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Buddhism in the News


Monday, May 12, 2008

Natural Disasters.

CHENGDU, China (AP) -- One of the worst earthquakes to hit China in three decades killed nearly 9,000 people Monday, trapped about 900 students under the rubble of their school and caused a toxic chemical leak, state media reported.

The 7.9-magnitude earthquake devastated a hilly region of small cities and towns in central China. Xinhua said 80 percent of the buildings had collapsed in Sichuan province's Beichuan county after the quake, raising fears that the overall death toll could increase sharply.

James: The sad irony is that the Chinese have been working to get aid into Burma this past week following the devastating cyclone that hit the country. Now China is facing it's own natural disaster. Meanwhile, in the U.S. 70 tornadoes have been tearing up cities across the country over this past weekend and throwing cars around as if they were toys. About two dozen people have been killed and many more left homeless.

Nature has been tamed and conquered in many ways by man over the centuries (for better or worse) and so often we walk around doing our day to day things without paying nature much attention. However, our planet is alive and still let's us know that we are not master's of our own fate. Natural disasters are tragic events that change peoples' lives in so many ways and they are also reminders of the fragile nature of this life. They remind us that we are not immune to sickness and death. They humble us and that is a good thing because being humble helps us not waste the present moment. It also allows us chances to reconnect with humanity and remember that we are apart of a bigger picture than just our immediate sphere of influence.

I have been in a state of whining and complaining lately about things in my life but these recent natural disasters have shaken me awake to reality. I have a roof over my head, clean running water and plenty of food to eat and I am not sick with a severely life threatening disease such as cholera. My heart oozes with compassion for those caught up in these disasters. It can be easy sometimes, especially here in America to sit in our comfortable homes and watch our televisions that are a luxury that most can't afford in much of the world and feel detached from these disasters. But we are not immune to disaster and change no matter how much money we might have. In the end our money isn't going to do much good in the face of a tornado, a cyclone or an earthquake shattering our fragile world. We must accept that we are not much more secure in our life than the smallest, more vulnerable ant. As nature goes, so goes man.

And you know, there is a lot of freedom when I remember that I don't have much control over anything. It frees me up to just go along with life as it comes and not worry so much. We should not fear nature and life because of events such as these, such is the course of this existence. We can not worry our lives away wondering if we might die in a natural disaster. Some people even worry about a meteor hitting Earth and whipping out life as we know it. I'd rather enjoy the beauty of the trees outside my window right here, right now and the squirrels eating the peanuts we leave out for them because death and sickness will come no matter how much we try to prepare and keep ourselves healthy. Why anxiously wait for it and waste the opportunities for beauty and joy in each present moment?

We might not die in a severe natural disaster but we everyone's days are numbered. That being said, life is precious and we should do everything we can to save lives when and where possible. Being open to change doesn't mean that we become callous and ignore the pleas of the sick and dying because, well, that's life. Yes, suffering is inevitable but unlimited suffering is not inevitable and as no one wants to suffer we should do all that we can to ease pain and suffering where possible. In my opinion there is no point and reason to suffering needlessly.

So rather than letting these horrific natural disasters force us into an emotional tailspin we should take them as reminders of how wonderful life is and cherish each breath we have been given to open our eyes and enjoy the awesomeness of being apart of this grand project we sometimes label, existence. It's kind of like being on vacation isn't it? We are on this Earth to learn and enjoy all that this time and place has to offer us and then we move on to the next destination on our journey.
~Peace to all beings~

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Patty said...

I so appreciate your thoughts on this subject

Ginger said...

well said james...this reminded me of a quote in james clavell's shogun ~ "a man's fate is a man's fate and life is but an illusion."

or something like that.

it also reminded me of something that your favorite teacher said in a book i was about being aware of the impermanence of everything and everyone around us and in our lives so that we may cherish their presence all the more while we have them around in place of fearing the loss of them.

Riverwolf said...

We are so very fortunate here. THanks for the reminder.

They call him James Ure said...

Patty: Thank-you. I really care and am doing my best to raise awareness.

Ginger: Thanks. That's a great quote by the way. The impermanence point is so critical for me in dealing with suffering.

Riverwolf: Yes we are and you're welcome brother. :)

G said...

A great reflection here, James.

Contemplating our own mortality is an extremely powerful way to let go of some of our immediate obsessions, James. Considering natural disasters, perhaps a giant meteor will hit the Earth as in the movie like 'Armageddon' - then where will all our self-centered concerns go?

In your recent posts you have shown compassion and concern for the victims of the natural disasters in Burma & China. You've also highlighted practical ways in which your readers can help those victims. This is to be applauded, James.

Using such disasters as subjects for reflection is not as heartless an activity as some people might think, either. It is - like the cultivation of generosity when making donations - a way of turning something truly awful into something that can produce compassion & wisdom in the world. And we could all do with more of those, couldn't we?

G at 'Buddha Space'.

They call him James Ure said...


Yeah going through the tornado gave me a little more understanding of what the people in Burma and China have gone through.

Lanny a.k.a. Ruca (Indonesia-Jakarta) said...

Hi James,

I came across your blog when I was looking for some articles about what and how buddhists think about the recent natural disasters which happened.

Was really impressed by your aticle on this topic! Sincerely appreciate your kind sharings! They are easy to understand and true! Very well said! :D

Thank you once again for the sharing and reminder!

Cheers! Keep up the good articles in your blog! :)

With Metta,
Lanny a.k.a Ruca
(Indonesia - Jakarta)

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