Recognizing the Epidemic and One’s Conduct during the Epidemic
Teacher Zheng-Yuan Lu
Hello, Bodhisattvas and friends! The current novel coronary pneumonia epidemic has now spread to more than one hundred countries and already resulted in thousands of deaths globally. Many are shocked by the loss of relatives and friends and experienced great pain. One feels anxious and depressed due to long periods of isolation and quarantine that caused huge disruptions in life. The livelihood of many people is greatly affected. Currently, no country around the world fully understands the characteristics of this virus. There are still no officially approved drugs or vaccines. This caused many people to develop emotions of fear, depression, and stress. The general public certainly has had a profound experience of what is referred to as impermanence and suffering from life and death in the mundane world.
Since the beginning of the 21st century, there have been several major epidemics. This time the novel coronavirus is even more serious. Superficially from an everyday perspective, it appears that the epidemic is caused by a viral infection. But from a deeper perspective, are there other underlying factors that may have caused this epidemic?
We will explain about the virus and the sufferings it had created from the perspective of cause and effect and Buddha Dharma. Ancient China has a saying: there is no door to disaster and happiness; they are caused by one’s own actions. The corresponding good or bad retributions will resemble a shadow chasing after a person forever. Buddha Dharma often explains the notion that all three realms are mind-only and all dharmas are mere Consciousness. This clearly explains that the good or bad karma of body, speech, and mind are all as a result of our mental acts. These will all be deposited in our neither-arising-nor-ceasing fundamental mind Tathagatagarbha. When causes and conditions mature, the corresponding retributive fruition will manifest.
The world view of Buddhism includes the notion of the eons of increase and decrease. During the eon of increase, sentient beings know how to cultivate the ten wholesome deeds, namely not killing, not stealing, no licentious acts, no false speech, no divisive speech, no harsh words, no senseless gossip, no greed, no aversion, and no delusion. With such practice, one’s merits and virtues and life span will naturally increase on a continuous basis. During the eon of decrease, sentient beings have changed their mindset. Many people would indulge in worldly pleasure and desires. Not only do people not cultivate virtuous dharmas, but they continuously nurture and increase the three poisonous minds of greed, aversion, and delusion. Hence, merits and virtues and the length of their life span will gradually decrease. As a result, this may trigger retribution of the three calamities of war, epidemic, and famine.
The Abhidharma-kośa already stated: “Non-humans spit poison and the epidemic prevails. Once encountered, death will follow as it is not easy to treat or recover.” However, in the Generation of World Sutra, vol. 9, the World-Honored One expounded the contents of the epidemic kalpa in a very incredibly positive and encouraging tone. The main point from the World-Honored One is that when we encounter an epidemic kalpa, we should have the correct knowledge and understanding that the plague of epidemics is due to many people indulging in pleasure as well as being greedy over the enjoyment of culinary delicacy in this world, even killing sentient beings to satisfy their craving for food. They often develop feelings of hatred to annoy and harm sentient beings without being conscious of it when the situation is not to their liking. Hence, when the epidemic hits, we must be awakened, sincerely repent our mistakes, and not develop hatred or the intention to cause harm or annoyance to other people or even the virus itself. Instead, we should develop the feeling of wanting to benefit all sentient beings, be compassionate to and have the utmost purity of thought towards them. Also, we should show concerns for relatives, friends, and sentient beings, take care of their sickness and needs, comforting them, and let them feel warm and be at ease without fear. The Buddha said that people who conduct as described above would be born into the heavens after death to enjoy heavenly blessings.
In the Lotus of Compassion Sutra (Karuṇāpuṇḍarīka Sūtra), vol. 6, a Bodhisattva called Power Possessing Sickness Subduing also taught that when the epidemic kalpa arrives, we should guide all sentient beings to let them be at ease with the six principles of reverent harmony and the four embracing dharmas. This way, all the epidemics faced by sentient beings can be eradicated. The six principles of reverent harmony are:
- Body harmony to get along: everyone should live together harmoniously.
- Verbal harmony without dispute: do not start verbal arguments.
- Mental harmony to be contended: everyone should have the same pure resolution and hence feels contended.
- Precept harmony to practice together: uphold together regulations such as the bodhisattva precepts.
- Harmony of the same views and understanding: possess a consistent and correct understanding of True Dharma.
- Harmony of equal benefits: if there are benefits, share them equally.
The four embracing dharmas are charitable giving, kind words, beneficial conduct, and working together. In other words, we should utilize the notion of possession-giving, Dharma-giving, and fearlessness-giving to benefit and guide sentient beings. We should use tender, kind, and soft words to persuade and guide as well as comfort sentient beings. Use kind physical, verbal, and mental acts to benefit all sentient beings and work together to enable sentient beings to obtain the benefits of the mundane and supramundane dharmas.
If we can use the six principles of reverent harmony and the four embracing dharmas to benefit and guide sentient beings, sentient beings will be happy to associate with virtuous friends, develop correct mindfulness, cultivate true Dharma, and not allow their minds to wander off. The society and country will then naturally possess good weather and become prosperous. People will be peaceful, harmonious, and stable.
In addition, if we use Buddhist prajna wisdom to see things from a more in-depth perspective, all mundane dharmas are nothing but illusory images given rise to or manifested by the Tathagatagarbha. In essence, they are originally neither arising nor ceasing and are intrinsically self-sufficient. We human beings are deluded by the appearance of mundane dharmas and give rise to confusing views and false distinctions. In the realm which is inherently neither arising nor ceasing, one thinks that there exist real arising and ceasing as well as gains and losses, thus causing emotions of pain, anxiety, and restlessness. Even if we were not able to truly see the Path now, we must still have faith in the correct Dharma and correct doctrine. Let the mind calm down and stay focused. With the sincerest mind, repent all of our past mistakes. Remember and revere with a pure mind the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. With proper safety precautionary measures, we can practice our loving care and look after those in need with a compassionate heart. Teach everyone to be at ease with the six principles of reverent harmony and the bodhisattva’s four embracing dharmas. Only with these measures can we stay away from and mitigate the harm of the epidemic.
Finally, I pray here that the novel corona pneumonia virus can be stopped as soon as possible, society can return to stability, everyone can remain in good health, and the entire family can be at ease and happy. Working hard to conduct good deeds and helping others and oneself, one will naturally increase one’s virtues and wisdom and attain enlightenment quickly.