I was pleasantly surprised to hear a government minister talking about the Bodhisattva Ideal. This was during the height of our pandemic whilst we were in lock down. The minister said “No one is safe until the whole world is safe”.
I heard this phrase being used a number of times by government spokespersons, meaning that all countries must work together to fully solve the Covid pandemic. It echoes directly the Bodhisattva vow to save All beings, not just from a particular virus or illness but from the Dukkha that is caused by the 3 poisons of greed, hatred and delusion. This Bodhisattva Ideal relates to going beyond your own personal self interest, even to such an extent that you put others before yourself in all things, including achieving Enlightenment. The symbol that Sangharakshita used for the Order is the figure of the 1,000 armed Avalokiteshvara. It has multiple arms to offer help to all beings in multiple ways, as required.
To hear more about the Bodhisattva Ideal you could listen to these talks by Sangharakshita https://www.freebuddhistaudio.com/series/details?ser=X09
I suppose I could stretch this analogy further and equate the vaccination program with the spread of the Dharma to enable all beings to be ‘cured’. The Buddha often used the analogy of sickness to describe the way people generally behave. It is said that the Four Noble Truths are based on an ancient Indian formula for how to treat someone who is sick.
One, maybe unexpected, consequence of the pandemic has been the degradation in people’s mental health. Locked out of our usual routines and habits that we can sometimes use to hide from the difficulties that everyday life presents us with. Many people have sunk into depression or anxiety about their life and well-being. Some have found solace in Buddhism and the Ipswich Centre has responded and offered appropriate help and comfort to those in our Sangha, those new to our Sangha and also to those outside of our Sangha.
Buddhism has offered a refuge to those that seek it for the last 2,500 years and we will continue to do so well into the future. In this way the symbol and myth of Avalokiteshvara is lived out in Ipswich and all around the world.
In the last few days we have been hearing about the Covid crisis in India. It did seem like India had escaped the worst of the effects of the pandemic. However, a recent relaxation of lock-down measures, including holding some of the largest religious gatherings in the world, has meant that Covid has spread throughout the country causing a second wave. Many of the Triratna community in India have been severely affected. Order Members, Mitras and Friends have been dying as the Indian hospitals have been overwhelmed by the numbers seeking admission. A number of Order Members who I have met on pilgrimage or conventions have died or are currently gravely ill. Most of those involved in Triratna come from the poorest levels of society, and so with limited access to healthcare, as there is no NHS in India, the effects on the India Sangha is likely to be devastating. A number of Triratna Charities are trying to help those in most need so, please, do consider giving if you can. There are some links on our website. On Radio Suffolk, Tuesday evening 27th April, Jon Wright will be talking to Dayasara and Mahashraddha about the Indian crisis and how it is affecting our community. You can also have a look at the Abhayaratna Trust’s website for more information https://abhayaratnatrust.org/latest/covid-19-emergency-funding-to-triratna-projects-and-people-in-india/
We will be celebrating Buddha Day on the 30th May. This, for Buddhists, is the main festival of the year and is celebrated all around the world in Buddhist and non-Buddhist countries. I always remember, whilst working in Indonesia, that Buddha Day is a national holiday celebrated by all, with street processions and the visiting of Buddhist sites. This is a country that is the largest Muslim country in the world but they still remember their illustrious Buddhist past.
Mostly our celebrations this year will be via Zoom. However, there will be an opportunity to see others as we will be starting our Meditations in the Park on that day.