This Too, Will Pass ~ THE DHARMA IN A SNEEZE

BECAUSE WE LIVE AS members of society, we are obligated to observe how our actions affect others; we have this capacity, so why not use it? And if we see our actions affect others adversely, we should do something to correct them.

Signs in the ferries plying between Butterworth and Penang in Malaysia read: "No spitting. It’s disgusting, and it spreads disease." Disease is often spread from one person to another, usually inadvertently, but sometimes through carelessness and inconsideration. Good things are worth sharing, but things like disease and bad habits should be— as far as possible— kept to oneself and hopefully, eliminated, rather than passed on. And why people create and spread computer viruses, which cause so much trouble to others, mystifies me. They must have a grudge against society or hate the world. They would not like anyone to do that to them, but have no hesitation about using their expertise in such negative ways. Strange, isn’t it? I even heard, in Melbourne, of AIDS-infected syringes being found lodged in the slides of children’s playing-areas! Human beings can be so twisted and bitter, when they have such a lot to be thankful for.

A few years ago, there was a movie called OUTBREAK, about the appearance in the U.S. of a terrible disease similar to the as-yet incurable hemorrhagic plague known as Ebola. From an initial single case, this terror began to spread, causing panic. It was discovered that the virus responsible for it was airborne, and a scene in a packed cinema showed how a sneeze accomplished this, infecting scores of people there.

A gift must be something of value, both to the giver and the receiver; if it has no value of any kind it is not a gift; we dump garbage, not give it away. So, primarily, a gift must be a thing that the giver wants and values himself, and the more he wants and values it, the greater the gift it is. Now, no-one wants or values disease, do they? It is something they wish to be free of. And so, not wanting it themselves, they know that no-one else wants it, too. Therefore, they try to avoid passing it on.

One of the most important qualities to Buddhists is Compassion, which involves or concerns others. Out of compassion, we learn to consider the rights and feelings of others and treat them fairly. Now, is it considerate to share our bacteria with others by means of sneezing explosively in public? Just because we cannot or do not see the bacteria in the myriads of tiny droplets of saliva forcibly expelled by a sneeze doesn’t mean they are not there; they are there. Is that a gift from you? Out of consideration for others, and in order not to expose them to the bacteria in your saliva, why not either sneeze into a handkerchief and so contain your germs, or, better still, learn how to implode your sneezes by closing your mouth and maybe holding your nose? It is another way of reminding yourself— of being mindful— of your ability to improve the world and make it a little bit better; it is also an expression of your understanding. Dharma is not something far away or mysterious, but ordinary or common; by paying attention to the ordinary, however, we find something special therein; in actual fact, everything is special and not ordinary at all!

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