Dear friends, some thoughts I want to share concerning the corona virus crises. I call it the corona-koan (kongan):
The corona virus is already in our minds there is something more we can try:
Independent of the COVID-19 virus and the reactions to it globally or in our society, there is some more we can do with this specific situation as practitioners and perceive that our everyday life is our true kongan.
The appearance and spread of the virus shows us strongly our interdependence with the global world. We know we are interconnected but often we don’t act accordingly as if others are far away or our actions don’t matter so much.
Now even such a little “thing” like a virus can spread extremely fast across the globe in ways you cannot control. In fact there is so much more of exchange/interconnection going on all the time than we are aware of. The climate change as a big “thing” is just another fact of interconnection every moment. It simply does not work to only take care of “yourself”.
Due to our interconnection anything matters. If you take hygienic measures or not, if you wash your hands or not, if you sneeze in the elbow or not, if you shake hands or not – such little actions can make a big difference to someone else, maybe even someone somewhere you even do not know. In the worst case it can cost a live. Look into the fact you are never separate from the total “thing” the universe.
Fear and compassion
Everyday more people are infected and the peak of the virus has not yet come. More people will be infected. As a result to get prepared people are stocking food and disinfectants, spending a lot of money for overpriced breathing masks (that other people miss that really need them like those undergoing cancer treatments with a low immune system), cancel journeys and events.
In the same time thousands of people are suffering from hunger, war, diseases – living under much more terrible conditions than what the virus has just began to show us. Most of these terrible conditions are created by human beings and not by a virus.
Live is so precious, but any live! It happens easily to only look at oneself when we feel threaten and almost forget the rest of the world. I think we need to see that – and then use it to get a wider perspective.
Then this extraordinary situation has some good too. Let’s not miss that part of the corona-Kongan: our lives are precious and so are the lives of all beings. What is our answer to the situation? This virus is empty like anything, so it is up to us how we use that. It can be our “panic” virus, our “I-my-me” virus, but also our “wake-up” virus (as Zen Master Seung Sahn always said: life is not waiting for you; nothing is guaranteed), we can use it to become our “love-and-compassion-virus”. What ever you want.
You cannot control the corona virus, but how you respond to it is fully up to you.
I hope you and your beloved ones will not be affected seriously by it and you have skillful means to work with any situation that will appear.
The Buddha Way is inconceivable we vow to attain it (4th Bodhisattva vow).
Beginning of March I shared some thoughts about the changes we started to experience effected by the pandemic caused by the corona virus.
One month later the world has changed in ways I could not expect even at that time. It sometimes feels as if we are locked in in a science fiction movie and yet we have to understand we are still at the beginning of this pandemic on a global scale. If anybody needed an obvious example for impermanence and change in our lives: here it is. The world as we knew it is “upside down”.
That is why I put the four Bodhisattva vows in a reverse order for this text. Actually that does not matter, any order will bring the same result. Where ever we are, what ever we are, we always have the potential to wake up. That is true for our situation in the pandemic too, maybe even a little more, because we start to look for answers that will truly help us.
The teachings are infinite, we vow to learn them all (3rd Bodhisattva vow).
Then the lock down of our societies as a rection to limit the spread of the virus created another world. It has become pretty silent outside: very few airplanes in the air and far less cars and people in the streets. You can enjoy that – some people feel like being on vacation – or you can feel threatened by it when you had to close your business or lost your job. This invisible virus can create a lot of noise and turmoil in us. The noise of our emotions of fear, insecurity, discomfort, anger, depression, sadness, loneliness, disconnectedness …
The corona virus is not only effecting our bodies, it is also strongly effecting our minds. The lock down can also cause a locked in on the individual scale. To work with our mind is what our practice is about and thus I want to look at that more closely
Delusions are endless, we vow to cut through them all (the 2nd Bodhisattva vow).
I have called this challenge our practice with the Corona-Kongan. By intellect we understand there is no guarantee for anything but for sickness, old age and death. But we hardly want to use this uncomfortable matter of fact and make sure we are not wasting only our time by distraction, by chasing after something that is not nourishing or fulfilling but just giving us a good feeling – for a short moment and then we start again. The name for that is samsara or rat race.
The pandemic is spreading rapidly with terrible impact in all countries. We face extremely painful situations and conditions. For most of us this was beyond our imagination.
The need to understand where our suffering is truly rooted is the only choice we have in such difficult times. Let’s look for the gold in the mud: If we can perceive our fundamental nature we can use this specific situation as any situation as our life-kongan. It is always possible to find answers coming from deep inside. Such answers have always love, compassion and wisdom. If these qualities are not matched it is an answer coming from ideas, ideologies, opinions.
How do we do that?
Stop doing. Our nonstop activity is just another form of laziness. The laziness to pause, wait, trust, accept; the laziness to practice “empty” moments. That is why meditation and practicing are so important. It works. Then anything we do has another flavor. It is pure, clear and has direction. We realize our interconnection, our interdependence with the whole universe by intuition. When the pandemic started most people in the West thought this virus is a Chinese problem, it will not effect us. I think by now we got this lesson. When the pandemic is gone one day the climate change will continue to remind of that simple fact: you and the world are never separate, it will not help only to take care of “yourself” ( you can replace “I” with “my people”, “my country”, “my party”). Anything counts. Whatever you can do to minimize the risk of spreading the virus and thus keep others safe please do it.
The difficult part of our situation is to see that this is not an accident or someone’s fault. It is so easy to blame someone and look only outside for any misery we experience. Many people and some politicians do that. They only can see how use the situation for their purpose but they have no idea how to meet the problem at the fundamental cause.
The heart sutra teaches that Form is emptiness and emptiness is form. Emptiness does not mean “nothing”. You could also use the word “limitless”. Anything is connected and changing – nothing is fixed. There is no “good” and “bad”, no “right” or “wrong”. These attributions are always depending on our perspective which is our way how we perceive things. That is our habit. Another word for habits is Karma. So depending on our Karma we will perceive things this or that way. This is a fundamental point. If we miss that we will only continue trying to change the outside. But only when we can take away our Karma we can see things as they are. That is called clarity or waking up.
The corona virus is empty too. It simply does what a virus does. It looks for a host to increase. Human beings are like a virus too. The earth is hosting us and got terribly sick.
You can look at the corona virus as an enemy to fight and you can look at it as a very, very strong call to perceive the real cause for suffering.
If we perceive that we can use that. No one can do that for us, we have to do it. Another name for this work is the Bodhisattva way. It has no beginning and no end, it is only about doing what needs to be done. It is not rooted in our delusions of us and our world, but in our true nature – which is free and has no limits.
Sentient beings are numberless, we vow to save them all. (1st Bodhisattva vow).