As we are engulfed in a full Coronavirus panic, it is time to use it as a theme for meditation. Here, it may be interesting to note that Zen people don’t talk about immortality or life after death. Rather, death itself is a famous Zen koan.
Meditation is not some technique to enter jhana or some blissful state. Meditation, in the Buddhist practice, always has the objective of cultivating and heightening awareness. Any event that comes into our experience always has a bright side and a dark side. It is important, as we enter into a phase of mass panic, not to be drowned by the tsunami of mindless hysteria. That would be counterproductive, even harmful to self and others.
Why are we so bothered by this new virus? Why are so many people in panic? This has to do with our fear of our own mortality. For many people, it is as if they didn’t know that everyone has to die at some point.
The Buddha taught the truth of impermanence. It is one of the Three Marks of Existence. As a Buddhist, I live each day, fully aware of the fact that it may be my last day. The truth of mortality should not be anything new. If you are spiritually aware, you should have made peace with it long ago. You know that, every day, you get closer and closer to your own death. Thus, you should treat each new day as “gravy,” as a gift from the universe. You should receive this gift with gratitude. That is a very important part of being spiritual. Have you accepted your own mortality? Can you still have joy, thrive and feel alive in the midst of impermanence?
The point is not that we should behave recklessly in face of the Coronavirus pandemic. Of course, pay attention to hygiene and sanitation. But use any life-threatening situation productively and positively — as a reminder that we will all die at some point, and worrying and panicking do not help. It is important to live each day with love, joy and vitality. Marianne Williamson just produced a video on Coronavirus meditation. Osho International also posted something about that on Instagram. Use adversity as an opportunity for awakening.
Each phenomenon carries a bright side as well as a dark side. Obsessing with the dark side is counterproductive. It will impair your ability to cope and adapt. The bright side of the truth of impermanence, if you have really come to accept and embrace it, is that you will live without attachment, without excessive accumulation, without grasping, without the false hope that you will live forever. You learn to let go. This is true renunciation. Why are some people so greedy, grabbing so much wealth for themselves at the expense of others? Why do they treat others in such a cruel and inhumane manner? This has something to do with the fact that they have not come to terms with their own mortality and the fragility of life. Or we can look at the international conflicts. There is so much saber rattling these days. But if two warring countries were to find out that there will be no tomorrow, that all people on earth are all going to die, will they maintain their hostilities? Will they come to embrace each other during an impending disaster?
The core of spirituality is to accept what is. Accept the truth of our mortality and we will be become more capable of loving and truly living. Here, the inverse law applies — the more you can embrace your mortality and make peace with it, the more you can truly live in a relaxed and peaceful manner.