Guo Gu, an author and teacher in the Dharma Drum Chan tradition based at the Tallahassee Chan Center in Florida, created a platform this month in the hope of raising US$500,000 to aid medical workers across North America. The platform, Dharma Relief, has already begun delivering face masks to medical workers, many of whom have found themselves lacking adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) to treat patients infected by COVID-19.
Guo Gu, who is also a professor of religion at Florida State University, where he is known by his lay name, Dr. Jimmy Yu, introduced Dharma Relief in an online video, saying: “In times like this, we have to remember to face everything with an ordinary mind, grounding ourselves in the body, so that we will be able to respond and see what needs to be done, what can be done. This is wisdom and compassion, and that is what Dharma Relief is about.” (YouTube)
Also joining the project’s introductory video were Jack Kornfield of the Spirit Rock Meditation Center; Rinzai Zen teacher Meido Moore; Tibetan Buddhist teacher and abbess Thubten Chodron; Zen teacher John Tarrant; Insight Meditation teacher Narayan Helen Liebenson; Dharma Drum Chan abbess and teacher Guo Yuan; Richard Henning, executive director of the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies; and Rinzai Zen teacher Jeff Shore.
“Compassion in action is an integral part of the Buddha practice,” said Guo Gu. “So what I provide is basically a platform, it can’t be done by one person alone. It’s just a platform where everybody can funnel their energy and resources and skills.” (WCTV)
Thanks to these efforts, Buddhists and meditation teachers around the world joined together to help medical personnel fight the coronavirus. The Dharma Relief Project began on 31 March with a goal of raising US$100,000 to purchase protective surgical masks. By 1 April, donations had already exceeded the target amount. By 19 April they had raised more than the extended goal of US$500,000. As a result, they are sending hundreds of thousands of masks acquired from Chinese manufacturers to hospitals in the United States and Canada.
“We’re taking care of people’s spiritual needs and emotional needs during this difficult time,” said Guo Gu. “But no one’s really doing something concretely about what can be done, what should be done.” (WCTV)
The coronavirus crisis has temporarily closed Guo Gu’s Tallahassee Chan Center, like many others around the world. He was able to go online to offer teachings, but he wanted to do more. Thus far some 300,000 masks have been delivered to medical centers in Tallahassee and in virus hotspots such as Louisiana. Twenty-four Buddhist centers and 58 volunteers have been organized to help connect the masks to hospitals in need.
Dharma Relief’s mission goes beyond coronavirus aid, aiming to act as a coalition of Buddhist traditions and practitioners across North America working together to provide emergency relief when needed. The organization draws on the Buddhist virtues of wisdom and compassion as its guides, aiming to bring light to the world of suffering just as a lotus flower rises from muddy waters.
The United States, with a population of 329 million people, now has the greatest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases and deaths in the world, with some 840,897 known infections and more than 46,600 deaths. Canada, with a population of 37.6 million, has some 40,723 confirmed cases and has reported 2,022 deaths. The outbreak began in China in late 2019 and, as of this writing on 23 April, has infected 2.6 million people around the world and led to 182,907 confirmed deaths globally.
Even as some nations have begun easing restrictions this week after recent declines in new cases, World Health Organization director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned that: “The worst is yet ahead of us,” as he suggested that the path to eradicating the virus would require sustained efforts by governments and citizens across the globe. (The Guardian)
COVID-19: Practice advice from multiple Buddhist traditions (YouTube)
Dharma Relief Project raises $500,000 for surgical masks (WCTV)
The ‘worst’ of Covid-19 is yet to come warns World Health Organization – video (The Guardian)