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Please, don’t drink the bleach

Bleach and disinfectant are not the only poisons we need to be concerned about. The original poisons of greed, hatred, and ignorance are certainly at work today.

Words have the power to hurt or to heal. We know this to be true. This is why it is so important for us to be mindful of our thoughts, words, and actions because what we do affects others. The COVID-19 Pandemic has made us keenly aware of this Truth because we all need to take responsibility for not just our health and wellbeing but also that of others. We’ve all seen the graphics of how the virus can be transmitted and the best way to prevent community spread is for everyone to stay home or to wear a facemask in public. These are proven medical guidelines that are meant to protect us. However, there are still so many people who reject this advice and the laws that have been enacted to save lives.

This rejection of good medicine starts at the very top with our nation’s leaders telling people to wear masks and yet they will not, even when visiting a hospital. This rejection of sound science is also seen in the promotion of dubious medical advice and conspiracy theories which have led to a rise in calls to poison control.

Words have the power to hurt or to heal.

True leadership is about responsibility not power, and our leader’s words and actions matter, especially during a crisis.

“Sarcastically” suggesting to people they should drink bleach or inject disinfectant as a cure for Coronavirus is irresponsible and shows a disregard for the welfare of people who are already afraid because these same leaders have failed to lead.

Bleach and disinfectant are not the only poisons we need to be concerned about. The original poisons of greed, hatred, and ignorance are certainly at work today. Instead of inspiring us to be better, we have leaders who encourage people to drink deeply from the well of the three poisons. They incite fear by telling us who to blame. They promote selfish individualism over the welfare of the whole community. And they falsely create a separation between economic recovery and public health.

These poisons sicken our hearts and minds and damages our relationships with each other and our world.

Our attachment to these poisons is the root of suffering.

In a letter to one of his disciples, Shinran lamented how some people of his time rejected the medicine of the Buddha’s Teachings and have instead chosen to take more poison:

…how lamentable that people who have not fully awakened from drunkenness are urged to more drunkenness and those still in the grips of poison encouraged to take yet more poison. It is indeed sorrowful to give way to impulses with the excuse that one is by nature possessed of blind passions—excusing acts that should not be committed, words that should not be said, and thoughts that should not be harbored—and to say that one may follow one’s desires in any way whatever. It is like offering more wine before the person has become sober or urging him to take even more poison before the poison has abated. “Here’s some medicine, so drink all the poison you like”—words like these should never be said. (Letter 20, Lamp for the Latter Ages, Collected Works of Shinran, 553).

We each can make informed and reasonable decisions based on facts, not opinions. All our actions should stem from an awareness that our wellbeing is not separate from that of others. This pandemic is enabling us to see how truly connected we are and how we should care for one another as one human family. What will we choose to do?

Taking medicine or poison affects not just one person but a whole community.

Our actions matter.

Please, don’t drink the bleach.


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