The 15th Anniversary of the 921 Earthquake: Wisdom in the Face of Disasters

The 15th Anniversary of the 921 Earthquake: Wisdom in the Face of Disasters

September 21, 2014 marked the 15th anniversary of the 921 earthquake that devastated Taiwan. On the eve of the 10th anniversary of the 921 Earthquake Museum of Taiwan affiliated to National Museum of Natural Science, the Director General of the museum, Sun Wei-Xin, invited the Abbot President of DDM, Ven. Guo Dong to deliver a keynote speech, “Wisdom in coping with disasters.” This speech was delivered to an audience of 120, addressing the impermanence of life from a Buddhist perspective as well as the wisdom of leading an altruistic life.

Prior to Ven. Guo Dong’s speech, Director General Sun remarked that natural disasters are often blessings in disguise from the perspective of seeing the un-repulsive in the repulsive; we could learn a lot from these disasters. In addition, he often derived inner strength and peace from the “Four Steps in Dealing with Problems: Face it, Accept it, Deal with it, Let it go”, by the late Venerable Master Sheng Yen.

On 21st September, fifteen years ago, a major earthquake destroyed countless homes, families as well as lives; the entire society was shocked by the scale of the destruction. According to the Abbot President, the late Venerable Master Sheng Yen personally led the DDM Sangha and followers to set up a disaster relief centre; providing care and supply to those in need. His words of wisdom, “Those who help others are bodhisattvas and those in suffering are great bodhisattvas” as well as “Go Taiwan!” provided the comfort and encouragement needed to weather this disaster.

The Abbot President further indicated that changes in nature as well as the impermanence of life are the embodiment of “becoming, being, ceasing and emptiness” as expounded in Buddhism. These concepts in addition to the karmic concept of cause and condition provide great help to alleviate emotional distress in the face of calamities as all phenomena could be compassionately and wisely viewed through the Buddha Dharma. Moreover, keeping in mind the effect of cause and condition in protecting the environment may limit the adverse effect of the environment on us.

The Abbot President stressed that we could draw on the frequent natural and man-made disasters in recent years as an opportunity to practice, experience, learn and grow; to care for others with compassion, deal with issues wisely, think positively and even solve problems unconventionally when necessary. The recent food safety issue was cited as an example. The Abbot President pointed out that we should resolve the problem with more compassion and empathy in addition to employing right attitude devoid of the three poisons of greed, hatred and attachment.

When the Director General mentioned the Buddhist terms, “Teaching” and “Practice”, the Abbot President immediately rephrased them with a witty play of words. On a more serious note, every causal phenomenon is an opportunity for us to practice: good times are the fruit of our good actions whereas adversity yields good experience. In our journey in life, we practice through the illusion of the four elements (Buddhist term: earth, water, fire and wind); our practice further developing our virtue and wisdom. Moreover, we create good karmic affinity everywhere by cherishing what we have. On the other hand, disasters and impermanence can be viewed as the foundations for growth in life. The Abbot President also encouraged the public to enhance their character as well as to cultivate a calm mind and peaceful life through the “Fivefold Spiritual Renaissance Campaign” promoted by DDM.

The Abbot President ended the speech by narrating vivid stories to illustrate the concepts of “True compassion is the wisdom to let go” as well as “Liberation through letting go”. In addition, he was given a guided tour by the Section Chief of the 921 Earthquake Museum of Taiwan to consummate the event.

(Translated by Tom Hsieh/Edited by Leefah)

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