Changing Calmness and Tranquility into Safety and Joyfulness
Teacher Zhang Zhengyuan
Greetings! Fellow practitioners, Amitabha! It has been a while since we saw each other, how is everybody?
Since our Association stopped all classes due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Venerable Pingshi, our chairman, director-general, teachers, administrative staff at all levels, and volunteers are very concerned about everybody and wonder if everybody is safe and sound.
The pandemic we are now facing originates from the collective karma of all sentient beings. We are incredibly lucky to have true Dharma to rely on during this tumultuous time of class closures, and we can still settle ourselves down on the Dharma. During this tumultuous period, all kinds of information about COVID-19 can be found everywhere, whether it is television, the internet, newspapers, or magazines. I believe fellow practitioners have been more or less informed about the pandemic already.
Today let me use five Chinese characters to encourage everyone from the perspective of Dharma practice. They are Ping (平), Jing (靜), Zhuan (轉), An (安), and Le (樂). These five characters constitute the sentence that literally means changing calmness and tranquility into safety and joyfulness.
Firstly, let us discuss the character Ping (平). Ping in Chinese has the meaning of being safe, calm, equal, normal, ordinary, plain, smooth, stable, equanimous and calm, and peaceful and calm. In other words, Ping connotes accepting. It is also one of the signature tenet of True Enlightenment called forbearance. If we accept changes in the bigger and smaller environments from the bottom of our hearts, we will not complain or become cynical with the entire world and resentful with everything. We will not be worried and panic all the time.
Fellow practitioners may then ask, Why should we accept? It is because of impermanence. Buddhadharma frequently teaches that the world is impermanent, the land is impermanent, the physical body is impermanent, and people’s mind is impermanent, so impermanence is the nature of this world. When we acknowledge impermanence from the bottom of our hearts, we will accept the changes in current times and during this pandemic.
It is the collective karma of all sentient beings that leads to the continuous manifestations of natural disasters amid impermanence. When we accept all these from the bottom of our hearts, we will be able to calm down. We can actively take our own protective measures and cooperate with government policy. I believe this pandemic will pass soon and everyone can return to class safely.
The second character is Jing (靜). Jing is collected and cool, serene and peaceful, quiet, tranquil, and peaceful in mind. Confucian classics said: steadiness, tranquility, being settled, deliberation, and attainment. (These Chinese characters generally mean that maintaining focus enables tranquility; a tranquil demeanor brings about a settled mind that allows for clear deliberation; clear deliberation leads to the attainment of wisdom.)
There are also various methods of attaining a tranquil mind in the Buddha Dharma. During this period of class closures, we as teachers surely hope that all fellow practitioners can practice prostration to the Buddha every morning and evening and guard Huatou to cultivate meditative concentration. When our mind calms down and becomes tranquil, there will be no complaints or worries and we can keep our composure in any situation. We will be able to handle any situations in neither worried nor delighted manner. Is it not currently the right time to practice diligently, read, contemplate doctrines, and develop introspection? This is also a kind of cultivation and also a good cause and condition for the advancement on the Dharma path, is it not?
The third character is Zhuan (轉). Zhuan is to convert, transform, change thoughts, and transit. Zhuan means change. It is hard for everyone to change. Once a habitual tendency is formed, it is too difficult to make changes to the grasping of this tendency. We often say: “We need to change afflictions into Bodhi and the state and circumstance will change in conjunction with what we think.” If we possess a pessimistic attitude and thoughts, then the situation we are facing will not get any better. For example, some people often ask, Why do I always have such bad luck? How come I am so sad every day? When will all these things end? With these types of pessimistic thoughts, we will live in fear and anxiety every day. But we can change. What shall we change? Change our intentions; change our thoughts. If we think we have bad luck, we can think of it this way: “This thing can also be a good thing, which makes me change. It is an opportunity to learn something new. For example, I can stop crying and smile at it instead, and I can make huge improvements. Everything will pass and things will get better eventually.” This may not seem very encouraging or with much confidence; we can instead think from the perspective that everything is impermanent, and impermanence will pass. The pandemic will also pass and everything will definitely get better. “All phenomena are mere perceptions and all states are created by the mind.” When our thinking changes, our views will change as well. The internal perceived portion will also change. Positive intentions will result in positive consequences. I believe fellow practitioners can take advantage of the virtue attained through many years of practicing true Dharma and demonstrate its benefits at this moment. This is what constitutes Zhuan. Let us be steadfast in our cultivation of Buddhism, benefit others as well as ourselves, and contribute peace and joy to the world.
