While the spread of the coronavirus disease is very high and not any specific vaccine for it has been available, a question arises to many people: When will the COVID-19 outbreak completely end? Fortunately, over 2,500 years ago, there was a story in the Buddha’s time that can show us the solutions to such an epidemic.
After nearly 3 months since the novel coronavirus COVID-19 emerged, around 160 countries and territories worldwide have declared confirmed cases. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), more than 169,000 people are known to be infected and over 6,000 deaths have been recorded as of 16 March 2020. The outbreak has been not only causing a lot of damage to humans but also affecting the economy and society.
The Buddha taught ways to eradicate an epidemic
At the time of the Buddha, Vesali, the capital of Licchavi, was afflicted by drought. This caused water pollution and epidemics, leading to deaths of many people and animals. The leaders and generals of Licchavi held urgent meetings over the problems and chose Mahali as the ambassador to visit the Buddha and begged for His help. The Buddha accepted the request and came to Vesali along with 500 Monks. On His arrival, there came torrential rains which swept away the deadly air coming from putrefying corpses. Afterwards, the Buddha instructed the Monks to recite the Ratana Sutra and guided the people of Licchavi through the vow to make offerings to the Buddha and Sangha, so as to dedicate the merit to end the epidemic. As a result, the epidemic in Vesali ended only after one night. One week later, their consequences completely disappeared.
Fully assembled conditions that helped Vesali end the epidemic
As said in the story of Vesali above, the city ended both the drought and epidemic within only one day and night due to the full assemblage of the conditions according to the Buddha’s teachings as follows:
– The leaders and citizens of Licchavi, the country, believed and respected the Buddha and the Three Jewels.
– The leaders and citizens of Licchavi, the country, believed in the Buddha’s teachings.
– The leaders and citizens of Licchavi, the country, requested the help of the Buddha and His Sangha.
– The leaders and citizens of Licchavi, the country, vowed to make offerings to the Buddha and His Sangha.
– The Sangha delightedly promised and accepted their vow to make offerings; then dedicated the merit to the country to end the drought and epidemic.
– The Sangha recited the Ratana Sutra to dedicate the merit to the country to end the drought and epidemic.
Learning from the story of Vesali to confront COVID-19
Learning from the story of Vesali, Thay Thich Truc Thai Minh, the Abbot of Ba Vang Pagoda has had wise actions in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. Under His guidance, the Pagoda’s community has vowed to practise and apply the Buddha’s teachings to stamping out the epidemic.
The Sangha and lay Buddhists of the Pagoda have vowed to recite the Ratana Sutra in 49 days from the 8th day of the first month in the Year of the Rat (01 February 2020).
Since it is not able to gather in a crowd at this time, lay people have been actively listening to online Dharma teachings by Thay at their home. The Buddhists of Ba Vang Pagoda have also done many good deeds to contribute to society, such as giving away free face masks and spreading useful knowledge on how to prevent virus infections in accordance with the instructions of the WHO.
Above are the activities that the community of Ba Vang Pagoda has been doing to follow the Buddha’s teachings on how to stamp out the epidemic. May all the merit made by good deeds be dedicated to improving the situation of the COVID-19’s outbreak in the world.
When will the COVID-19 outbreak completely end?
Considering the conditions mentioned above that were said to help stamp out an epidemic by the Buddha, we still lack many other conditions. Therefore, the question of whether the COVID-19 outbreak is going to end or not and if it is, how long it is going to take to end remains unknown. However, if we diligently cultivate ourselves, practise the Buddha’s teachings and do good deeds, the impact of the outbreak will diminish. Because that is the operation of the law of karma (cause and effect): Good causes will lead to good effects and doing good deeds will transform the bad karma.
Raising awareness for yourself and others and obeying the instructions of the WHO are also included in what is said above to be good deeds. We should contemplate everything in the law of karma to encourage everyone in the family to self-cultivate and practise the Buddha’s teachings. Once we transform our bad karma, the world will be transformed for the better as we all live together on this earth. Let us try our best and dedicate the merit to the world, in the hope of stamping out this COVID-19 outbreak!
(Reference: The Ratana Sutta – Piyadassi, 1999)