With the COVID 19 (Coronavirus) outbreak, many people have had to make hard choices and major changes. Right now, I’m thinking of those people.
The Kucchivikara-vatthu of the Pali Cannon discusses a particular incident when the Buddha and Ananda came upon a monk who was sick.
Now at that time a certain monk was sick with dysentery. He lay fouled in his own urine & excrement. Then the Blessed One, on an inspection tour of the lodgings with Ven. Ananda as his attendant, went to that monk’s dwelling and, on arrival, saw the monk lying fouled in his own urine & excrement. On seeing him, he went to the monk and said, “What is your sickness, monk?”
“I have dysentery, O Blessed One.”
“But do you have an attendant?”
“No, O Blessed One.”
“Then why don’t the monks attend to you?”
“I don’t do anything for the monks, lord, which is why they don’t attend to me.”
Then the Blessed One addressed Ven. Ananda: “Go fetch some water, Ananda. We will wash this monk.”
“As you say, lord,” Ven. Ananda replied, and he fetched some water. The Blessed One sprinkled water on the monk, and Ven. Ananda washed him off. Then — with the Blessed One taking the monk by the head, and Ven. Ananda taking him by the feet — they lifted him up and placed him on a bed.
After attending to the sick disciple, the Buddha asked the other monks if they knew of the sick one. They said yes. When he asked why no one was attending him, they said it was because the monk does nothing for them.
The Buddha then said, “Monks, you have no mother, you have no father, who might tend to you. If you don’t tend to one another, who then will tend to you? Whoever would tend to me, should tend to the sick.”
As I read this story, I think of the elderly, very young, and those dealing with being immunocompromised. With the quick spread of the virus and the shortage of medical supplies at the moment, this could be a dangerous situation for them. I can’t imagine how scary it is.
There is also other costs to this the outbreak, particularly as social distancing has become necessary. This can have an effect in ways we don’t think of. On Twitter, Jeffrey Marsh, an author and advocate for LGBT+ rights, discussed those effects when they learned about the closing of DragCon LA.
Marsh noted that for people who find certain events to be freedom from the isolation that comes from a lack of kin or oppressive circumstances, social distancing has an impact.
School closures can also be hard as many children depend depend on the food and services they get at school. Parents who are required to work during the event of an outbreak may have to choose between a crucial paycheck and making sure their child is supervised.
As demonstrated by the Buddha and Ananda when they bathed the sick monk, we need to take care of each other, even if we are not affected ourselves. In some situations we need to wash our hands. In other situations, we may need to avoid congregating. At the same time, we should try to reach out (in an appropriate way) to those who may experience grief from social distancing. We need to have compassion for all affected by the spread of this virus and remember them as we speak and act.
Namo Quan Shi Yin Bosat
Namo Amida Bu
Image from ariyamagga.net