Teachings by Dharma Master Cheng Yen
Translated by Dharma as Water Development Department, Tzu Chi USA
This global pandemic is something we cannot see or touch. How ever, there is a reason for its occurrence; its cause follows certain principles. The true principles, like the pandemic, are invisible and intangible, but they are intrinsic to nature and also exist within all life. In our ordinary daily lives, as long as we do not go against these principles, we can live in peace in accord with the cycles of nature. However, if we are not in accord with the principles, or if there is an imbalance, there will be issues.
It is just like how we all have microscopic bacteria and viruses in our bodies. Once we disturb them, the body begins to fall out of balance. I often say that “life exists in the span of a breath.” When we breathe, we are normally unaware of it because our breathing is smooth and balanced. We do not realize how much we have received as we live in this great environment and within the laws of nature.
For instance, when we eat a meal, we are continuously digesting the food. After one to two hours, if food is presented to us, our appetite is stirred once again. The mouth is like a bottomless hole. In our lifetime, how much food have we consumed? We take it for granted, not realizing how every grain does not come to us easily; just as when we breathe in fresh air; we are often unaware and for get to be grateful. Once we fall ill and cannot breathe normally, we experience an indescribable sense of panic.
In the Buddha’s lifetime, he warned us that plagues are invisible and intangible. Without our knowing, there are ghost kings who appear and spread viruses and disasters. The Earth Treasury Sutra described the Poison-Spreading Ghost King who spreads diseases. According to that sutra, these ghost kings exist; it is just that we are unable to feel them. The sutra also states that our negative karma does exist and it is in the records of the ghost kings, and these records do not have any details left out.
I have been saying that this pandemic is a “great lesson for our time.” I urge everyone to earnestly take this pandemic as a lesson. When people are sick, not only does the body become imbalanced, but without realizing it, the mind may also become lost and confused. When healthcare professionals treat patients, besides treat ing the disease, they should also take this opportunity to teach the patient the principles; these principles are very profound, and they are found in every second and every part of our life.
I hope that everyone can calm their minds, pause, listen, and observe. In this world, there is nothing more precious than living in good health. When this kind of pandemic occurs, we realize that the pursuit of fame or fortune is not what truly matters to us. What truly brings benefit to body and mind is good health and peace of mind. Those are blessings in this world. Blessings come from having good thoughts. For the sake of our own peace and safety, we must safeguard nature and all living beings. There is a Chinese saying, “Disease enters through the mouth.” We must not indulge in a temporary craving for taste and bring the source of illnesses into our bodies. When we have compassion and let animals live in freedom; this brings great merits and virtues.
It is said that by knowing ourselves, we know others; by knowing others, we know ourselves. With deeper wisdom, we avoid ignorance, and we avoid losing control over ourselves. When we clearly understand ourselves, we know what should and should not be done. This is “the great lesson of our time.” May all you Bodhisattva practitioners calm your minds and earnestly seek to understand this lesson of life. Please always be mindful!
Compiled from Master’s teachings during the Four Missions Pandemic Response Report on June 30, 2021