This morning we heard the news of the death of Suvidya, the leader of the Pureland Sangha in Delhi in India. This is a tragic event and we are all very shocked and sad. Suvidya contracted a fever, probably the covid virus, but because the hospitals are so overwhelmed at the moment, he was unable to get the medical care that he needed.

Throughout his life Suvidya has lived in circumstances of poverty and deprivation, such that are not uncommon in India and in many other parts of the world. It’s a great tragedy that humans organise themselves in a way that leaves many of their number deprived of the most essential things. One is crushed under such a system; and if one has compassion, even if one is not amongst those who are crushed, one feels it in one’s heart.

Of course, we read in our newspapers or see on our screens every day that there are many deaths. Even while I am giving this talk, somebody is dying somewhere. When people are remote from us, we don’t feel it so acutely. When it comes close to us, when it is a member of our own family or our own community, then the pain can be extremely acute, the most awful agony.

Loss, bereavement, this is one of the eight great afflictions that the Buddha speaks of when he is defining dukkha. So, there is great pain here.

At the same time, we know that death does not have to be regarded as “the great enemy”. Death comes to us all and we have faith in the Great Light of death. Somebody like Suvidya, who has lived a life of a bodhisattva - who has given so much energy to ministering to and helping others who are in distress, in the same kind of circumstances as himself, this is a remarkable soul and a great inspiration to all of us, and he has now entered that Great Light. We can be confident for him, whilst feeling sympathy and compassion for those who are left behind, who will now miss his leadership and his help, but we may in time be able to take on the inspiration of his life, an inspiration that continues to exist in our midst.

In this way, life is so, so bittersweet. On the one hand, the great example, the great inspiration, the spirit that lives on, that will never die. On the other hand, the loss, the pain, the grief, the sadness, the tragedy. The Buddhist path springs forth from the life – and the death – of Shakyamuni Buddha; and I’m sure, Suvidya would have told us so. The Dharma was forever flowing from his mouth, and I have many, many fond memories of our encounters. At the same time, I also have memories of the dire circumstances in which he worked and in which he was forever helping people to transcend. Love and the pain of loss are inseparable. They walk hand in hand.

Namo Amida Bu
Thank you very much


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