Teachings by Dharma Master Cheng Yen
Translated by Dharma as Water Dev. Dept, Tzu Chi USA
Time passes so quickly that it often feels like we do not have enough time to finish anything. However, in the midst of this pandemic, it feels as if the passage of time has become unbearably slow. As this pandemic continues to spread, it moves unpredictably and invisibly. Yet, it has shaken the world and brought about disorder around the globe. Whenever people discuss this virus, everyone is afraid and wonders, “When will it pass?”
In the United States and Italy, the epidemic is growing increasingly worse. Various countries have closed cities, towns, and villages. Even the Pope is comforting his followers differently from in the past. Now, he speaks before a camera from inside his office and makes announcements to Catholics around the world through his computer
screen. His message is that we must love each other, diligently follow the rules and guidelines laid out for us during this time, and not give up hope through these difficult times.
As we go about our ordinary lives, it is easy to lose our sense of direction; if we ourselves become lost, we will not be able to be in harmony with others. In the face of this virus, fear will not help us; it is better to change our mindsets and make good use of this time to improve our lives.
The Buddha awakened to the truths of the universe. He taught the Buddha-Dharma in this world, but how many people are able to hear it? For those who do hear the Dharma, how many of them can truly accept the Buddha’s teachings? And for those who can, how many can truly put them into practice? Looking for such practitioners is like peeling the stalk of a banana plant layer by layer in search of its sturdy core – you will be unable to find it. Although sentient beings may hear the Dharma, it is difficult for them to understand its truth.
All phenomena, all things in this world, are intrinsically empty in nature, yet there is wondrous existence within this emptiness. This “wondrous existence” cannot be seen or felt, yet it is within everyone. Just as there are positive and negative things in the world, there are both positive and negative qualities within every person’s nature; this is why we classify all things in terms of “positive, negative, and neutral.” Our thoughts and feelings are intangible, and before they are turned into actions, we cannot tell whether they are taking us in a positive or negative direction.
This is like how, as this virus spreads, we do not know where it is or where it may be hiding. When there are so many unknowns, people will not be able to live at peace. However, fear, anxiety, and depression are of no avail. We must allow our hearts to settle down, like a basin of muddy water. When we do not move it, the water will slowly become clear. Our mentality of fear, terror, panic, and anxiety is like dirt that is mixed into the water; however, if the water is allowed to become still, the mud can slowly settle to the bottom.
Just like pure water, wisdom is necessary for people’s lives. It has become clear that the virus is transmitted from living being to living being. We call ourselves “people,” and we call other living beings “animals,” due to the wide variances in these forms of life. Yet, although we are all living beings, “people” eat “animals,” whether they are wild or raised as livestock. This causes an imbalance between living beings, and diseases arise as a result.
There are many problems in the world, all of which cause suffering. They are difficult to fully express, difficult to describe, difficult to discuss, and difficult to solve. The only hope for all of us, regardless of our beliefs, is to share the same aspiration, broaden our minds, and spread selfless, sincere love. With love for humanity, all people can live stable healthy lives. More importantly, we must love and cherish all living beings to ensure that they can be safe. Only humans can bring peace to the world and enable all beings to coexist in harmony; this is how we can live up to the title as the “most intelligent among species.”
The Buddha said, “The mind, the Buddha, and sentient beings are no different in their nature.” We must broaden our hearts and minds to encompass all living beings, just like the Buddha. The term “living beings” does not refer to only one form of life; Buddhist scriptures say that the Buddha did not come only to save human beings, but to save and protect all sentient beings. He was a great enlightened person who worked to benefit all beings in the world.
So, the best way to protect life and improve everyone’s health is to adopt a vegetarian lifestyle. Beginning with the health of our minds, going vegetarian can help us to eliminate our greed, anger, and ignorance. In this way, we can eliminate the sources of calamities in the world and keep our minds healthy. We must allow the mud of ignorance and afflictions to settle and dissipate so that we can nourish our wisdom with pure water. In this way, our love can be regenerated. There are moments when the winds of disaster blow fiercely, and I hope that this pandemic will pass quickly. We must have sincerity in our hearts and face all obstacles with gratitude. We must learn to bring peace and stability to our bodies and minds, to find our own wisdom, and to use it to care for the earth and our lives.
Compiled from Master Cheng Yen’s Dharma teachings on March 9-10, 2020.