Special Minister Messages
Dharma in the Face of Coronavirus
Shaku Art Kaufmann
Lately there has been a lot of talk about pandemic fatigue. People are tired of putting up with the needed precautions to prevent the spreading of the corona virus. Some people think that that is the reason for the current spike of infections of late on the mainland. People, including, yours truly, want things to go back to where they were pre-virus.
We have been told time and time again that this situation may be long term and will not disappear overnight. This clashes with our instant or near instant gratification we experience today with our computers, cell phones and lap tops. We want this Pandemic to be over and done with and with that desire we lose sight of reality.
The reality of this pandemic, though be it a hard one to accept, has nevertheless not changed. As has been stated, the virus does not care about what we want or when we want it. Its sole purpose is to survive, and it survives in us. It makes us sick to various degrees if it does not kill us. To date it has killed over 230,000 Americans and is continuing to do so.
We human beings often chase after illusions that we cannot affect. The disappearance of this pandemic is one of them.
As uncomfortable as it is, we must adjust to and change with the existing situation. As the Buddha has taught, all things in this life change, constantly, some instantly, some with time, some with life times. This situation will change, eventually, but in the meanwhile, we have to continue protecting our selves and each other.
There is nothing we can do about the people who refuse to do so or even believe that the virus is real but, that is their decision.
Even in the midst of this pandemic there are positive things we are able to develope. Our gratitude and appreciation to and for others can be cultivated. There are so many people who have and continue to serve us all through this time in our hospitals and those who provide essential services sometime at the risk of their own safety and wellbeing. There are some who have paid with their lives to serve us. This alone is reason enough to be more than grateful.
We can develop our patience which can also be beneficial. No matter how “advanced” our society may become there will always be situations that will call for patience, like it or not.
We can take time to reflect on how fortunate we have been to have our own health and that our loved ones are well, if indeed they are. We can remember why we have to follow these precautions and that there are thousands if not millions of people who are in similar situations or even worse situations. We can reflect on the Four Noble Truths left for us by the Shakyamuni Buddha and the Golden Chain of Love which reflects Amida Buddha’s unconditional wisdom/compassion for us. Reflect on the facts that nothing can obstruct the Buddha Dharma or the working of Wisdom/Compassion.
We shall get through this together, Hawaii strong, Kauai strong.
The New Normal
Greetings, I hope this finds you and yours healthy and safe. Thank you to all for wearing your face masks. We seemed to have slipped into a new normal as far as social distancing and the wearing of masks and it looks like it will be this way for a while.
I know that the novelty of wearing a mask might be wearing thin about now so it is now that you have to remind yourself why we are wearing them and that is to protect yourself and others. This is how we got control over the spread of the virus on Kauai.
There has been a lot of talk about the masks as a matter of civil rights as to if we have to wear masks. It is true that our rights are precious to us, but, with those rights come responsibilities. I think of wearing the mask as more of a social responsibility than having anything to do civil rights. I believe that the strong sense of community that we have on Kauai has contributed to our stopping to the spread of this virus.
As the world looks forward to a vaccine we can only hope that it will come soon. There are a lot of people working on that possibility showing the same dedication as our first responders.
So, we can accept this new normal until the inevitable change comes along. In the meanwhile please keep in touch base with family and friends. These are unusual circumstance we are living under and some might need reassurance and comfort. Just the sound of your voice can be a comfort, especially for the Kupuna.
I too miss the social nature of this society but there are other ways of expressing your Aloha, maybe you can invent a new way yourself.
I am happy to report that the Lihue Hongwanji Sangha is healthy and safe and I wish the same for your families and relatives and friends. Aloha
Shaku Arthur Kaufmann
Throughout this COVID-19 crisis it is gratifying to see the theme/slogan “We are all in this together” espoused to help encourage people especially during this lock down/stay home period. It is so vital to stopping the spread of this virulent virus.
While this slogan may seem new to some folks, Buddhists know that this is an ancient concept revealed by the Sakyamuni Buddha about 2600 years ago in some of his first teachings after have entered Enlightenment. The Buddha stated that “all life is inter-dependent and inter-related,” and that these were ancient laws of human existence. It is sad that it would take something like the Coronavirus to once again emphasize the reality of our togetherness. It is the Coronavirus that is teaching us today that our need for togetherness is real; it has always been so and it will always be so.
