Coping with the COVID19 pandemic: AFP interviews with DDM Abbot President

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, group practice activities and classes at Dharma Drum Mountain’s monasteries and practice centers at home and aboard have either been cancelled or postponed since January 29, as part of the pandemic prevention efforts to ensure public health. DDM was the first Buddhist organization in the world to introduce on-line real-time group practice as a temporary measure.

To find out more about DDM’s online group practice as a prevention effort during the pandemic, AFP (L’Agence France-Presse) had an interview with DDM abbot president Ven. Guo Huei on Friday, March 13, at its Nung Chan Monastery.

Buddhist monasteries and temples are considered as official venues for practice, where devotees often find themselves more able to attain calm and peace in mind, especially with the presence of solemn Buddha statues. As Ven. Guo Huei noted, Buddha statues symbolize the Buddhist spirit of compassion and wisdom. By acting in accordance with this spirit, practitioners can help manifest the example of buddhas and bodhisattvas. Therefore, though currently unable to go to a monastery for group practice to avoid mass gathering, people can always be with the Buddha or Bodhisattva by continuing their own regular practices, such as Chan meditation and Buddha-name recitation, at home through online practice programs.

The venerable recalled the outbreak of SARS pandemic in 2003, when the late Master Shen Yen happened to be leading a Chan retreat in Moscow. At that time the Master encouraged people in Taiwan to remain calm, and said that by practicing speaking kind words and doing good deeds more often, as well as constantly harboring good thoughts, people can thus transform their fortune, and eventually get through the epidemic crisis. He also urged people to follow the professional advice on epidemic prevention by public health authorities, to better protect themselves as well as protect others from themselves. The Master also stressed the Four Steps of Handling a Problem: Accept it, Face it, Deal with it, and Let go of it. Now confronted with the new pandemic, we can certainly use this guideline.

In the interview Ven. Guo Huei once again reminded people of the simple things we can do to protect ourselves and safeguard others during this pandemic: wear face masks when necessary, apply sanitizers, avoid mass gatherings, take good care of self with an easy and relaxed mind, follow a healthy daily routine, keep a balanced diet, and, last but not least, have a good sleep at night, so as to develop better immunity.

In addition to the usual timetable, a new online real-time Dharma Lecture program designed by DDM is also taking place at 7.00 p.m. on Fridays starting from this March. While filming the lecture “The Equation of Calming Our Mind” spoken by Ven. Chang Kuan, AFP also showed interest in knowing how the live-streaming equipment was set up before the online class began. Afterwards they visited a DDM follower for a home interview, to record how they went about their real-time online group practice at home.

During the home interview, Sabrina Su and her husband, Julian Lin, shared how they indeed found it strange at the beginning, that suddenly they could no longer do group practice at the monastery. By changing their way of thinking, they agreed that through the Internet people can still learn how to settle their mind, and that by participating in Dharma assemblies online, they can also make wishes, praying that the pandemic can soon come to an end. Online practice may lack the feel of interpersonal interaction, but, as they have found out later, the content and essence of the lecture can be equally helpful and useful. With this pandemic outbreak, they said they would certainly work harder in their practice, knowing the fact that unexpected misfortune can happen at any time. They also once again realized that they should grasp every possible opportunity to listen to and learn the Buddhist teachings, on-site or on-line.

Text: Patricia Yang, Elenda Huang
Photos: Chang, Yao-Chung (張曜鐘)
Translation: Elenda Huang
Editing: DDM Editorial Team; Chang, Chia-Cheng (張家誠)

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