Buddhist leaders joined others from around the world as part of a 24-hour livestream of videos encouraging a sense of human unity in response to the global coronavirus pandemic. The Dalai Lama issued a written statement in which he reminded readers of humanity’s shared fears and uncertainties, as well as our common desire for happiness and capacity for reason. In the United States, Rev. angel Kyodo williams and Roshi Joan Halifax submitted videos offering reflections on their Buddhist practice in this time of lockdowns, increased stress, and widespread isolation.
“The Call to Unite” was conceived by Tim Shriver, chairman of the Special Olympics, who expressed hope that the event could “celebrate our shared humanity” in a time of so much anxiety and grief. (CNBC)
“Many people will say, but wait a second, we’ve got hunger, we’ve got disease, we’ve got inequality, we’ve got all these challenges that are facing those living on the edge. And we do, we have all those. They’re serious, they’re painful, they’re horrific and they’re outrageous in many respects, those problems,” said Shriver. “But, if we don’t solve the problem of division, we can’t solve any of the big problems of our time.” (CNBC)
The event took place on 1–2 May and featured more than 200 artists, religious leaders, and political figures from around the world, including Oprah Winfrey, former US presidents Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush, and author Deepak Chopra.
In his written message, the Dalai Lama said:
In this time of serious crisis, we face threats to our health and sadness for the family and friends we have lost. Economic disruption is posing a major challenge to governments and undermining the ability of so many people to make a living.
It is during times like this that we must focus on what unites us as members of one human family. Accordingly, we need to reach out to each other with compassion. As human beings, we are all the same. We experience the same fears, the same hopes, the same uncertainties, yet we are also united by a desire for happiness. Our human capacity to reason and to see things realistically gives us the ability to transform hardship into opportunity.
This crisis and its consequences serve as a warning that only by coming together in a coordinated, global response, will we meet the unprecedented magnitude of the challenges we face. I pray we all heed ‘The Call to Unite’. (His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet)
American Buddhist teacher Rev. angel Kyodo williams submitted a video in which she said: “My call to unite during this time has been to gather people together, to push back against fear and isolation and bring people together through care and connection.”
She went on to note that most of us have never experienced a time in history like this one, and so “we want to be kind to ourselves and to really befriend the emotions and the feelings and the experiences that come up for us. That will in turn allow us to be more kind to the other people who are close to us, maybe living very close in the home with us, spending more time than we are accustomed to spending with people.” She then offered a brief guided meditation.
Roshi Joan Halifax, the abbot of Upaya Zen Center in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and a socially engaged Buddhist, observed: “We are in the middle of a really powerful time in our culture but really the whole Earth, the whole world. A time when the climate catastrophe and the virus are coinciding but also dependent in a way on each other, a time when so many are so vulnerable. And yet it is a time for us to wake up.”
She continued: “We have a chance to do something that has never been offered, I believe, in hundreds of years if not thousands of years. And that is to take the stress, the trauma, the suffering of this situation and turn it toward the good.”
After sharing a ceremony meant to engage with the reality of suffering, she offered the Bodhisattva Vow, which is chanted at the end of each day at Upaya Zen Center: “Creations are numberless, I vow to free them. Delusions are inexhaustible, I vow to transform them. Reality is boundless, I vow to perceive it. The awakened way is unsurpassable, I vow to embody it.”
“The Call to Unite” website offers ongoing opportunities donate through GiveDirectly, a nonprofit that connects donors directly with those in need, or to volunteer through Points of Light, a global nonprofit connecting people to volunteer opportunities around the world.
As of this writing on 5 May, 3.65 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 have been reported and 252,444 deaths. While many nations have been successful in containing local outbreaks by closing borders or enforcing strict quarantine measures for travelers, several nations still struggle, including Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
Many nations, particularly those in South America and Africa, reported low numbers of confirmed cases early in the pandemic but are facing rising numbers now, leading world health officials to caution that the danger to the world is far from over.
‘The Call To Unite’ organizer explains idea behind 24-hour livestream which will feature Oprah Winfrey and Julia Roberts (CNBC)
His Holiness the Dalai Lama: World Should Unite for a Coordinated Global Response to COVID-19 (His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet)
The Call to Unite