People that we depend on are being acknowledged now: first responders, ambulance services, medical professionals, firefighters, police etc. Not only them, but we should also acknowledge the people who work in food stores, the postal workers, and the administrative people who manage essential services such as power, water, and communications! Communications is a huge concern.
Imagine if we did not have communications during this time of social distancing. For a social species, this would be unbearable. As with our first responders, all the people we take for granted every day are being acknowledged, as it should be. These people we are acknowledging did not just suddenly appear, they have always been there.
This is a great lesson in gratitude being taught by the Coronavirus. Good and bad cannot always be so easily distinguished.
We who are suffering through this time of fear and sickness will hopefully remember how people responded to this emergency because it is affecting everyone, the whole world.
This virus, or any sickness for that matter, absolutely does not discriminate. So it is through our inter-dependence and inter-relatedness, our togetherness that we shall get through this crisis.
Thanks to everyone who is doing their part to help prevent the spreading of this virus. To those of you who are suffering through this sickness, I wish you a safe recovery and to those who have lost loved ones to this virus, please know that, like the virus, Buddha’s compassion absolutely does not discriminate.
We shall get through this together.
Shaku Art Kaufmann
A simple phrase that now takes a whole lot more meaning to it today. It shows concern; it shares Aloha and a wish for good health in these difficult times. It always contained Aloha but now under these circumstances…
I have never witnessed a pandemic before and I surely do not want to again but even in the worst situations we can find the good, find things to be thankful for. Yes, there have been a few despicable people hording PPE and other supplies for the sake of monetary gain from their sale but compared to the goodwill that is being expressed there is no comparison. The underlying theme is, and has been, togetherness. We are all in together and that is the truth of it and it is important for people to understand this. The inter-relationships and inter-dependence of all people is being shown world-wide as well as our ignorance to a lesser degree. Gratitude is being shown and people from Dr. Fauci down to all individuals are being shown appreciation and thanks in a multitude of ways.
The reason we are all in this together is that the virus does not discriminate; anyone can get it. Frightening isn’t it? The world is learning a very important lesson in gratitude. Everyone from the World Health Organization to the sanitation worker is being shown gratitude because folks are realizing that everyone is vital to the continuance of our society, even the folks who are just staying home to help prevent the spreading of the virus. Sure it is going to hurt in many ways but the only way we can overcome this pandemic is by working together. Suffering is a fact of life as Buddha revealed almost 2600 years ago. He did not stop with that statement though; he went on to teach the alleviation of suffering. The only things that cannot be replaced are lives.
I was stuck dumb when Gov. Cuomo of New York state, my home state, out of desperation called for medical personnel who were not engaged in fighting the virus in their own areas to please come to New York to help with the massive contamination there and people from all over responded to the call. They responded to the suffering of all those people in New York and for that, I am deeply humbled and grateful. New York City is my home town. I think no matter where we go in the world we carry our home towns with us because we are raised by that environment as much as by our parents in a way. At least that is the way it was for me growing up in New York.
If only we could hold on to that feeling of gratitude and appreciation as we go on, there is nothing we cannot accomplish.
Shaku Art Kaufmann
It is easy to be impatient with the current COVID-19 situation; after all, our attention span I think is down to 30 seconds or less. We are used to practically instant gratification. We must not give in to our impatience or read things into the news reporting that we want. It is so important to check your sources. Just because it is exposed in a news-like article, does not mean it is factual. There are those in government placement who try to speak with authority about things they have no real knowledge or understanding of. I hear a lot of that going around. Better they concern themselves with helping those many people who are in economic distress due to this event. That’s why I caution you to always check your source. Just because it is on the internet does not mean it is factually true.
There actually seem to be people who want to give the impression that COVID-19 is just another flu and therefore not to be overly concerned about and that it will be all over soon. The word attached to the title COVID-19 is “pandemic” and “pandemic” means “world-wide”
Fortunately we are seeing the truth of that word being shown on responsible news programs and from real healthcare professionals such as Dr. Fauci. There are no quick fixes to this pandemic as some people would like to think. It is going to take effort, patience, cooperation and sacrifice to get past this difficult time.
