What follows is a rough transcript of a Dhamma talk. One can listen to the talk here.
Homage to the Blessed One, Noble One, the Rightly Self-Awakened One
Welcome to all the monks and novices and blessings to all the laity.
We are well-aware of the present situation with the Covid-19 pandemic that has spread throughout the whole world. For some countries it has spread severely and fiercely. And there are many people dying. Which may have been caused through 1. lack of one’s knowledge for caution and prevention, and 2. lacking many various medical equipment. We didn’t prepare for this infectious virus before, and haven’t been able to keep up with this pandemic. So all the people of the world need to help each other out with medicines to treat this urgently, so that the state of the pandemic can ease and calm as quickly as possible. If the developed countries have vaccines and don’t help the poorer countries and those countries that lack vaccines and medical equipment, then this pandemic will not ease and there will be even more people dying than there is already. If we try to share medicines and help each other, then this will substantially ease this pandemic.
But what the people of the world are waiting for most is medicine, which is waiting for a vaccine. This is the answer to solve the severe situation to be more at ease. Maybe it won’t be totally calmed, but it will help a lot! And at the end of last year, all the scientists, chemists, and pharmacists, were fully devoted to come up with a vaccine. And as we are aware of, we got many brands of vaccines that came out. There are brands that are considered very good quality. And there are brands that have lower quality. But however it is, these vaccines may not be the final answer. We don’t know whether after getting these vaccines, whether it will allow the world to be more at peace. But this is the first hope for mankind.
And which countries were these vaccines produced from? We know that there were different groups of people who researched and developed them until they succeeded in producing these different important vaccines successfully. Because they had devoted themselves fully, and sacrificed their strength of body and mind, dedicating themselves to produce a vaccine to be able to protect against this infectious virus as quickly as possible. They had great effort and diligence, they needed to use mindfulness and wisdom which was all-encompassing, and the leaders were ones who were resolute in order to control this infectious virus. Until some countries have been able to control the virus well. And in making the vaccines, they needed to come out with one that was the best possible one, with good efficacy and with the least possible side effects. In order to treat all the people of the world. So all the people of this world need to help each other. It’s like all the people in the world are fighting with a vicious enemy. That is this Covid-19 virus. It is an enemy that is tiny and miniscule, which we can’t see. And even if we have weapons that can harm the world, it is unable to harm the infectious Covid-19 virus at all. There needs to be medicine, or vaccine, that has been researched and come up with until it can die.
And these people who were fully determined, aren’t anyone apart from important chemists and pharmacists. This is an occupation that looks after the health of all the people in the world. It involves medicines, and producing medicines, as safe as possible, with efficacy to heal illnesses, so that the medicine can be given to the people who are sick.
Here we see, that in the Buddha’s time, the one who was the most skilled doctor, we should be able to remember the name, the children should know, but I will say it one more time. The doctor who was skilled in using herbs in healing – was Dr Jīvaka Komārabhacca. And he was the son of a prostitute – in the city of Rajgir in the Magadha kingdom. He was an unwanted son of his mother and was thrown into a rubbish heap. But he had merit and parami, spiritual qualities, that looked after him. Prince Abhaya heard a child crying and told his soldier to go look, and found it was a baby who was still alive. Prince Abhaya adopted and looked after it as his son. And later he was looked down upon in all sorts of ways, that he was a child without a father. So he had the thought and firm determination to learn knowledge in Takṣaśilā City, and ultimately he finished his study in medicine.
And when he went to travel there, along the way, he used up all the money he took along with him. So when he got there, he had no money to study. But he used his physical effort, and diligence, worked and sacrificed, made food, and worked very hard, so that he could get wages and that he could study medicine. In the end, he finished his studies in medicine, and he was very skilled and was the personal physician of King Bimbisara. And King Bimbisara sent and offered him to be a personal physician to the Lord Buddha. And he was the most skilled physician. So we can see that if it isn’t yet time for our lives to end, even being abandoned in the rubbish heap, one can still survive and become an important doctor.
And let us look at one more example. This is a story worth thinking about, and learning from. About 80 years ago in the country of Greece, there was a community of 60,000 Jews who lived peacefully and happily in the city of Thessaloniki. They were a rich and vibrant community, who lived in harmony. Most of the Jews worked at the port. The port would stop work on Saturday, which was the religious day of the Jewish people that didn’t let them work on that day. Each person staying there would not work on that day, but would go around the city, greet each other and had lots of enjoyment. But on the 2nd August, 1939, World War 2 broke out. And this peaceful and happy community became aware of the atrocities of the Nazis.
