Karmapa reflects on the courage of healthcare workers, and all of those on the front lines and behind the scenes - 19.04.2020

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In his latest meditation for our times, Thaye Dorje, His Holiness the 17th Gyalwa Karmapa, reflects on the courage of healthcare workers, and all of those on the front lines and behind the scenes.

There is no (absolute) cure.

In a spiritual context, to say this may seemingly contradict the whole purpose of spiritual practice. We may ask ‘then why should we practice?’

The purpose of spiritual practice is actually a way to realise, for certain, that the very attempt to find an absolute cure is futile. There is no way. Realising this, the patient will paradoxically pick up courage. In addition, we are able to make sense of the fact that, in a a spiritual context, finding cures is only an expedient method, like telling a child that keeps asking ‘Are we there yet?’ ‘Yes, we’re almost there’ – as if there were a way to cure death.

But that’s all there is to this thing called ‘a cure.’

Once again, from a patient perspective, does that mean that we should start being stoic and practice fatalism?

A blunt answer is ‘No!’

A natural answer is ‘There is no answer.’

When we look at the countless doctors, nurses, janitors, the systems that back them, the entire healthcare system – in short, all of the people who are on the front line and those who are behind the scenes – we witness their courage and selfless acts. When we ask them why they do what they do, no matter how much their individual answers may vary, we will find that they will ultimately converge into one common response: essentially, they don’t really know. And when we see that they go ahead and do it nonetheless, it melts our hearts and moves us to tears.

So, besides the bare truth of spiritual practice’s purpose to show us that there is no cure, such acts of care offer a most natural view of compassion. Reasons and logic of an absolute cure that we grew up with in our various cultures don’t apply. If we portray that in a mundane setting it’s like a mute person trying to muffle a message: even though that muffle may not be eloquent in any way if we listen carefully the message can be heard and understood.

Compassion is a simple term, yet it could help us to explain why we are moved when we witness selfless acts from the people on the front lines and those behind the scenes. These medicine men and women know that for those who survive this pandemic, a cure may be found, but the pattern of human existence is such that we will soon come across another challenge. Moreover, for the critically ill, they know that their efforts and courage are futile.

Still, the unbelievable rhythm of their hearts continues to beat for a causeless cause. If their example isn’t enough reason to have confidence in spiritual practice, particularly for us as Buddhists, I don’t know what else there is. It’s so vivid and clear. No language is needed to be able to relate to their courage. 

So, dear dharma friends, kindly practice with no pressure to find an absolute cure. Simply practice like these heroes.

Then, better than a cure, every moment we live will be a tribute to these warriors. These warriors without a cause.

Then, however long we live, it will be a life well lived.



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