Member of KCRP
Executive Director of Paramita Youth Association of Korea
The ways of wisdom in the COVID-19 pandemic
According to The World Health Organization (WHO), more than 28.2 million people have been infected with COVID-19 in more than 188 countries and more than 911.000 human beings were dead as of 11 September 2020.
The pandemic of COVID-19 has threatened to derail coexistence with other humans, societies, and nations. Many borders have been closed and most of the international flights have been grounded yet. Almost all global conferences were delayed or canceled. In addition, the global competition of buying medical equipment, masks, and a vaccine against COVID-19 is getting hotter day by day.
The whole group of society has struggled for adapting and overcoming this unexpected circumstance. Even religious groups are without exception. Religious centers of Korea have been impacted by COVID-19 hugely. The ordinal worship services, various ceremonies, and festivals were canceled or severely restricted.
The commemoration of Buddha’s Birthday (Vesak) of Korean Buddhism is 30th April 2020. But the ceremony was postponed on 30th May in one month late this year. However, the ceremony was held on time amidst the Korean War. Unfortunately, the lotus lantern festival of the Korean national intangible cultural property no.122 by the Korean government and to be inscribed as UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage was canceled by themselves who are the Association of Korea Buddhists Orders. The festival is usually attended by 20,000 people, including Buddhists and tourists.
Leaders of Buddhist communities of South Korea stressed the importance of seeking unity between religions and people in the context of the COVID-19.
Ven. Wonhaeng, head of the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism, read the statement of Ven. Jinje, the spiritual leader of the Jogye Order that stated: “To overcome the difficulties we face today, we need to stop confronting each other and pave the way to unify for the new future… By forgiving each other and seeking unification, we can overcome this national disaster wisely…
Especially, Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism voluntarily decided to prohibit all worships and religious gatherings in more than 3,000 branch temples and Buddhist centers from 20th February to 20th March for a month this year very proactively.
In addition, Jogye Order’s temples are providing space and accommodation for medical staff who have been fighting COVID-19, Buddhist monks urged Buddhists to abide by the spirit of the founder of Buddhism and act responsibly. These efforts of Korean Buddhism led other religious groups to take part in the way to fulfill obligations for the health of the nation.
Cardinal Andrew Yeom Soo-jung also highlighted the importance of religious groups joining hands to overcome the difficulties.
“I think Buddhism and Catholicism share the same religious values praying for people’s happiness and looking for forgiveness. Let’s join hands to be an example to spread the values of mercy, peace, and love throughout the world instead of spreading distrust, resentment and rage created by the infectious disease.”
Major religious groups of South Korea usually have both respect and a powerful influence on their own society. The benefits are based on practical ethics: compassion, consideration, corporation, and doing the good of all human beings no matter what you believe or not. What is the best role of religious communities in the pandemic?
Absolutely, cooperating fully with local and national health authorities to save lives, reducing illness related to COVID-19，and promoting ecumenical and interfaith collaboration and peaceful coexistence amid COVID-19.
That is the social obligation of religious organizations.
According to the recent report by CTS news, the degree of reliability of a religious group that is not cooperative with COVID-19 guidelines by the Korean government decreased by about 63% considerably after the COVID-19 pandemic. The result of the survey logically implies that social obligations are strong relative to the trust of religion.
In a survey conducted in late May-early June 2020 by the American Enterprise Institute, 60% of Americans said they feared that they or someone in their household might get COVID-19. As The Korea Times reported earlier, “An increasing number of people are suffering from stress and depression amid the global spread of COVID-19. Koreans even have the neologism “corona blues,” which refers to depression caused by the coronavirus.”
The corona blues contains elements of depression, tiredness, hopelessness, and a sense that work is unpleasant but unavoidable. It is so prevalent that it has become a cultural phenomenon. So, religious leaders can encourage their communities to take steps to manage their stress and to keep up hope during such times of isolation, fear, and uncertainty.
Buddhist spiritual leaders emphasized, “from the Buddhist perspective we have the capacity to use our minds to conquer anger and panic and greed.” He stated, “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 compassionate or constructive activities whether working in hospitals or just observing social distancing has the potential to help many.
The coronavirus is not the only dangerous virus that is spreading in our society. Fear is also harming our minds and affecting our humility, causing us to become selfish and to look down on those who are infected. Therefore, recognizing that we need to act to prevent COVID-19 from infecting our body, we should also ensure that we prevent our fear of COVID-19 from infecting our mind
According to The heart Sutra,
“..their mind are without obstruction and without fear”
This means that if we reduce our selfish behaviors and attitudes and increase our generosity in support of each other, we can overcome the symptoms of Corona Blue.
Religious leaders should give positive messages to strengthen mental and spiritual health, well-being, and resilience, through individual contact under social distance and through social and other communications media.