By now, I think most of us are getting tired of this pandemic.
In March, it will be about a year of dealing with social distancing, wearing masks, not being able to travel, not seeing our friends and family, and just not doing the things that we all normally did that we all took for granted, like simply going out to eat at restaurant, having a drink in a bar with a friend, going to the movies, going shopping in the mall, going to a ball game, having people over for a cup of coffee or dinner. When will it all end we wonder? We anxiously await getting the vaccine, and getting our lives back to what it was before the virus.
On top of that, we still worry about getting infected with the virus. We have all seen the horror of what this virus can do to us, and no one wants to be hospitalized or put on a ventilator, much less have their life taken from them. There is still so much anxiety, concern, and fear, as we continue to wait out the storm of this virus.
Being limited to our homes, tensions can build and we just can’t get away for a break like before, adding to the stress of the situation. We can’t go off to work, or go to the gym, or go fishing or whatever we did for fun to “get away.” Just going to the store feels like we are taking a risk. We limit our activities and outings to a minimum.
More than ever, the Buddhist teaching of the Six Paramitas can have a lot of meaning for us. The paramita of kshanti, which means “patience,” or, “to endure,” is something that we can remind ourselves of during this difficult pandemic. Our patience is being pushed to the limit. Our capacity to endure is being pushed to the limit. But in the case of the paramitas, the result of our practice, is the unfolding of wisdom in our life. Wisdom is what liberates us from this world of suffering, the world of samsara.
There are some who might argue that from a very strict Jodo Shinshu perspective, that the Six Paramitas aren’t something that we encourage or even practice. I would argue that point and say that the Six Paramitas are fundamental practices of the Mahayana Buddhist path. If Jodo Shinshu is Mahayana Buddhism, then how can we not practice the Six Paramitas.
The first of the Six Paramitas is “dana” or “giving.” Without the practice of giving, our temples would fold. The “dana,” the generous giving of members, both materially and spiritually, as in volunteering and serving in various roles at the temple, is fundamental to all of our churches and temples. We cannot survive a day without it. We cannot say that we only practice “dana” and throw out the rest of the paramitas.
Returning to our practice of patience as a fundamental practice in our life as a Buddhist, is how we can live through this terrible pandemic. It can give meaning to the stress, the anxiety, the difficulty of what we are going through. We just have to practice patience. This is our life as a Buddhist. This is our path of the unfolding of wisdom.
There will be a light at the end of the tunnel. The virus cannot last forever, because we know that the teaching of impermanence says it won’t. It might last longer than we would like, but it will not last forever.
Vaccines are beginning to become available, and we all hope that as more and more people receive the vaccine, that the virus will subside and that we will be able to return to some form of life as we knew it before the pandemic.
Some things will remain. We may have to keep wearing masks. We may have to continue to be careful, but hopefully many of the restrictions that inconvenience us will be lifted.
Other positive things that we have learned during this pandemic will continue. We will continue to share the Dharma virtually in some manner, as we have found that we can reach many new people via the internet. But, hopefully, we will all be able to meet again in person as well. What a wonderful reunion that will be, but for now, we just have to practice patience, patience, and more patience.