Metta in the time of the coronavirus: responses of secular Buddhists to the pandemic

Several contributors to the Secular Buddhist Network website offer their thoughts and insights on how we can best respond to the current pandemic. The common theme is that by fully understanding core Buddhist insights regarding impermanence, suffering, and interconnection, as well as  cultivating an ethical stance of care and compassion, we can skillfully respond in a time of great uncertainty and danger.


In his article Wise advice in uncertain times Stefano Bettera asserts that the Coronavirus emergency is a great opportunity to cultivate patience, care and integrity and rediscover what is truly ‘urgent’. When it is fragility that becomes the predominant characteristic in our lives, the superfluous becomes less urgent and the need to rediscover a more authentic, more intimate dimension becomes apparent.


As we face the world-wide pandemic caused by the Covid-19 (coronavirus), there is a tendency to retreat to social isolation, fear, and insecurity. In a recent online talk given to the Southsea Sangha, which is located in England, Bernat Font-Clos talks about an alternative approach, one based on a deep recognition of the tragic dimensions of life and the need to cultivate social connections, compassion and love in the midst of this great challenge.


Winton Higgins points out in Dharmic existentialist ethics in a time of a pandemic that today we find ourselves in the grip of a scary epidemic, but throughout human history there have been many other times when we have been threatened by widespread illness and disease due to a virus or bacteria. Winton discusses how some great creative writers have used these occasions to plunge into their deeper human meaning, particularly Albert Camus’s The plague (1947), which bristles with dharmic resonances.


In Responding to the coronavirus: reflections from the Pine Street Sangha and Sati Sangha Linda Modaro and Nelly Kaufer offer some useful dharmic tips on how to respond skillfully and compassionately to the current crisis. Linda and Nelly are co-leading a daily online meditation session which is open to all.


Peter Cowley, the Director of The Tuwhiri Project, a publishing imprint for books and online courses dedicated to developing a secular approach to the dharma, forwarded SBN three poems dealing with the current coronavirus pandemic which were compiled by Rabbi Arthur Waskow, the founder and director of the Shalom Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA. The Shalom Center provides a prophetic voice in Jewish, multireligious, and American life that brings Jewish and other spiritual thought and practice to bear on seeking peace, pursuing justice, healing the earth, and celebrating community.


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