Covid-19: A Buddhist Perspective


We are all up against a dangerous wall today. The coronavirus [Covid-19] storm has changed everyone’s life across the globe, so much so the ‘world’ that we all knew till the other day, will not be the same again. It will take a long time for the ‘now normal’ to return to its pristine level — that is the ‘old normal.’

Every government and private machinery is working in full throttle to fight Covid-19 — be it diagnostic kits, treatment modalities, without specifics, and channellising citizens to follow social and physical distancing and ‘cutting’ the virus transmission chain in the community.

The need of the hour is to stop infection in the community and avoid every possible fatality.

When one looks at the prevailing situation through Buddhist philosophy, one would understand that there is a certain order in the physical world, such as the movement and ‘action’ of planets and stars. This also corresponds to seasons, viz., summer, winter and monsoon, which come and go in a consistent sequence, or regularity. There is also a certain order by which seeds grow into trees and trees yield fruits, and fruits again yield seeds. This leads us to yet another aspect of life — that there is a moral order maintained by kamma niyama, or the law of moral causation. This simply means that all our wilful thoughts, words and deeds, produce a certain energy that, in turn, brings about certain effects. This process is also called karma.

The moral order of the universe may be good, or bad. According to the Buddha, this moral order rests on each of us, and nobody else. When one delves into the context, one would understand the kamma also relates to all our actions with vipāka — the ripening, or intentional action, of karma — being the resultant effect. This credo suggests that the outbreak of the covid-19 tempest in the world is the effect of kamma.

It is also obvious that the emergence of coronavirus is the outcome of human action — with its first epicenter being China. This may also highlight the fact that when the moral order is bad, one ‘fans’ and expands their bad kamma. When the moral order is, likewise, good, one performs good kamma.

This effect of the deed is bound to follow the deed, as surely as the night follows the day. This also means that no one would fail to benefit by the good effects of a good kamma, just as no one could escape the evil effects of bad kamma. Just think of it — coronavirus is allegedly the result of human complacency, or ‘bad’ science, so obviously the effect should only go individuals, or group, that caused it — it is sad that the whole world is now affected from the bad moral order, of certain individuals or their bad kamma, that has also brought this marauding disaster to everyone’s perimeter of thought.

The law of kamma does not necessarily suggest that the effect of kamma always recoils on the doer, and that there is nothing more to it. This is erroneous. Sometimes, the action of one person affects another, instead of the doer. All the same, the law of kamma either upholds, or upsets, the moral order. The fact also is individuals come and go, but the moral order of the universe remains in its place. This holds good for the law of kamma which sustains it.

The big question is our mind today is — how long will the lockdown remain in place? And, whether the horrendous chain of coronavirus infection will take a break, or ease, on its own?  The answer resides in the Buddhist doctrine of impermanence. In simple terms, you’d think of a simile — every human being is always changing, also always growing. No one is the same at two different phases of life. You may, therefore, subscribe to this robust credence that the world, as also nature, will come to terms with themselves and find relief in the fact that this — Covid-19 ‘horribilis’ — too shall pass.