On 6th April, 1941, we should remember who Hitler was and his cruelty. He was incredibly cruel to the Jewish people. Hitler ordered an invasion of Greece in order to secure a stronghold on the Southern Front, before launching Operation Barbarossa for a major offensive against Russia.
Here, 50,000 of the 60,000 Jews were killed in a concentration camp. Think about how many this is. There were 60,000 Jews, and 50,000 of them were killed in the camp. The Greek Jewish Holocaust was fierce and intense. Few were able to escape this atrocity. Hearing this we must feel disgust. During war there is cruelty and killing. But in this era, there is a war, which is cruel as well, with many people dying. But it is a fight against Covid-19 virus. So we come back to look that the Bourla family was one of those groups who were able to escape. Which was very impressive, being able to escape from the war.
And after the war had ended, in 1961, this family gave an amazing birth in a refugee camp. His parents named him Israel Abraham. He grew up and studied veterinary medicine in Greece. And eventually he earned a Doctorate in Reproductive Biotechnology in the Veterinary School in Aristotle University in Salonika.
When he was 34 years old, he decided to migrate to America. He changed his name from Abraham to Albert and later he met and fell in love with a young Jewish woman named Miriam, eventually getting married and giving birth to 2 children. Who could know that Albert would enter the pharmaceutical industry? He progressed in his career, because he was determined in work and learning. Like we know that whatever Jewish people do, they do it determinedly and sincerely, they must succeed and focused, using mindfulness and wisdom fully. He entered a pharmaceutical company with a high position and he made great progress. He later became COO (Chief Operating Officer) and eventually he had the fruits of his labour come up in 2019.
Throughout 2020, Albert as CEO, had spent all the efforts of the company researching a vaccine against this virus that made the world standstill. He had devoted everything, in all aspects in order to achieve this. The following year, his work was a success and came out with a vaccine. The World Health Organization (WHO) and the US government have approved the production of his vaccine for use around the world, which the world has been waiting for. Today the vaccine is distributed to many countries. And this was why Israel was the first country to receive this vaccine. This was in remembrance of the ancestors who gave birth to Israel Abraham Bourla, or now Albert Bourla, the “CEO of Pfizer”.
This is a story of fortune, that it could come about like this. His parents were in a cruel concentration camp. And if we hear about this we would probably have goosebumps. But he could survive death and come back to produce the Pfizer vaccine for Covid-19.
And these people who have survived death, some of them will have a lot of merit and parami. They have someone who looks after them, which is just their good karma looking after them. Like Doctor Jīvaka Komārabhacca, whom I’ve mentioned. He could survive death and became the chief doctor that treated the Lord Buddha. And the Buddha was the doctor for the mind, who taught how to overcome the suffering of the mind. The Buddha taught people how to be free from suffering.
In regards to the CEO of Pfizer, he could survive death from the era of war and was one who developed and researched, and discovered the best medicine in the world, the vaccine to protect against the Covid-19 virus.
So we start with giving our anumodana, rejoicing, with Dr Jīvaka Komārabhacca, that he was determined, he learnt and studied, and was the doctor of the Buddha. And to the many doctors in the present, who could come up with vaccines in the various countries. May we anumodana that they put in their full strength of body and mind, until they can produce a successful vaccine that can fight against the sickness of this era. They may all have had to have passed great suffering and troubles. And we also give our anumodana with all the Doctors and nurses in the present time who are working and continuing to struggle. Sometimes the patient dies, and the doctor cries and feels sad, because they want everyone to be free from suffering and pain. The doctors and nurses are ones who are truly building parami. One could even say that they are a Bodhisattva who are helping those who are sick and ill. Sometimes the patient is unable to come themselves to the hospital, so the doctor comes to pick up the sick person from their home. This is one of many examples. This counts as being a mind of a true Bodhisattva. May we anumodana with the doctors, nurses, and those responsible with coming up with the vaccines.
And may you all practise strictly with the government rules which tell us to put on facemasks, wash hands, and social distance. And in some countries who have gained success against the virus, they may be testing what not social distancing will be like. But may all the countries that have not yet gained success, come together in strength and mind. And those countries with the vaccines, may they help those countries without the vaccines. Try to help with everything as much as they can. Then our world will be able to live with metta, loving kindness. Metta is the quality that supports the world, according to what the Buddha has said. May you grow in blessings.