Reflecting on the Pandemic and Our Deeds
Teacher Lu Zheng-Yuan
Hello, Bodhisattvas and friends!
The current Covid-19 pandemic has now spread to more than one hundred countries and already resulted in thousands and thousands of deaths globally. Many are shocked by the loss of love ones and have experienced great pain. The long periods of isolation and quarantine have caused huge disruptions in people’s lives, and many feel anxious and depressed. The livelihoods of many people are greatly affected. Currently, no country around the world fully understands the nature of these viruses, and there are no officially approved drugs or vaccines available. All of these factors have caused fear, depression, and stress for multitude of people. There have been a profound common experience of impermanence and suffering in regards to life, loss, and death in the mundane world.
Since the beginning of the 21st century, there have been several major pandemics. This time effects of the coronavirus are even more serious. On the surface, it appears that the cause of the pandemic is a viral infection, but at a deeper level, are there other underlying factors that might have caused it?
Today, let’s look at things from Buddhist perspective of causality and the Buddha Dharma. In ancient China there was a saying, “The doors of Fate only open in accordance with one’s actions. Virtue or evil, retributions follow like one’s shadows.” The Buddha Dharma teaches that all three realms are Mind-Only and all dharmas are mere Consciousness. It clearly explains the karmic relationship between our intentions, good or bad bodily, verbal, and mental actions and their results.
All of those will be stored in our fundamental mind, the Tathagatagarbha, that does not arise or cease. When causes and conditions ripen to maturity, the corresponding retributive fruition will manifest.
Within the Buddhist world view, there is the idea of eons of increase and decrease. During an eon of increase, sentient beings know how to cultivate the ten wholesome deeds, namely: no killing, no stealing, no licentious acts, no false speech, no divisive speech, no harsh words, no senseless gossip, no greed, no aversion, and no delusion. Everyone’s merits and virtues, as well as life span, naturally increase on a continuous basis due to cultivating wholesome deeds. During an eon of decrease, the mindset changes and many people begin to indulge in worldly pleasures and desires. People do not cultivate virtuous dharmas, but rather they continuously nurture and increase the three poisonous minds of greed, aversion, and delusion. Their merits, virtues, and life span gradually decrease. As a result, this begins to trigger retribution in the form of the three calamities: war, epidemics, and famine.
The Abhidharma-kośa states: “Non-humans spit poison and epidemics prevail. Once the illness is contracted, treatment and recovery are difficult and death will follow.” However, in the Generation of World Sutra, Vol. 9, the World-Honored One expounded positive and encouraging teachings with regard to an epidemic kalpa. The main point is that when we encounter an epidemic kalpa, we need to have the correct understanding that plagues of epidemics arise due to the pervasive mindset of indulging in sensual pleasures, including killing countless beings to satisfy the craving for meat. People will even easily give rise to feelings of annoyance or hatred and wish to harm others, perhaps even unconsciously, when things do not go as they wish. When an epidemic hits, this is a wake up call. We need to sincerely repent our mistakes and not give rise to annoyance, or hatred, or the intention to cause harm or damage to others, even the virus itself. Rather, we should nurture the intention to benefit, be compassionate toward, and have clean and pure intentions toward all sentient beings. Moreover, we must show concern for relatives, friends, and others, care for their needs, comfort them warmly, and help them feel at ease and without fear. The Buddha said that people who do so would be born into the heavenly realms after this life to enjoy blessings.
In the Lotus of Compassion Sutra (Karuṇāpuṇḍarīka Sūtra), Vol. 6, Bodhisattva Skanda (韋馱菩薩) also taught that when an epidemic kalpa arrives, we should guide people and teach them the Six Principles of Reverent Harmony and the Four Embracing Dharmas which can deter and extinguish epidemics. The Six Principles of Reverent Harmony are:
- Corporeal harmony of getting along: Everyone living together harmoniously.
- Verbal harmony without dispute: Not starting verbal arguments.
- Mental harmony of contentment: Everyone has the same pure resolution and hence feels content.
- Precept harmony of practicing together: Upholding discipline together such as the bodhisattva precepts.
- Harmony of the same views and understanding: Having consistent and correct understanding of the Dharma.
- Harmony of equal benefits: Sharing benefits equally.
The Four Embracing Dharmas are charitable giving, kind words, beneficial conduct, and working together. In other words, we should promote generosity in giving or sharing possessions, Dharma, and fearlessness to benefit and guide sentient beings. We should use caring, kind, and soft words to persuade, guide and comfort sentient beings. Physical, verbal, and mental actions need to be thoughtful in order to benefit all sentient beings. 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 people, they will wish to associate with virtuous friends, develop correct mindfulness, cultivate the true Dharma, and not allow their minds to be afflicted. The society and country will then naturally possess good weather and become prosperous. People will be peaceful, harmonious, and stable.
Furthermore, from the deeper perspective of prajna, all phenomenal dharma are nothing but illusory manifestations of the Tathagatagarbha. In essence, they are originally neither arising nor ceasing, and are intrinsically complete. Yet, from within the inherently non-arising and non-ceasing, we are fooled by the appearance of worldly dharma and give rise to confused views and false distinctions, create gains and losses, and feel pain, anxiety, and restlessness. Therefore, even if we cannot yet truly see the Path now, we should still have faith in the ultimate Dharma and principle. Calm your mind and stay focused. With true sincerity, repent all wrong doings of the past. With a pure and clear intention, hold the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas in mind. With proper precautionary measures, we can practice loving kindness 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 so that we can be free from epidemics’ harm.
Finally, I pray that the corona virus will be subdued as soon as possible and no longer cause harm, that stability returns to society, that everyone will remain in good health, and the families can be at ease and happy. By doing and promoting good deeds and helping others, everyone’s virtue and wisdom will naturally increase. May all beings attain enlightenment soon.