The New York Buddhist Church

April 28, 2020

For the past couple of days, I have been experiencing lower back pain that is quite severe unless I am lying down and staying very still.  It feels very real, as opposed the sometimes disorienting and at times seemingly surreal experience of the coronavirus pandemic with its eerie empty streets, mask covered pedestrians and emergency sirens.  This unexpected and uncertain global crisis has consumed my attention, and it is my sharp back pain (and warnings last week of a possible tornado) that reminded me of the immediacy of matters other than my preoccupation with the spread of Covid-19. There are still many other pressing daily problems and that need attending to, and even though the pandemic has taken precedence, we should not forget those other matters.

Normally, when my back pain flares up, I go out and seek medical attention, but under the present circumstances I cannot, so I just stay inside and deal with it as best I can. Staying inside my apartment for weeks has not been the worst thing.  Hats off to the people who have kept us connected, and even reconnected to friends, family, and others.  Thanks to technology, I do not feel isolated.   Praise to all the people who have become everyday heroes who are maintaining our essential services and functions even at great risk to themselves and families, and keeping us safe, protected, and fed.  Thanks to them I have been able to sustain myself in what has become my own little confined universe.

The current situation reminds me of the fable of the turtle and the birds which I spoke about during the most recent live-streaming of our Sunday Service.  My retelling of the fable goes like this:


 For me, the moral of the story is not whether or not the turtle should have stayed in the safety of the deep well, or if he should have held firmly onto the stick.  As we contemplate his fate, we realize that in a way, he represents each and every one of us.  Quite often the universe that we have created for ourselves is largely of our own making and perceptions, and we forget that there is a greater reality beyond our perceptions and personal beliefs.  We sometimes limit our world  and forget to consider the perspective of others in our words, thoughts and actions. 

In Buddhism, the concept of impermanence teaches us that there are countless numbers of causes and conditions where situations are always changing.  It helps us to realize the importance of continually thinking about all those things which give us meaning and purpose.  My life is not just necessarily about me.  The global pandemic has reminded us that we are all universally interconnected, we all belong to this world, together.

Slowly but surely, my pain that shook me out of pandemic preoccupation will gradually diminish.  Slowly but surely, the threat of the coronavirus will lessen through medical and scientific advances.  My heart goes out for the tragic loss and disruption of so many lives.  We are all in this together, and I just need to remember in my own choices and decisions that the larger world outside my small world also needs my full attention, and my unending gratitude.

Namo Amida Butsu.