The next character is An (安). An means stability, safety, peace of mind, sense of settling down, being composed, tranquility, calmness, and steadiness. In other words, allowing us to live with unhindered sustenance and settlement physically and spiritually.
From the spread of the current COVID-19, we know there are no national boundaries for viruses and all nations shall work together against it. The impact of this virus disregards race, nationality, gender, age, social status, wealth, and wisdom. As long as the causes and conditions mature and manifest themselves, people will suffer from such disease. Those who contract the disease also have various degrees of symptoms and severity. Why is this so? It is because, in addition to the collective karma, there is also individual karma. Hence, no one can stay away from such a pandemic. Therefore, we should empathize with those who contracted the disease and do not stigmatize or discriminate against them. We should offer them warmth and care. For ourselves, we should cooperate with all government anti-pandemic measures. Do not create loopholes in epidemic prevention because of selfishness and prejudice, causing the pandemic to spread and even bringing the irreversible consequences, eventually harming ourselves and others.
It is actually the right moment for the bodhisattvas of our Association to bring forth the spirit of a bodhisattva into actual practice, uphold bodhisattva’s precepts, be cautious about our physical, verbal, and mental acts, and be compassionate about others to the point where we intend to share hunger or even the danger of drowning together with other sentient beings. May all sentient beings be safe and happy and return to the right track of life.
The last character is Le (樂). Le is the possession of a peaceful mind, happiness, pleasure, delight, optimism, and fun; in other words, making people happy and joyful. COVID-19 has been spreading widely since its outbreak. In addition to Taiwan, almost no nation in the world was able to escape from the infection. Countless countries and people are affected. Not only did the disease caused serious harm to the human body, but people’s minds also become fearful and restless. Global politics, economies, culture, education, and religion have all been seriously impacted. What should we do in such an uneasy environment?
Firstly, we should improve our own mental well-being, take advantage of the virtues attained through many years of practicing true Dharma, and keep ourselves calm and happy in our daily lives. In addition, perform the appropriate level of exercise, maintain a balanced diet, and get enough sleep to strengthen our immunity. Furthermore, do what the government has been promoting: wash our hands frequently, wear a face mask, and avoid crowds. At the same time, everyone should develop a healthy lifestyle. With this multi-pronged approach, we can certainly avoid the advent of the disease. But if we, unfortunately, contract the virus, we should just fully accept it as it is. There is nothing to be terrified about. Causes and conditions have matured so we just accept it and settle down. Everything will change into the better soon.
More importantly, we should utilize our Dharma practice. There are three excellent treasures in True Enlightenment’s practice methods: repent, making vows, and transference of merit. We should repent the karmic hindrances between ourselves and sentient beings every day. We should also initiate the wholesome thought of helping others and wishing all sentient beings to be free from the virus. At the same time, dedicate our merits of practicing Dharma over all these years to all sentient beings, hoping the pandemic ends soon and for all sentient beings to be safe and joyous.
Fellow practitioners, the above is the elaboration of the five characters Ping (平), Jing (靜), Zhuan (轉), An (安), Le (樂). They are the Dharma words I wish to share with you. I hope fellow practitioners do not forget our years of practice on the Dharma path at the Association. During this period, practice prostration to the Buddha every day, read to nurture wisdom, treat all sentient beings with compassion and kindness, and make great vows to dedicate merits to all sentient beings to be safe from the pandemic forever and plant the seeds of practicing the true Dharma.