COVID AND COMMUNITY
The news at the moment is dominated by the appearance of a new variant of the covid virus that threatens to be more virulent than those we have seen so far. The pandemic started in China about two years ago and reached Europe in the early spring. On 31st January 2020 the WHO declared a Global Health Emergency. There had then been around 10,000 cases.
The group that was to become Global Sangha got together at that time, substantially in order to offer support to one another in what was anticipated to be a difficult year ahead. At that time, however, the general expectation was that it would all be over in a matter of months. Things have, however turned out differently. We are now approaching the beginning of the third year of the pandemic with no end yet in sight as ever new versions of the virus show up every few months. Even as I write an old acquaintance of mine is dying of the disease in a hospital in the Netherlands.
While many people are assuming that things will soon "get back to normal" others see the possibility that we have crossed some kind of threshold and that things are not going to go back to how they were. Much more is now being done on-line, people meet and mix less, and many are moving out of cities into the countryside.
Not far from where I live here in France, there is a Buddhist community called Oasis. It is the brainchild of a French lama who saw a need for a place for elderly Buddhists to pass their later years together. After a slow start, Oasis is now a success story with seven (soon to be nine) residents and a short waiting list. Members have their own accommodations and can be independent. They have built most of the houses. There is a small attractive wooded park, a stupa and a meditation hall. There is also a swimming pool and outdoor areas for gatherings. It is a pleasant environment. In present circumstances it appears to have been designed for just this new situation.
Perhaps the future is not, as we once thought, for an ever greater proportion of the human race to live in mega-cities. Perhaps we are going to redistribute ourselves into networks of hamlets: a healthier, safer, more attractive life. The Buddhist principle of "small is beautiful" may be coming into its own.
Oasis website: https://www.bodhicharya-france.org/index.php/fr/le-centre-monastique/autres-associations/l-oasis-de-longue-vie
Interview with Annette at Oasis: http://www.123siteweb.fr/SeniorsduDharma/
MEDITATION ON THE ELEMENTS
Poem by Annette Tamuly Jung at Oasis
Ode à la Terre
Comme un marin en perdition,
J’ai crié : Terre, Terre !
Et tu m’as ouvert tes bras,
Mère nourricière et généreuse !
Trop souvent je t’ai oubliée, piétinée
Ne voyant en toi qu’une vieille à rides.
Aujourd’hui, te prenant à témoin,
Je fais la promesse inébranlable
De t’aimer et de te respecter,
Afin que tu me renvoies, comme en un miroir,
Ma propre générosité !
Ode to Earth
Like a sinking sailor
I cry out for solid ground.
and you have opened your arms to me,
Mother so nourishing and generous.
Too often I have forgotten you, trodden on you
seeing in you just an old dame with wrinkles.
Today, as you are my witness,
I make the unshakable promise
to love and respect you,
so that you send back, mirrorlike,
my own generosity.