Thursday, March 12, 2020

Coronavirus: Buddhist reflections from Italy

Western Buddhist nun Sayalay Khema Cari (Thabarwa Center, Southern Italy), Ellie Askew, Dhr. Seven (eds.), Wisdom Quarterly; Seth Meyers (Late Night); SNL; Jimmy Kimmel Live; LA Times

Fear: OMG, what will happen with this virus?
Rather than talk about the virus, I'd like to talk about two things that are worse (1) fear -- fear of getting sick, fear of death, fear to lose loved ones, fear to lose what we have -- and (2) the difficulty of dealing with a change of lifestyle, not knowing what to do or how to entertain ourselves (to distract ourselves).

These two are in fact connected. Look at the current directives (in Italy) for preventing spread of the virus: no cinema, disco, bars, crowded places, not touching others unnecessarily. These fit Buddhist monastics very well.

Dispelling fear: abhaya mudra
In Buddhist tradition monastics abstain from all entertainment and physical contact with far better reason than COVID 19! 😁 The reason we monastics refrain from entertainment is to observe our mind instead.

Because of not wanting to face fear, we tend to try to distract our mind at every turn. Now, a monk or nun needs to understand NATURE (svabhava) at every moment. Entertainments would distract from that sort of contemplation.

Everything born (come into being) has to die (fall away). This is what we can directly observe in nature at every single moment. There is nothing we can see or experience that can escape this nature (with the exception of nirvana -- the "unconditioned element," the "deathless," "true safety").

This is why when there is fear of death one needs to constantly distract the mind. Monastics, by their own will, regularly attend retreats and abandon regular activities in part or completely for a determined period of time. It enables us to clearly see our remaining attachments.

I have sometimes had the chance to be away from any human contact for months at a time to scrutinize my mind and deepen my understanding of the true intrinsic nature of things.

This is why I would love to share with others. For only the understanding of the fear can free us from it. No doctor, insurance agent, or policeman can free us from fear. Although they are needed in society, we should be clear about that.

Now, many people find themselves in a situation they have never previously encountered, having to change their lifestyles, severely threatened with danger if we do not obey all directions. Some things should be accepted. The collaboration of all is needed. It is at this time that we need to take care of our minds more than ever.

Detach from obsessively following the news. Instead, start to watch your own mind. You've been gifted with new conditions that will help you to have space and time. Take this opportunity NOW.

Virus hits home: Pasadena gets the 'vid
(LA Times, March 11, 2020) Pasadena on Wednesday reported its first case of confirmed coronavirus, and hours later, a Beverly Hills church announced that its rector had also been diagnosed with the virus. On its website, All Saints’ Episcopal Church said its rector, the Rev. Janet Broderick, fell ill shortly after returning from the annual conference of the Consortium of Endowed Episcopal Parishes in Louisville, Kentucky. She was in stable condition at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Beverly Hills, the church said, and was being treated “for a severe form of pneumonia.” More

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