would be able to live our lives.
There is no doubt that this pandemic has aroused intense feelings of panic and anxiety in the majority of people on our planet Earth. Those who were “normally” not panicky have to now deal with feelings and emotions that were alien to them in the past - The Pre-Pandemic era. I am sure that many people are on psychiatric drugs and seek the help of them to be able to lead a basic day to day existence due to the current situation. Depression too must have escalated in many people who were not usually prone to depression. And this goes to show how much empathy we should cultivate towards our common humanity. We are all first of all “ Human”. Next comes our jobs and titles. Next comes everything else. Deep down at the root- we are all Human.
There’s a lot of access to information - on Google especially these days. There’s no end to the amount of data available. And this only serves to escalate feelings of panic and depression. In a way ignorance is bliss. One need not know everything there is to know. The basic facts are enough. The more one digs into the pandemic - the more anxiety. And the information that is available serves to propagate triggers which negatively gives rise to negative feelings. Our world has been through enough. There is suffering in our world. However, those insufferable situations are not permanent. So, there is hope.
And there’s the other truth about Non- Self (Anatta ) which the Buddha espoused, which is profound. When we are born, we come innately equipped with a sense of self, with a sense of identity. And this sense of self and identity is nourished and encouraged by those who bring us up and care for us. However, when one delves into the Buddha’s Dhamma - the teaching of non-self is encouraged - Who are we? What are we? We are five senses - eye, ear, nose, tongue, body and the sixth sense which is mind. We also have the five sense consciousnesses - which are seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting and touching. And of course, the sixth - which is the mind door - and that would be the ideas apparent within each of us. Science tells us that the mind is in the body. However, the Buddha taught that the body is within the mind. The mind is an amazing thing. It is not visible. Then where does it exist?
When one meditates, the Buddha said that wisdom will arise. Wisdom into the nature of reality. Without purifying the mind with meditation, one can’t be expected to perfect the wisdom eye. The goal of meditation is to enter the Jhanas - or higher states of insight. And this experience would be profound. With the cultivation of wisdom, one can aspire to achieve the four stages of Enlightenment which are Stream - Enterer, Once returner, Non returner and Arahant. Once one is an Arahant, Nibbana has been realized. - If one is a Buddhist, one has to cultivate this awareness of Anatta. It is a core teaching of the Buddha and if this Anatta reflection is cultivated, it can bring about many benefits. One views the world differently and has less conflicts with the world around them. Things are clearer. In an ultimate sense, nothing exists. All this is a mirage. This is very hard to internalize and understand. Meditation is a must, if one is to come to these exalted states of realizations.
The Buddha taught Metta; Unconditional Loving Kindness. This divine quality is reflected in the doctors, nurses and frontline workers who are working tirelessly to help those afflicted with the pandemic. We can also practice Metta meditation and send our thoughts wishing all those who are affected to recover from the pandemic. As civilians, we can spread love towards all those doctors, nurses and frontline workers as well. When one focuses outwards, one is less anxious and the focus is on the other, and not on oneself.
In these times, The Brahma Viharas can help one. These are Loving Kindness, Compassion, Sympathetic Joy and Equanimity. Loving Kindness and Compassion towards everybody. Sympathetic Joy for all those who’ve survived the pandemic - family and friends. And finally, Equanimity - having a balanced mind without being swayed into extremes of anxiety, depression or elation.
Buddha taught Mindfulness. Practicing mindfulness is vital to our daily existence. When we aremindful of whatever, it is what we are doing in our wakeful moments, our time won’t be used up in unnecessary restless thoughts about the present and the future. True - the future is uncertain. But one must think positively. Nothing is permanent. Everything passes.
The future is uncertain, and this uncertainty can create waves of panic. However, the Buddha’s teachings on breath meditation can calm one. Mindfulness and present moment awareness as well as loving-kindness meditation softens the normal anxious condition. Getting through one’s daily work and not thinking too far into the future is important. We’ll have less anxiety. Anxiety can build up by us projecting the mind into a future that hasn’t arisen and may never arise.
The pandemic is a chance for us to see our world and our existence with new eyes. Life is all the more precious for it. May all beings realize this truth, and stay safe and take maximum precautions in their daily lives and interactions.
Wishing you a blessed Poya. With Metta!