I was very much looking forward to the opportunity to see everyone again and get to share the Dharma with you for a little while, so I am quite disappointed that we will not get to do that. It seems that the current circumstances require us to exercise caution to ensure everyone's health and safety.
At times like these, however, I think it is important to remember that Buddhism holds that our self-centered fear is a primary source of suffering and distress for all of us. I hope that even when the people around us are growing more and more fearful, we can all recognize our own fears and be aware of the problems that they are causing for ourselves and those around us.
Certainly all human beings naturally react with fear when their physical safety is threatened, but unfortunately based on that fear, they often turn to unfounded discrimination and behavior that harms those they perceive to be a threat.
As people who are trying to live in accord with the wisdom of the Buddha, it is important for us to recognize our fear and ask ourselves whether we too are not in some way discriminating against those around us because of it. We must also take care not to act on that fear, but instead see the world and our place in it as it truly is: Impermanent beings in a vast flow of impermanent causes and conditions coming together.
Of course, none of us wants to admit to our impermanence and it is only natural that we all hope to live as long as we possibly can, but the fact of the matter is that the flow of impermanence is greater than all of us and that it is impossible for us to genuinely overcome it, however we might struggle.
That does not mean, of course, that we should not care for our health or attempt to protect the health of those around us (which is why service has been cancelled), but it is a perspective on the truth of how things really are that might serve to defuse our self centered fear and keep us focused on the very real joy and possibilities that are available for us in this present moment that we are living.
The fact that we are living impermanent lives also means that moment by moment while we are alive, we are living invaluably precious lives. It is important for us to keep in mind the question of what I can do with this life of mine in this present moment to enrich the world that we are living in. The answer to that question will differ for each of us based on our individual karmic circumstances, but I am sure that it will involve letting go of our self centered fear and acting in accord with the reality that we are facing.
I sincerely hope that I will have the opportunity to meet all of you again at some point, either here or in Japan.
Michael Conway's Letter
- Written by: Dr. Michael Conway