The entire world is going through an unprecedented crisis, bringing into sharp focus the inherent fragility and uncertainty of human condition. The ghostly Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) has haunted the whole world and filled us with fear, dread and anxiety, and forced us to retreat to the safety of our homes.
It is, quite literally, a matter of life and death for hundreds of thousands of people worldwide. It has forced dramatic government responses and has even threatened to cast a dark shadow over the economic and social fabric of the entire world for many, many years to come.
But then how does one overcome all this? It is here that karuna or great compassion, one of the fundamental teachings of the Buddha meaning care, concern, love and compassion for others, not only humans but animals and environment comes in.
If you look carefully at this unprecedented crises faced by humanity, you will clearly see that the occurrence of the catastrophe is due to the teachings of karuna — compassion in human hearts — diminishing. When karuna completely disappears from human hearts and greed takes over, then human beings become blind and get capable of committing all kinds of unwholesome activities.
Thus, the teaching of the Buddha can help the corona-affected world. By merely listening to the teaching of the Buddha, you may not be able to stop the corona virus immediately but the four noble truths can be applied and used to help understand the way to overcome these sufferings. Even if the teaching of Buddha cannot stop all the dying people, it can give us great insight to overcome huge amount unnecessary fear, tension, worry and panic. We human beings suffer unnecessarily because of not realising and not accepting the law of Nature and the law of karma. What is happening in the world today is not totally unexpected. Once we are born in this world, then facing old age, death and such calamities and epidemics is inevitable. Even untimely mass death is also not very uncommon. Buddha often mentioned: “The world has been filled with a succession of calamities. Over and above the unavoidable facts of illness are old age and death. But if one carefully considers all the facts, one must be convinced that at the basis of all suffering lies the principle of craving desire. If greed can be removed, human suffering will come to an end.”
How to apply the four noble truth to this corona virus:
The teachings of the Buddha are based on four noble truth.
- Cause of suffering
- Cessation of suffering
- Path to the cessation of suffering
Now apply these for Covid-19.
The first noble truth of suffering. Corona virus itself is the suffering. It has brought tremendous amount of suffering to humanity today. The cause of this suffering (corona virus), the second noble truth, is excessive human greed, desire and divisive ego which has resulted in the destruction of environmental values; air and water pollution, cutting of trees, killing and eating of animals and causing harm and destruction to Mother Earth, Nature and animals. Now let us apply the third noble truth of cession of suffering that means suffering caused by Corona Virus can be overcome. The fourth noble truth is the way or method to bring end to this suffering. In brief, the noble eightfold path are summarised in three words namely sila, samadhi and panna.
Sila Moral responsibility and discipline.
Samadhi Development of mindfulness and contemplation on the phenomena – the nature of existence, law of karma.
Panna Finally, developing the highest illuminating wisdom – the true realisation of all these phenomena taking place in this world which caused destruction of the nature. The path to the cessation of this suffering is to stop harming nature and animals.
It is high time we must stop all the artificial unnatural things which pollute the environment and learn to live a simple and contended life, in harmony with Nature, animals and Mother Earth.
The author is the founder of Mahabodhi International Meditation Centre (MIMC) UT Leh-Ladakh