My parents took me to Cyrus when I was three years old; so, I spent most of my very early formative years on the island. I remember it as a rather idyllic period, despite the fact that towards the end of that time there were many political troubles during the island’s struggle for independence.
Earlier this week people on the island felt the explosion which occurred in Beirut, 200 miles away across the sea. The explosion has caused terrible devastation, destroying the port of Beirut.
This has come at a time when things, one thought, could hardly get worse for that poor country. Beirut depends substantially on imports for nearly all its food and a great deal of food was in the harbor at the time when the explosion occurred, all of it now destroyed, and the means of importing more made much more difficult.
In any case, Lebanon was already in a financial crisis. The country is divided by various political fractions and they say there is a great deal of corruption in the government. The whole middle-east region suffers from problems of this kind, but they are particularly acute in Lebanon at the moment.
I feel a great sadness and grief about what has happened to the middle-east. When I remember it, it has a kind of golden glow; but now it seems to labor under a dark cloud.
In Buddhism we are taught about impermanence. Everything that is fabricated, confected, built will come apart sooner or later, and when that happens there will be grief. And I certainly have a good deal of grief about what has happened to the area where I spent my youngest years: conflicts between groups, outside interference, corruption, economic problems, and now on top of this, climate change and so on. It’s not the place it used to be.
And an explosion of this kind comes suddenly, in the middle of it all, demonstrating how nothing is secure. You could have been somebody going shopping, or perhaps a man working on the docks. One woman was just going into labour in the hospital nearby. Your mind is on what you are doing. You are having a normal day, or you are having a special day, and suddenly: Bang! Everything is changed.
We are vulnerable beings. We are fragile in so many ways and change can come at any moment, at any time. On the one hand, it’s not a good idea to live in anxiety about what might happen. On the other hand, it’s not so good, either, to sink into complacency and think: Oh, this will never happen to me. There is a certain optimum tension, which is the basis of a good life, a wholesome life, a spiritual life.
In the spiritual life we have a security, but also the knowledge of our own frailty and vulnerability, and this gives us a feeling for others who are in the same situation.
That security is the peace of the Buddha’s blessing, which is equanimity.
That knowledge is the wisdom, and that understanding of the position of others is the compassion. And these three together constitute, like a tripod, the basis of a Buddhist life.
Namo Amida Bu
Thank you very much