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The Dharma of Wearing a Facemask

In many ways, Buddhist practice allows us to see the hidden parts of ourselves.  Like a bodybuilder who flexes his muscles in the mirror, we view our spiritual body from every angle and take note of what's there.  Sometimes we like what we see.  And sometimes we don't.  However, it's in those moments when our reflection makes us cringe that we find opportunities for growth.

For example, when I was living on an organic farm in Indiana a tension emerged between my desire for spiritual practice and the needs of my farming community.  Farming isn't a job with set hours.  It's a lifestyle, and it was common for me to plan excursions into the forest for meditative practice only to have them interrupted by some unexpected event.

Perhaps we needed to find a chicken that escaped from the pen, or a tool broke during a construction project; putting us behind schedule.  In any event, "It's my day off," was never an acceptable answer when work needed to be done.

This caused feelings of anger and irritation to arise in my mind.  I'd gone out there with a distinct goal in mind, to realize enlightenment.  And it seemed like everything from the farm animals to the power tools was trying to keep that from happening.

This tension was resolved, however, when I studied the Lotus Sutra and realized that Buddha lives in everyone and everything.  Thus, meditation was a pathway to awakening, but so was serving my community.  By working to improve the lives of the people around me by repairing fences, unloading trucks, and repairing furnaces I was honoring the Buddha in all of us.

I've thought about this recently and how it relates to the Coronavirus pandemic.  At the time of this writing, there have been 3,453,175 confirmed cases with 133,712 deaths.  As a result, many states have placed restrictions on where and how people can gather in public.  

These are difficult times and it's natural for feelings of anger and irritation to come into our minds.  

However, this is also an opportunity to recognize the importance of community in Buddhist practice.  In the same way that I put my own wants and desires aside when I was farming to serve the greater good; we can find ways within our own sphere of influence to honor the Buddha in everyone we meet.

One simple way to do this is by wearing a face mask when we go outdoors.  Scientists say that doing so lowers our risk of spreading the virus, and in my own experience, it provides a feeling of safety to the people we meet; signaling that we care about their well-being.

It's a small gesture, but this simple act is an effective way of "bowing" to the various Buddhas in our life.  In this way, we transform the suffering of a pandemic into a pathway for our awakening.

Namu Amida Butsu

 If you enjoyed this essay, you'll love my book!

The Dharma of Wearing a Facemask


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