Our beloved teacher, the Buddha, made it clear that sickness is a part of our human experience and always will be. The Buddha also taught us that all things of this world are impermanent so we can be assured that this pandemic will end but not tomorrow or next week or maybe even next month. It is going to take time. Meanwhile I hope we all will do our part in support of our front line heroes, the first responders. Even if it is just staying home and social distancing, we all can to prevent the virus from spreading and eventually bring this pandemic to an end.
Impatience and illusions will not help anyone. We cannot allow the Three Poisons of greed, anger and ignorance to gain an upper hand in this.
I wish you all good health,
Shaku Kaufmann. Namoamidabutsu
Social Distancing as Aloha
Everyone has heard about the need for social distancing by now but I still see some folks ignoring it. I realize that social distancing is unthinkable in some cultures and certainly strange to say the least, in our Hawaiian culture but it is important and necessary now. By doing so, we ourselves are doing something to prevent the possible spread of this illness. Is this not an act of Aloha? It says, I am taking care of myself and protecting others, receive my smile and good wishes for your continued good health.
The other day I was at Costco waiting on line which was pretty long but moving. All of a sudden I hear “Sensei, sensei, how are you?” I looked around and there about 8 ft away from me was a sangha member calling out to me. “Oh, hello there, how are you doing” I said. “Fine thanks, just doing my part (meaning the social distancing) doing all right so far” he said. It was just a few kind words exchanged and yet I could feel the Aloha he was sending me and it was really appreciated.
In my e-mail I see people sharing information for fresh food sources and offers to pick food for others. Wayne Fujioka and his wife Carol Valentine loaded the donated food we collected in February so Carol could take the food down to the Hawaii Food Bank-Kauai Branch where the need is constant. Gladys Fujiuchi put a heartwarming encouragement to all on the e-mail. Mrs. Yamada is coming in once a week to tend to the temple’s bill and mail.
So as you see in these few examples, Aloha is still being practiced even at a distance. Stay in touch with your family and friends even if you cannot be4 with them you can still be in touch,
Keep up the good work folks; it will not be forever so let us all do our parts.
Remember though that there is no social distancing necessary when it comes to Amida Buddha’s wisdom/compassion. Nothing can obstruct it, nothing can inhibit it or keep it from us and the Nembutsu is the pure lotus which brings it to us. Namoamidabutsu
I hope this finds you all well and healthy during these exceptional times. To some extent it seems with the coming of this virus our lives have been turned upside down. We have had to adapt to a way of life that is new and strange to us. Thankfully, there was a lot of information gotten out to the public before and as this virus came to Kauai. Do's and don’ts regarding ways to protect ourselves which include social distancing which goes against our grain in Hawaii but in order to protect ourselves and others, we must make use of this practice. We know it will not be forever, but still can smile and talk story with each other as we have in the past. Just the gift of a smile and a few kind words of concerns shared can help both parties. Our hugs and kisses will have to be postponed for a while. The sharing of our Aloha though, can be expressed even in these times.
There are those, and there will always be, those who feel they are invincible to such threats as this pandemic, like the children who went on spring break, and sadly, there is nothing we can do about that. Experience can be a harsh teacher. We all follow our own illusions.
It seems though that this virus will effect each person differently, as we see in the news items that come out daily. There is always sickness buy to different degrees. Yesterday I heard on the news about an English lady who had lived through the last pandemic, one hundred years ago and got this virus and survived this one also. I believe she was a hundred and two years old.
Even this pandemic is a tool to help use awaken to gratitude. Gratitude Shaku, are you crazy? Well you can reflect on all the good health you have enjoyed in the past, which we usually take for granted and even in the midst of this pandemic th4eere are hundreds, maybe thousands of health care workers, doctors, nurses, Assistants clerical folks and any number of hospital staff involved in treating those who have been infected, some of whom, have paid with their lives in this effort. There are innumerable researchers, around the world, who are working to find a way to control virus. Are these not something to be grateful for?? As scary as it is to think of getting this virus, think about those who are on the front lines of this struggle. These are the laws of inter-relatedness and inter-dependence at work, here and now and always.
Please do your best to protect yourselves and others as we go through this situation together as a family, our family of human beings.
Remember, nothing can inhibit or stop the wisdom and compassion freely given by the Buddha to all people and all forms of life.