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September 2, 2021

3 Buddhist Vows for when we get Sucked into Vaccine Debates.

 

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In times of great polarization such as ours today, I’m reaching out to all who consider themselves spiritually inclined.

We don’t have to look far to find a long list of opposing ideas expressed by arguing family members and groups of friends (not to mention social media). Everyone is trying to solve the same global issue.

I’m quite shocked to notice that most of the people fueling these heated debates are my own, so-called spiritual friends. The following thoughts go out to you from a place of connection and goodwill to all. 

Big emotions are soaring everywhere, and tragically, people around the world are still suffering horribly. Our health care workers are devastated and burnt out, the rule-makers are desperately making wild new rules, and common folks pretend to know things no one can claim to know. 

In my observation, the suffering has now shifted from the physical level, where the virus has made its first round of victims, onto a deeper, emotional level of our human collective, where the greatest amount of damage is being done right now. 

Just ask yourself and answer honestly: 

How much frustration, anger, sadness, and or fear has been flooding your mind and beautiful heart lately? More or less than before? Is the frequency with which you are feeling these emotions growing or lessening in your life nowadays? 

Gone are the times of “we are in this together.” We are not in this together anymore. In fact, we are in this against each other, which is more dangerous than the virus itself ever was. 

Another strange thing I’ve noticed recently is that the only people not taking part in these debates are my friends who are dealing with major problems in their lives. They are fighting cancer. They are sitting at their dying dad’s bedside. They are taking their child to leukemia treatments. They are divorcing. They don’t have time to argue with those who don’t want the vaccine. Their problems are evolving them on this so-called spiritual journey for real. Somehow, their focus has shifted to someone else’s well-being beyond their own.

I find great comfort in studying Buddhism, although I do not consider myself a Buddhist.

In my evolution as a scholar, I dove deep into most world religions and wisdom systems over the years. I find the simplicity, clarity, and focus on human kindness of the Zen monks refreshing and most relaxing in these times of turmoil. 

I would like to introduce you to the three not-so-simple commitments, Buddhist vows, that people take to evolve consciously on the spiritual path of awakening.

I encourage you to study these commitments in greater depth. Perhaps compare them to your own list of intentions on a daily basis. My little list here is just an attempt to simplify and suggest a few useful tips specific to those who are tired of the debate and wish to focus on their own evolution. 

Commitment #1: Do No Harm

This is the way of letting go. In Buddhist circles, they call this the Pratimoksha Vow: “The foundation for personal liberation. This is a commitment to doing our best to not cause harm with our actions or words or thoughts…It provides a structure within which we learn to work with our thoughts and emotions and refrain from speaking or acting out of confusion.”

Tips to apply it today: Whenever someone or something tempts you to begin debating, simply change the subject. We don’t need to bite the hook and react to everything. Stay present. Look at the sky instead. Hold someone’s hand. Pick some weeds in your garden. Take a deep breath. Go for a walk to investigate your own emotional reactions to the provocative words and thoughts. 

Commitment #2: Serve Others

This is the spiritual warrior’s way, the so-called Bodhisattva Vow: “A commitment to dedicate our lives to keeping our hearts and minds open and to nurturing our compassion with the longing to ease the suffering of the world.”

Tips to apply it today: Look around right here and now and find someone in need of help. Perhaps your kids need more attention. Do your friends need someone to listen to them? Does the local shelter need some help? Maybe the neighbour has a barking dog who needs a walk or someone to cut their grass. Put anyone else’s needs ahead of your own and practise service. Actively seek and offer service to others. 

Commitment #3: Take Life As It Is

This is the way of acceptance in stillness or the Samaya Vow: “A resolve to embrace the world just as it is, without bias. It is a commitment to see everything we encounter, good and bad, pleasant and painful, as manifestations of awakened energy. It is a commitment to see anything and everything as a means by which we can awaken further.”

Tips to apply it today: Sit down in silence for five minutes. Put your phone away. Observe your own emotions first and then look at them as separate little creatures (entities). You don’t have to analyze or understand, just look at them kindly and wait until they settle. A regular meditation practice will increase our awareness to a level where polarization is not relevant. Repeat this as many times as needed. 

~

I truly believe that our current challenges will bring us closer and are nothing but growing pains. I believe humanity is ready to face this challenge, or it would not have been given to us. I hope we learn to think more united and less divided as generations follow. 

I often have this funny image in my mind when I get sucked into vaccine debates: 

There are giant alien ships circling the earth, and the visitors are threatening our very survival. Someone waves a flag with the solution on it saying: “Unite. We can do this if we stay together all the way.” In my imaginary global threat situation, we all know that this person is right. The solution is written clearly on the flag. We do want to cooperate and we all want to do what is best for everyone. We just don’t know yet how. So we argue a little…but essentially, we are all good.

I have decided that I will do the work on myself and practice those impossibly hard commitments above. Perhaps the Buddha was right after all and did find the way out of suffering. Wink wink.

On this journey, I am walking with you, and therefore I am grateful. 

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