This morning I saw a report about how the citizens of Kathmandu can now see the Himalayas from their homes for the first time in 30 years. This is because the smog has cleared... and that view of the Himalayas is stunningly beautiful. I remember seeing something rather similar myself many years ago when I was in Assam, in the country, in an area where there wasn't any smog. You can see the Himalays standing there - magnificent, gorgeous, so beautiful! It took your breath away. This is one of, you might say, the upsides of the pandemic. Transport isn't running, factories aren't belching out pollution. The air is clean, you can breathe it, you can see through it. Amazing! We have returned to something pristine that is so good, so beautiful, so uplifting, so wonderful!
Then I read another report about how people working in sweatshops also in the south of Asia are facing starvation because their jobs have disappeared because of the pandemic. Their jobs have disappeared partly because people aren't buying and partly because people aren't selling. They can't get the raw materials that make the clothes that they stitch up. And so the jobs are disappearing in some parts of the world. There's no safety net and of course even where there is a safety net it’s not infinite, it can't go on forever.
So this is the ugly, bad, painful, dukkha side of the pandemic. We can say that the pandemic is sukha and dukkha. It has a wonderful side and it has a terrible side. This is like many things in life, but, of course, it is carried to an extreme here so we see it more clearly, more sharply - the reality of life. This sukha dukkha life is thrown up before us in stark relief in a way that normally we’re less conscious of. We take so much for granted.
Now I’m one of a generation that was called the Baby Boom. We were all born just after the second World War. We were also called the Generation of Hope. This was because in the aftermath of something terrible people suddenly think here’s an opportunity for a better world. And of course many good things did come in the aftermath of the second World War. The position of women for instance was greatly enhanced compared with their status before the war. The privations that people suffered did lead to new learnings, new developments, new technologies. All sorts of things. Good things came out of the bad things. This is life. Life is yin and yang. And the bad things, the good things, they kind of intermesh. One comes from another.
At the moment there are a lot of comments around about how what’s happening at the moment - the massive response to the coronavirus - demonstrates that humans can do great things. They can move themselves, move mountains you might say, if they have to. Some people are saying this means we could now build a better world. Of course this is true, but it’s probably not what will actually happen. What will happen is that some good things will come just as after the second World War, some good things happen. But they won't be infinite. It won’t run to the other extreme, we won’t have a golden age. Though we may have some kind of uptick in the aftermath.
If you’re realistic you’ll accept these things and you’ll appreciate the beauty. When the clouds part you’ll see the Himalayas. Ah, how wonderful! And you see the suffering and you try and do whatever you can, if you can, if you’re in a position to help with that. This is the noble life in the midst of samsara, in the midst of yin and yang. The good comes, the bad comes, Namo Amida Bu. We do what we can with the situation we’ve got.
Thank you very much
Namo Amida Bu