The Bodhisattva Response to Coronavirus by Jack Kornfield

“Dear Friends,

 

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 brings 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 balconies 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 the help of 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,” and “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 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 toward suffering 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.

 

Time to renew your vow.

Sit quietly again and ask your heart: what is my best intention, my most noble aspiration

for this difficult time?

Your heart will answer.

Let this vow become your North Star. Whenever you feel lost, remember and it will

remind you what matters.

 

It is time to be the medicine, the uplifting music, the lamp in the darkness.

Burst out with love. Be a carrier of hope.

If there is a funeral, send them off with a song.

 

Trust your dignity and goodness.

Where others hoard…..help.

Where others deceive……stand up for truth.

Where others are overwhelmed or uncaring…..be kind and respectful.

 

When you worry about your parents, your children, your beloveds, let your heart open

to share in everyone’s care for their parents, their children and their loved ones. This is

the great heart of compassion. The Bodhisattva directs compassion toward everyone—

those who are suffering and vulnerable and those who are causing suffering. We are in

this together.

 

It is time to reimagine a new world, to envision sharing our common humanity, to

envision how we can live in the deepest most beautiful way possible. Coming through

this difficulty, what we intend and nurture, we can do.

 

In the end, remember who you are is timeless awareness, the consciousness that was

born into your body. You were born a child of the spirit, and even now you can turn

toward the awareness, and become the loving awareness that witnesses yourself reading

and feeling and reflecting.

 

When a baby is born our first response is love.

When a dear one dies, the hand we hold is a gesture of love.

Timeless love and awareness are who you are.

Trust it.

 

Dear Bodhisattva,

The world awaits your compassionate heart.

Let’s join in this great task together.

 

With metta,

Jack”

 

The Bodhisattva Response to Coronavirus

 

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