5/7/2020   United Nations and the American Buddhist Community Dialogue: Compassionate Response to the Pandemic

"Coinciding with "International Vesak Day" stipulated by the United Nations, the American Buddhist community and the United Nations held a "Buddhist Compassionate Action, Preventing the Novel Coronavirus" dialogue on May 7 with more than 400 people joining this online event. Various representatives of the United Nations attended such as, Miguel Ángel Moratinos, UN High-Representative for the Alliance of Civilizations; Jeffrey A. Brez, Chief of the Civil Society, Advocacy, and Special Events Section of the United Nations Department of Global Communications; Austin Chu, UNICEF New York; Ven. Hui Dong, Abbot of FGS Hsi Lai Temple; Ven. Walpola Piyananda of Dharma Vijaya Buddhist Vihara; Ven. Khenpo Karma Tenkyong of Karma Triyana Dharmachakra; Ven. Ethkandawaka Saddhajeewa of Bhavana Society; Bhante Chao Chu of Los Angeles Buddhist Union; Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi of Buddhist Association of the United States; and Ven. Ming Yu of American Buddhist Confederation, among other representatives of the Buddhist community.

The discussion was focused on the following three topics: 1. Support: How Dharma can play a soothing role in this pandemic and provide services and relieve difficulties for low-income and vulnerable groups. 2. Recovery: Whether human beings can awaken to the impact of the pandemic through the Buddhist concept of cause and effect. 3. Ease: After the pandemic, how human beings should coexist with the earth. Miguel Angel Moratinos, made opening comments thanking the various Buddhist organizations for conducting the dialogue on International Vesak Day, promoting the Buddha's compassion and wisdom. At the same time, he hopes that the public can introspect on the pandemic and learn to coexist peacefully, and give others joy and happiness with understanding and love.

Jeffrey A. Brez, Chief of the Civil Society, Advocacy, and Special Events Section of the United Nations Department of Global Communications, read a statement issued by the Secretary-General of the United Nations, António Guterres: "Currently the world is being affected by the coronavirus pandemic, only by working together we can stop the spread of the virus." At the same time, Mr. Brez also shared how other departments worked closely with different countries to provide correct information and actively respond to the pandemic. Austin Chu, said that children are the victims of this pandemic. During this time, the foundation has cooperated with governments and medical and health partners to provide health services for pregnant women and children, and actively provided facilities to deal with issues such as water, environmental sanitation and personal hygiene.

Ven Walpola Piyananda explained what Buddha said: "Whether it hurts yourself or hurts others, it is negative action." Everyone should their wash hands diligently, wear masks, maintain social distance, protecting ourselves while taking care of others.

According to Bhante Chao Chu of the Los Angeles Buddhist Union, it is human ignorance which has caused many disasters and now is the best time to understand what the Buddha meant when he said "all things are interdependent." If we can improve our behavior, we will definitely have a better future and environment.

Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi from the Buddhist Association of the United States said that some countries have been able to effectively control the pandemic because they quickly adopted strict preventive measures to halt the spread of the virus. Similarly, individuals cannot live in fantasy and ignorance, thinking that the pandemic has nothing to do with themselves, but should assume social responsibility and benefit others with a compassionate heart.

Ven. Abbot Hui Dong of Hsi Lai Temple spoke about the response to the pandemic by the various temples of the Fo Guang Shan Buddhist Order and Buddha’s Light International Association who actively provided various resources including masks, protective clothing, goggles, medical gloves, etc. to be sent to hospitals and those on the frontlines. At the same time, the temple has provided prayer services and various courses online, hoping that the public may continue to study the Buddha’s teachings, providing them a calm the mind and spirit.

Ven. Khenpo Karma Tenkyong said that the best way to restore society is to live a mindful life. Ven. Khenpo believes that true "freedom" is not just about doing what makes you happy, but being able to give consideration to others. In their Tibetan temples, they are also actively providing online cultivation, encouraging the public to practice compassion and patience.

Ven. Ming Yu of American Buddhist Confederation shared the material support provided to major hospitals in Wuhan, New York and other places. Meditation and other courses were provided online, as well as the recitation of sutras, dedicated to the blessing of all.

Ven. Ethkandawaka Saddhajeewa mentioned: "Every action will bring about consequences." Everyone should follow the Buddha’s teaching to nurture composure and cultivate wisdom through practicing generosity, observing precepts, and meditation to discover solutions to problems. Blessings and prayers continue to be offered online, praying that we will be free from the pandemic as soon as possible, and so that society can return to a peaceful and happy life.

Link for the event