DDM Global News
The Dharma Guides Our Heart to Peace
N.Y. Times Square and neighboring Broadway almost deserted due to the severity of the pandemic, the entire city silenced instantly.
The North American pilgrimage team returned from India early January 2020 and disaster struck. On the eve of the Lunar New Year, the city of Wuhan in China was locked down due to COVID-19 outbreak; everyone's attention was shifted to Wuhan. Conflicting reports, speculations and interpretations challenged everyone's determination, wisdom, kindness, and compassion. The only certainty was the rapid increase in confirmed cases and the lack of professional protective equipment for frontline medical personnel.
To suffer in the suffering of others – launch of the medical donation project
When Wang Cuiyan, President of DDM Dharmapala in North America, proposed the donation project, concern were raised in regards to the scope of this project. Challenges such as fundraising, procurement, and transportation of materials are not easy to overcome.
In the next few days, as death toll continued to rise, the Chinese in the United States began to utilize various channels to distribute medical supplies. At this time, we can no longer sit back and watch.
With the Sangha's consent, the Abbot President and the Managing Director informed DDMBA to formally establish the donation project. About 5000 medical protective suits and 2669 medical goggles were procured.
On February 10, the first batch of supplies arrived at hospitals in Hangzhou from
Shanghai by helicopter. This was very encouraging and was made possible with assistance from numerous good Samaritans. However, supplies to Wuhan was laden with difficulties. The task force worked tirelessly to devise a feasible plan, only to meet with a fresh set of challenges the next day and had to formulate an entirely different plan. Nevertheless, we continued to encourage each other and after doing our best, we prayed for the blessing and support from the Dharma-protecting deities.
Members of the task force were moved to tears when thank you notes arrived from several hospitals in Wuhan on February 18. At that moment, we truly realized what Master Sheng Yen meant when he said: “to deliver sentient beings from suffering is to be a Pusa (bodhisattva), to suffer the hardship is a great Pusa (bodhisattva)”. It is truly memorable to see the significance and importance of every step in this donation process, no matter how trivial; in order to perform a good deed, there must be those who want to help, those who are in need, as well as the material necessary to support the tasks, all of which are of equal importance.
At the end of February, the Chan Meditation Center on the east coast suspended all activities amidst devotees’ concern as the pandemic worsened in New York. The pandemic reached Iran, Italy, England, and other European countries early March; California instituted a statewide “stay-at-home” order on March 19 while New York was locked-down on March 20; residents were prohibited from unnecessary travel. The culture of not wearing face masks in America may have contributed to the severity of the outbreak. In early March, DDMBA directed its resources from the novel coronavirus donation project towards medical institutions, shelters, and vulnerable groups in the United States.
Mutual support and benefit; Weathering this disaster together
As face masks were sold out in the U.S. at this time, we had to import face masks from China. The issue faced was procuring masks that meet the standard of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and importing these to the U.S.
We had to determine the material and grade of the face masks produced in China, dealt with discrepancies in the import-export policies between countries, the drastic reduction of flights, the timelines of material delivery, and the daily increase of freight costs, just to name a few.
We are deeply grateful to a group of Pusa (Bodhisattvas) who contributed selflessly without expecting anything in return. In addition to assisting in the procurement of compliant face masks, they personally donated tens of thousands of face masks to many retreat centers in the U.S. Many manufacturers, upon learning of DDM's donation to Wuhan, voluntarily gave favorable prices and assistance when required.
New York City unwittingly became the worst-hit city in the world for Covid-19, and Elmhurst, home to our Chan Meditation Center, was the most severely affected area.
The Qingming (Tomb Sweeping Day in Chinese culture) Earth Treasury Buddhist Assembly was adapted to a 30-day online practice due to the severity and restrictions caused by the pandemic. This practice provided strong emotional support and solace to our devotees all through April. The chanting of sutras were often accompanied by the wailing sirens of police cars, ambulances, and fire engines passing by, constantly reminding everyone of the seriousness of the situation. In response, devotees redoubled their effort in chanting and the transference of merit.
In April, flowers bloomed and the spring air was exceptionally crisp and clean due to the statewide lockdown. The City of New York seemed tranquil but beneath that tranquility, social problems such as the death toll of the pandemic, unemployment, loneliness, suspension of schools, homelessness, and plummeting stock prices were waiting to break free at the first opportunity. The coronavirus pandemic put a brake on the fast-moving world, plunging everyone's future into uncertainty at the same time. On the other hand, this pandemic also gave our earth a chance to breathe and an opportunity to revive; moreover, those who led a busy life have a chance to slow down and re-evaluate their relationship with others.
In May, the pandemic began to ease in New York City but the future is still uncertain. At this moment, Master Sheng-Yen's encouragement came to our minds: as long as people “have faith, kindness, tranquility, and help each other for mutual benefit”, the world will rebuild itself with a better mechanism of operation and economic model. The co-existence of humans and Mother Nature will be restored. This can only be achieved through the contribution of every single person on Earth.
Text: Venerable Chang Hwa (Director, Chan Meditation Center N.Y.) 常華法師
Photo: Yin Wei, Liao (廖胤威)
Translation: Chen-Yu, Chang (張振郁)
Editing: Elenda Huang (黃儀娟), Leefah Thong