Pages InformationWriter Jogye Date06 Apr 2020 Read569 Comment0
How to Overcome the Coronavirus Pandemic?
The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), a disease caused by an ultra-miniscule entity that cannot be observed by a simple microscope, has been making the whole world tremble for several months. This pandemic has forced the whole world to close almost all their facilities of education, religion, culture, arts, and sports.
As the virus spread further and confirmed cases increased, Buddhist temples in Korea came to have virtually no visitors. Monastics joked, “It now really feels like a quiet mountain temple!” Encouraging words of comfort have been going around, but everyone’s heart remains empty. “How did this happen? When will this emergency end?…”– I ask these questions to myself and others, my family, friends, and dharma-mates ask me the same questions, but most of us cannot give a definite answer. The best response I have is, “Well, it will get better, won’t it…"
Compared with other countries, though, Korea is in better shape. The difficult situations in Western Europe and the United States are getting even worse. I remember the plague that swept across Europe at the end of the 14th Century. There was an overflow of bodies in Italy, and seven or eight bodies had to be buried in one pit. I am nervous that history might repeat itself. In order to prevent this kind of disaster, almost all the governments of the world are giving their people harsh orders: “Stay home. Do not come out of the house!”
What would happen if people and goods continue to not move and the flow of money remains blocked? If this is to be prolonged, all the people of the world will suffer. Although people are voicing their concerns that this problem might develop into the “World Economic Depression,” I am more worried that the entire human race will experience a ‘psychological panic’ that may make us suffer even more.
From early reports on COVID-19, the Korean Buddhist community listened to experts’ warnings that large crowds should be avoided because they are vulnerable to virus transmission. Accordingly, Buddhist monasteries canceled all events and court meetings “to save ourselves, neighbors, and the world.” The Buddha's Birthday celebration and the Annual Lotus Lantern Festival were postponed by a month to the Intercalary Month of April 8 on the lunar calendar.
'How should we overcome this pandemic?' The answer will be found in the Four Noble Truths(四聖諦) taught by the Buddha.
‘Suffering(苦)’ The whole world is suffering, and no one knows when it will end. No powerful person or superpower country can avoid it.
'The Origin of Suffering(集)' The cause of this suffering is a virus, a microscopic entity.
'The Cessation of Suffering(滅)' If we could not quickly end this pandemic, we would have no choice but to live a very dark future, not only for us but for the next generation. A selfish act of “I will find a way to save myself alone,” such as stockpiling all daily necessities, only deepens our pain.
'The Way of Practice Leading to the Cessation of Suffering(道)' There is definitely a way to end the pain. We can first start to lead our family on this path and then encourage our neighbors to join us along the way. We are Buddhists, we should certainly learn this path and lead people on the way one by one.
The road is surprisingly easy to tread. “① Wash hands with soap in running water for more than 30 seconds,② Cover coughs with sleeves,③ If you have a respiratory problem after you return from abroad, go talk to a doctor at your local health center or consult a specialist at your local call center 1399,④Wear a mask in a crowded place,⑤ Inform the health authorities of your overseas travel and get tested,⑥ Avoid, as much as possible, going where many people gather.… ” These are 'the way to end pain [COVID-19]' that everyone can easily follow. Those steps that the Korean Buddhist community has taken since the beginning of this crisis are the measures to put this “way to end pain” to practice.
Delivering bottled fresh water, giving carefully prepared temple food, and making monetary donations for those who are suffering severely— I am sure that this is the original form of Buddhism in which the Bodhisattva’s way is proactively practiced. It is also a suitable decision to set up a special temple stay program, after the emergency situation is resolved, for those who have been psychologically distressed. We will take pride as Buddhists as we plan and implement proper actions in advance so that the ‘disaster syndrome’ caused by COVID-19 should not make many people suffer.
In the future, the Buddha's disciples will have much work to do for the world. Those who accomplish the job quietly are none other than Bodhisattvas.