Brahma-vihara in COVID 19

On this Wesak day 2020, COVID 19 has given us a rare opportunity to really contemplate on what the Buddha taught, without any distractions, disturbances and misguided practices which we found during the past few decades.

Let us contemplate on SARS-CoV-2, the new virus which has caused a pandemic, and our own lives. Let us try to be Ehipassika, realize by ourselves.

Though we human beings number over 7 billion, and believe we are the most intelligent, most capable and most powerful creatures on earth, as a society and as individuals we are today helpless against a microbe. This virus reminds us that our 7 billion is a minute number, among the innumerable creatures in the universe and the innumerable multiverse. We are like ticks on the skin of a dog, parasites on the crust of Mother Earth. If the dog dies of tick fever, the ticks can always jump onto another dog. We have nowhere else to jump to, if Mother Earth dies of man fever.

Today we are hiding from SARS-CoV-2, a microbe, keeping away from everyone, at a distance, even our most loved, our nearest and dearest. We are no longer invincible. Our science, technology, medical science and the most sophisticated weapons, are helpless against the microscopic virus. We are unable to plead with it, buy it, cheat, scare, or destroy it.

Ancient records

We have heard of such a virus which had attacked us 1800 years ago. The Pujawaliya, written in the 13th century by a physician-monk, mentions an epidemic 'Rakthakshi Maraka Jwara Rogaya' about 1800 years ago. King Siri Sanghabodi had performed Satyakriya and was able to drive away the yaksha who caused it. Prof. Kumaradasa Jayasuriya had considered this epidemic could have been leptospirosis, an illness from which a navy officer died a few days ago. King Siri Sanghabodhi defeated the virus by Satyakriya, The Power of Truth. Let us try to perform Satyakriya to get rid of the present day yaksha, which has come in the guise of SARS-CoV-2. Let us try to practice Brahmavihara for our Satyakriya.

Instead of blaming the virus, or anyone else, for the pandemic, let us try to understand that we ourselves, mankind throughout history, are to blame. Even if man had not created SARS-CoV-2, or even any earlier virus strains, we are all responsible for the spread of all germs on earth.

With the Corona epidemic, those who tried to trace its origins, linked it to the eating of wild animals and bats. Just because we destroyed the natural wilderness and created concrete jungles, the creatures who live with nature cannot be called wild. Man too was a wild animal, before nature domesticated him. All animals have a right to live. Man does not have a right to kill and eat other animals. We have more than enough nutritious fruits and vegetables for our survival.

Meat consumption

Food habits vary from country to country, depending on the climate, surroundings and seasons. While we eat chicken, in some countries people eat crows, and in others bats. Some eat cows. Others eat pigs. Some eat deer and goats while others eat dogs and cats. Some eat raw fish. In ancient times everyone had to kill the animals they wanted to eat, even among the Buddhists.

But today we have found a way to eat the animals, without committing the crime of killing them. We get other people to do the killing, while we can practise Metta, and recite the First Precept. We buy our meat in supermarkets, instead of wet markets. We buy neatly packed frozen flesh of animals which have been killed and processed in factories. We have no right to look down on people who purchase wet meat or live animals, and do their own killing and skinning.

What if the next pandemic is to come through a fish, a chicken or a goat or the milk of a cow. Will the vegans blame the next epidemic on the carnivores? Already almost all our illnesses are caused by what we eat, drink and breathe, or because we do not have enough nourishing food, clean water or air.

Somewhere around the world a child dies every 10 seconds, while tobacco kills 8 million and alcohol kills 3 million in one year. In Sri Lanka 23,000 died last year from alcohol and 20,000 from tobacco. All these deaths should be considered as suicides, encouraged by the society. The whole world panicked four months ago with the beginning of COVID 19. As at May 4th morning 248,000 deaths caused by COVID 19 had been reported from around the world, and 8 deaths in our country. Even though each death is a tragedy and a great loss, whatever the cause, I believe we should contemplate, discuss, and work together to control as many preventable deaths, as we have been doing against COVID 19.

Bestowing loving kindness

We can achieve this with LOVING KINDNESS towards all life on earth. Every living being has a right to live. We should help them to live their life safely, in good health. The good health of all living beings, and Mother Earth, our Mathru Bhumi, will ensure the good health of our children and their children.

Unintentionally we have all started on this path, by showing COMPASSION towards all others and in our consumption. It ensures there is enough food to be shared. The improved quality of air and water we have found during the lockdown, as we control our consumption of fossil fuels, is a blessing for all living things.

Everyday as we enjoy our life in our multi-storied home, with a garden full of flowers and perhaps a swimming pool, where quarantine would never be a prison, let us think of the one billion people living in slums all over the world, cramped within several hundred houses in a land too small for the local authorities to allow the building of a single house, and where we ask them to observe self-quarantine. Every time we wash our hands with soap, under running water, or use a hand sanitizer, let us think of families who have to walk for several miles to fetch a pot of water. When we wear a face mask to match our dress, let us think of people who would not be able to find a piece of clean cloth to cover their nose and mouth.

Let us practice the four Buddhist virtues of Brahmavihara, and perform Satyakriya on this Wesak Day. Every precaution we take to prevent this new virus, SARS-CoV-2, from infecting us, we are also preventing anyone else getting infected through us.Let us arise once again defying Corona and be strong together alongside all life and Nature to face any threats in the future, viral or human.


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