Until now, COVID-19 has been spreading to more than 190 countries and territories, while no scientists in the world have been able to find out a vaccine against the virus. This has been occasioning a major worry in many countries and making the situation more complicated. In response to this situation, it is necessary to strictly comply with the recommendations of the World Health Organization (WHO) to protect ourselves from the coronavirus. Besides, practising the Buddha’s teachings according to the Ratana Sutra—the Three Jewels discourse—is also a way to contribute to stamping out the pandemic together with everyone in the world.
The cause and condition that the Buddha preached the Ratana Sutra to eradicate the epidemic in Vesali
In the Buddha’s time, a dreadful epidemic broke out in Vesali—the capital of Licchavi Republic (Today it belongs to Vaishali district, Bihar state, Eastern India), causing many deaths of humans and animals.
Facing the epidemic, leaders of Licchavi requested the Buddha and His Sangha to come to Vesali to conquer the epidemic.
The Buddha and His Sangha coming to Vesali at the request of leaders of Licchavi
As soon as the Buddha came to Licchavi, owing to the power and influence of Him and the Sangha, there came torrential rains stopping the prolonged drought. Then, the Buddha assigned Ananda and 500 Bhikshus to walk around the city of Vesali and recite the Ratana Sutra all night. A week later, the consequences of the epidemic in Licchavi disappeared. Regarding the causes of the epidemic, there were three main reasons that the Buddha explained as follows:
The first reason was due to the hot and dry weather. The second reason was that citizens in the country did many evil deeds. The third reason was that Good Geniuses and Good Devils left, whereas Evil Geniuses and Evil Devils came to the land.
Among these reasons, the last two acted as a catalyst for the first one.
According to the law of cause and effect, the evil minds of humans attract beings who have similarly evil minds such as Evil Geniuses and Evil Devils. This makes Good Geniuses and Good Devils leave. That was the main cause of the hot weather, leading to the epidemic in Vesali. Therefore, we know that the root cause of an epidemic is the evil minds of sentient beings.
Why can the recitation of the Ratana Sutra end the epidemic?
In the Sutra, Venerable Ananda and 500 Bhikshus walked three rounds around Vesali the whole night to recite the Ratana Sutra, which enabled Licchavi to eradicate the drought. Why was that?
Arhats—the chief disciples of the Buddha—explained it was because they recited the Ratana Sutra with three superior minds. Thanks to this, power was created to transform the citizens’ inner minds and the environment outside, which made the country peaceful and purified as well as ended the epidemic.
Which mind caused flood and drought? Which mind caused favourable weather? In Buddhist scriptures, the Buddha taught that wherever an Arhat was dwelling, there would not be any disasters within 16 Yojana—an ancient measurement unit, equivalent to 128 English miles. In this case, it was the disaster that caused the epidemic. Had it not been for the disaster, the weather would have been favourable and no epidemic would have happened. In consequence, the root cause is the mind of humans.
That 500 Bhikshus reciting the Three Jewels course created the power of superior minds. So, to create such power, what were those Bhikshus like and what qualities were required of them?
Firstly, those Bhikshus practised the Buddha Dharma, thus respecting the Buddha and His enlightenment.
Secondly, they respected the Dharma of liberation. They found it precious and beneficial to themselves. So, the Bhikshus truly contemplated and attained the Dharma. Thirdly, they were aware that the Sangha were so noble, who renounced all worldly pleasures to live a pure and monastic life for the sake of sentient beings.
These superior minds created such great power that they could impact and change other minds. As a result, Evil Geniuses and Evil Devils left, while Good Geniuses and Good Devils came accompanied by the torrential rains. That was the cause for the eradication of the epidemic.
How should we develop our thoughts when reciting the Ratana Sutra to get superior minds?
From the story above, we know that the power created by superior minds has huge strength. Therefore, when reciting the Three Jewels discourse, we should develop a thought: The Buddha is the Enlightened One to whom we respect and pay homage, and whose teachings we desire to practise. Alongside, we vow to actualise our Bodhicitta (Bodhi mind), to support the Buddha Dharma and the Sangha who intensively practise the Dharma for the rest of life. Thus, we will create extremely great power of the superior minds that attracts Good Geniuses and Good Devils and makes Evil Devils and Evil Geniuses leave.
Therefore, we should believe that the root cause of everything is within the law of cause and effect. Also, it is the truth about the spiritual world that our mind interacts with the mind of other beings from other realms.
Practising the Buddha’s teachings to end the COVID-19 outbreak
The story above well illustrates the operation of the law of cause and effect. We can contribute to the end of the COVID-19 outbreak by practising the Buddha’s teachings as follows:
Firstly, we should change our behaviour to have a good mind and good speech. Besides, we also do good deeds such as refraining from destroying living creatures, taking what is not given, sexual misconduct, false speech and using intoxicating drinks and drugs which lead to carelessness. Then, we will create enormous power of good minds that attracts Good Geniuses.
Secondly, with such a power of good minds, we recite the Ratana Sutra in the hope that we will reach enlightenment. We honour and make offerings to the Three Jewels. We find the Buddha Dharma noble because it can bring happiness to the world. Whoever practises the Dharma will have happiness in the present and future. Those superior minds attract other good minds and contribute to the prevention of the COVID-19 outbreak. Also, with these good minds, we can pray that scientists and doctors will find the vaccine against the virus and successfully cure confirmed cases.
May there be sufficient conditions to prevent and end this epidemic. If we have the energy of good minds, good results will come like the story above. As long as there exist people practising the Buddha Dharma, the Ratana Sutra will continue to exist from generation to generation.
That is the meaning and benefit of the Ratana Sutra. If each of us practises the Buddha’s teachings, the great power of superior minds will be created that helps retain world peace and put an end to the COVID-19 outbreak. Hopefully, everyone will apply the teachings to contribute to the eradication of this pandemic.