The New York Buddhist Church

May 5, 2020

Our recent reading during this past Sunday service was The Way of the Bodhisattva.  I chose this reading because more than one person in recent weeks has asked me if all the people who are putting their lives on the line during this terrible pandemic -- doctors, nurses, first responders, numerous other health and essential workers -- are actually themselves bodhisattvas.

 After contemplating this question, I have come to the personal conclusion that yes, they certainly are bodhisattva-like in the way that they are devoting all of their energy to relieve the suffering, and to meet the needs of others.  They choose to go out and help us all by selflessly placing and risking their lives in front of everything else in order to embrace and save us from the many dangers of Covid-19.  To them, I will be eternally grateful.

It is hard to believe that there are seemingly ordinary people like that who are performing extraordinary and heroic acts of kindness and courage every single day, and who often say I am just doing my job.  It is simply amazing to me.  I find myself feeling a little bit guilty for gradually becoming too comfortable staying inside, and not personally experiencing any of the suffering that is going on outside.  I wish I could do more, and others have mentioned that same sentiment to me.

 The people who are out there endangering their own lives to fight the dreadful virus and to help others are doing a lot more than just their jobs.  They are inspiring us with their commitment, determination, and sense of purpose.  They are examples of how important it is to have compassion, and to understand the interconnectedness and interrelationships of all things, and that when one sentient being suffers, we all suffer as well.

In Buddhism we are taught that inside each and every one of us there is a bodhisattva.  We all have a special skill, a purpose.  Everyone in their own way has something to offer.  Everyone has a Buddha nature.  We may not feel it is particularly profound, but it is there nonetheless, moving us in the direction of slowly realizing the things we can be doing, instead of thinking about what we feel we should be doing.  The essence of the Buddha nature is doing something spontaneously, without any form of calculation or expectation of anything in return.  That is true dana, selfless giving.  Someone recently said to me that she now wakes up every morning by first saying thank you, and then asking herself what can I do today to help others?  Make a phone call?  Wear a mask?  Write a letter?  Donate to a food bank?  Stay home?  Her thoughts, words and actions embody the many, many things we can be doing to give our lives meaning and purpose for ourselves and for others in this uncertain time.  This person has found herself by just being herself and shows us that we dont need todo anything to prove ourselves, we just need to be ourselves.  As I perceive it, she is thinking, speaking and acting like a bodhisattva.  How wonderful!

The ever-present and infinite light and immeasurable life of Amida Buddha embraces me unconditionally, and brings to mind the two attending bodhisattvas, Seishi, expressing Wisdom and Kannon (Kuan-yin), expressing Compassion.  Through the promise of the vows of these three revered figures we are able to wake up to the seeds deep within us.  We are able to awaken and see the possibility of our own potential for goodness, knowledge, and positivity, helping us to be true to ourselves, and thus to others, especially now.    Namo Amida Butsu.