Sometimes friends ask me to help with some problem in the world, using some “magical powers.” I always tell them that the Dalai Lama has no magical powers. If I did, I would not feel pain in my legs or a sore throat. We are all the same as human beings, and we experience the same fears, the same hopes, the same uncertainties.
From the Buddhist perspective, every sentient being is acquainted with suffering and the truths of sickness, old age and death. But as human beings, we have the capacity to use our minds to conquer anger and panic and greed. In recent years I have been stressing “emotional disarmament”: to try to see things realistically and clearly, without the confusion of fear or rage. If a problem has a solution, we must work to find it; if it does not, we need not waste time thinking about it.
We Buddhists believe that the entire world is interdependent. That is why I often speak about universal responsibility. The outbreak of this terrible coronavirus has shown that what happens to one person can soon affect every other being. But it also reminds us that a compassionate or constructive act—whether working in hospitals or just observing social distancing—has the potential to help many.
Ever since news emerged about the coronavirus in Wuhan, I have been praying for my brothers and sisters in China and everywhere else. Now we can see that nobody is immune to this virus. We are all worried about loved ones and the future, of both the global economy and our own individual homes. But prayer is not enough.