Dharma in the Time of Coronavirus

Turning now to the global crisis we are all facing, which brings troubling news every day, it is precisely in times such as this – as unprecedented as they may seem – that Dharma is our sole refuge.

As the great 19th-century Dzogchen master, Jikmé Tenpé Nyima, the Third Dodrupchen Rinpoché wrote:

If you cannot practice Dharma when you are depressed, due to what this does to your mind, and if you cannot practice Dharma when you are elated, because you become attached to that, then there will be no time at all when you can practice Dharma.

I find myself filled with gratitude for all the guidance I’ve received from so many wise and compassionate teachers over the past fifty years, and it has been my privilege to share this guidance with you.

As I attend to those who are suffering directly from the virus and the many millions more who are suffering financially from this pandemic, my heart goes out to them all: May we all be free of suffering and its underlying causes!

How fortunate are we who have found an authentic spiritual path that nurtures and sustains us through these uncertain times. The reality of our own mortality and the impermanence of all conditioned phenomena rises up to meet us.

The precarious nature of the pursuit of hedonia and the abiding nature of the cultivation of eudaimonia becomes clearer than ever.

I pray that you are all heeding the counsel of health experts, minimizing your outer, social activities and focusing on your inner practice.

This virus has forced society to slow down and draw inwards. May we transform this adversity into the path by doing a reality-check: What are the true sources of suffering and genuine well-being?

Modern society is pathologically focused on the outer world as the place to find happiness, but this has led to a global consumer-driven civilization that is destroying our ecosphere, while giving rise to endless conflict amongst ourselves and with the other living creatures with whom we share this planet.

As Blaise Pascal wrote: “When I have occasionally set myself to consider the different distractions of men, the pains and perils to which they expose themselves at court or in war, whence arise so many quarrels, passions, bold and often bad ventures, etc., I have discovered that all the unhappiness of men arises from one single fact, that they cannot stay quietly in their own chamber.”

It is time for us all to learn how to stay quietly in our own chamber, protecting ourselves and others from contracting the virus, and making this occasion for necessary retreat as meaningful and transformative as possible.

Many of you know well one of my favourite quotes from William James: A person “who has daily inured himself to habits of concentrated attention, energetic volition, and self-denial in unnecessary things … will stand like a tower when everything rocks around him, and his softer fellow-mortals are winnowed like chaff in the blast.”

Let us become towers of refuge for others who feel that everything rocks around them and they are helplessly blown about by circumstances beyond their control. May we provide them with calm assurance and compassionate care.

Source: “Dharma in the Time of Coronavirus: Message from Alan Wallace” https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/#search/Alan+/FMfcgxwHMPmTkxHCPZhPMTxCvfWnxlzq