This is a piece recently written by our friend Jack Kornfield whom we have quoted many times in our workshops and in these pages. These words feel particularly timely, meaningful, and inspiring during Covid-19 times. They apply to ALL of us, regardless of the faith, belief system, tradition, or nationality from which we come.
We have a choice.
Epidemics, like earthquakes, tornadoes, and floods are part of the cycle of life on planet earth.
How will we respond?
With greed, hatred, fear, and ignorance? This only brings more suffering.
Or with generosity, clarity, steadiness, and love?
This is the time for love.
Time for bodhisattvas.
In Buddhist teachings, the bodhisattva is someone who vows to alleviate suffering and bring blessings in every circumstance. A bodhisattva chooses to live with dignity and courage and radiates compassion for all, no matter where they find themselves.
This is not a metaphor. As bodhisattvas, we are now asked to hold a certain measure of the tragedy of the world and respond with love.
The bodhisattva path is in front of us. The beautiful thing is, we can see bodhisattvas all around. We see them singing from their balcony to those shut inside. We see them in young neighbors caring for the elders nearby, in our brave healthcare workers, and the unheralded ones who stock the shelves of our grocery stores.
As a father, if she called me, I would fly to the ends of the earth to help and protect my daughter. Now she and her firefighter/paramedic husband and my toddler grandson await the virus. His urban fire department, like many hospitals and first responders, does not have masks. Eighty percent of their work is emergency medical calls and they all expect to get the virus. They will not be tested, because the department can’t afford to lose too many of their firefighters.
What can I do? What can we do?
In this moment we can sit quietly, take a deep breath, and acknowledge our fear and apprehension, our uncertainty and helplessness… and hold all these feelings with a compassionate heart. We can say to our feelings and uncertainty, “Thank you for trying to protect me,” “I am OK for now.” We can put our fears in the lap of Buddha, Mother Mary, Quan Yin, place them in the hearts of the generations of brave physicians and scientists who tended the world in former epidemics.
When we do, we can feel ourselves as part of something greater, of generations of survivors in the vast web of history and life. “Being carried,” as the Ojibwa elders say, “by great winds across the sky.”
This is a time of mystery and uncertainty. Take a breath. The veils of separation are parting and the reality of interconnection is apparent to everyone on earth. We have needed this pause, perhaps even needed our isolation to see how much we need one another.
Now it is time to add our part.
The bodhisattva deliberately turns towards the suffering around to serve and help those around in whatever way they can.
This is the test we have been waiting for.
We know how to do this.