By Abbot Chōyū Ōtani
The rapid spread of the coronavirus has caused much anxiety in the last few weeks. I give my deepest condolences to the families who lost loved ones due to Covid-19 and wish for the speedy recovery of those who contract the virus. I’d like to express deep gratitude to all caregivers who are sacrificing their own wellbeing to combat this horrific disease.
Since all services, Dharma gatherings, and study programs were cancelled or postponed at our temples throughout Japan, as well as in the overseas districts, it’s disheartening we can’t gather together to listen to Shinran Shōnin’s teachings. We were looking forward to seeing everyone at the 13th World Dōbō Gathering that was scheduled for April. I was saddened to hear the event was cancelled in consideration of health concerns.
However, I was reminded of the truth that everything occurring in life is nothing other than impermanence. At this moment, this viral disease is quickly and steadily spreading throughout the world, almost as if mocking our desperate efforts to stop it. Seeing the escalation of the devastation it continues to bring, I can’t help but realize how fragile and fleeting our lives are.
The pandemic already caused much suffering to all of us living on this planet, regardless of differences such as race, nationality, gender, and age. This challenge confronts us with an indisputable truth that we are nothing but ordinary, unenlightened beings.
We must understand this kind of suffering and anxiety we are experiencing now always has been part of human existence. However, when I deeply reflect on this truth, my appreciation deepens for the compassionate heart of the Tathāgata, which always reaches out to each of us, embracing us as companions, regardless of who we are.
My sincerest wish is that we’ll bring an end to this pandemic soon, and that we’ll once again come together before Amida Buddha to listen to the Dharma.
-Abbot Chōyū Ōtani is Overseas District Abbot of Shinshū Ōtani-ha (Higashi Honganji), based in Kyoto, Japan