Suffering & Disaster

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When Calamity Happens

Tibetan Buddhists frequently recite a prayer called The Four Immeasurables that begins

May all sentient beings have happiness and the root of happiness.
May they be free from suffering and the root of suffering.

yet existence in this world is always characterized by suffering of some kind.  One of the most difficult to bear is Impermanence in the form of sudden death, especially when it is visited upon numerous individuals all at once.

"This existence of ours is as transient as autumn clouds.  To watch the birth and death of beings is like looking at the movements of a dance. A lifetime is like a flash of lightning in the sky, rushing by like a torrent down a steep mountain."  ~ Buddha Shakyamuni,  as quoted by Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche (in translation.).

Sometimes it is helpful to consider the example of others who have experienced great loss:

The Example of Patachara

One of the Buddha's first female monks had been the only daughter in a wealthy family but, smitten with love for one of the servants, she ran away with him.  The couple left town and several years later, after having two children, they decided to take them to see their grandparents and to beg the family's forgiveness.
On their way they had to pass through the forest, where her husband was fatally bitten by a cobra.  Despite her great loss, but with more reason than ever to return home, she and the children continued on their way. 
On the shore of a swollen river, one of the children was carried off by a large bird of prey.  She ran after it, calling out to the other child to stay put, but he misunderstood and following after her, was swept away in the current. 

< Wall painting (Orientations, June 1975, 34)  in Poorvarama Vihara, Sri Lanka,  illustrating part of  the life story of Patachara, who had already lost her husband when her two children were swept away. 

 

 

In despair, but no longer having anyone to hinder her progress, she arrived home only to find that her parents had just died.  In fact, their  bodies were already on the cremation pyre.  
 
Now, truly out of her mind with grief, a kind neighbour took her to see the Buddha,.  He listened to her with compassionate concern and helped her.
 
 
 
< Mural from Poorvarama Vihara in Kathaluwa, Sri Lanka (Orientations, June 1975, 35.) 
 
Eventually she was able to find peace in the truth of his teaching and became one of the first nuns.  Later, she became enlightened while washing her feet  (pata is a reference to foot.)  She had noticed that when the water ran off her feet it flowed across the ground a little before soaking in. With the second pouring it ran a little farther, and even further the third time.  By this, she understood that some people die young, some in middle age, and some in old age, but eventually everyone must die.  She became renowned as a great teacher.
 
Prayers for Very Difficult Times

:: A Prayer for Times of Catastrophe by Jigdräl Yeshe Dorje (the late Dudjom Rinpoche)

DZAM LING CHI DANG YUL KHAM DI DAG TU
world general and nation these in

NED MUG TSHON SOK DUG NGAL MING MI DRAG
disease famine war etc.  suffering name not heard

CHÖ DAN SO NAM PAL JOR GONG DU PHEL
virtuous qualities merit prosperity greatly increase

TAG TU TASHI DE LEG PHUN TSHOG SHOG
always good fortune well-being sublime perfectly gathered may 

(recite at least 3 times)

Translations, English followed by French 

At this very moment, for the peoples and the nations of the earth, May not
even the words disease, famine, war and suffering be heard, But rather
may their moral conduct, merit, wealth and prosperity increase, And may
supreme good fortune and well-being always arise for them. 

en francais:
En ce moment même, puissent les peuples et les nations de la terre, / Ne
pas même entendre les mots maladie, famine, guerre et souffrance; / Mais
plutôt puissent leurs conduite morale, mérites, richesses et prospérité
augmenter / Et puissent leurs suprême bonne fortune et bien-être toujours
survenir pour eux.
(Récitez 3 fois.)

:: Prayer that Swiftly Fulfills All Wishes <external link, Tibetan script, phonetic rendition, translations in many languages.  This prayer was composed by Guru Padmasambhava and, as a mind-treasure, was revealed by Jigme Lingpa.  After the events of September 11, 2001, it was transmitted from memory without hesitation for the benefit of all suffering beings by Lama Lodu Rinpoche of Kagyu Droden Kunchab in San Francisco. 

___________________________________________________________

acharya: [achhArya] is a Sanskrit word actually meaning "one who knows and can apply the rules or laws" and, by extension, one who can teach through example.

equal to Space:  Whose numbers would fill all of Space, and Tibetan cosmology consists of a multitude of universes too numerous to imagine; all of them surrounded by Space.

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