In this new series with Bro. Ananda Kumaraseri, we’ll explore the Buddhist teachings in the context of the global COVID-19 pandemic. Bro. Kumaraseri will focus on how we can reorient our thinking to one of authentic Buddhist liberation, so that we are no longer constrained by old assumptions and biases that are hurting our chances for global survival and flourishing.
Dato’ Dr. G.K. Ananda Kumaraseri is a career ambassador of over 30 years standing. He retired in 1995 as Director General ASEAN. Since then he has authored over 30 notable books on the cultivation of human values, personal development, holistic education, the sacredness of motherhood, mothercare, holistic parenting, childcare, and development and peace. He is a much sought after Dhamma Speaker in Malaysia and overseas. His recent work on holistic motherhood and parenting is widely used as a practical yet effective training manual for courses on social ills. He is presently the founder and president of the non-profit Human Development and Peace Foundation.
Generally speaking, most people are unaware that the COVID-19 global pandemic did not happen all of a sudden. The world has witnessed many pandemics throughout history. Devastating outbreaks include the Spanish Flu in 1918 and the more recent SARS pandemic. The coronavirus strain was first identified many years ago. Several millions of deaths have been recorded from diseases caused by various strands of corona virus-related infections ever since. Furthermore, 75 per cent of all emerging infectious diseases are predicted to be zoonotic – in other words, diseases transmitted via animals. It is not a mere coincidence that the immediate trigger of the COVID-19 pandemic was attributed to the consumption of bats and other exotic animal meats. In several countries, the sale of these has since been prohibited. But such knee-jerk responses can hardly eradicate the current catastrophes and preempt future deadly global challenges.
Lest Nature’s latest deadly warning of the current global pandemic escapes attention once again; it is really another poignant wake-up call for humanity. It is yet another deadly forewarning impelling us to transform our thinking, attitude and way of life forthwith. We are to be ever mindful that when we distort the delicately balanced biodiversity of the world, we destroy the very eco-system which supports human life. The underlying reality is that if we continue to ignore the realities of Nature and human existence, our precious planet Earth together with humanity will surely perish.
However, governments around the world do not seem to recognize these fundamental truths. They are yet to acknowledge the underlying conditions and causal factors of the global challenges. In part, this also explains why most people remain oblivious of the terrifying global catastrophes predicted in the future. It is now left to leaders from all sections of society to assume the responsibility and role to safeguard humanity from further self-inflicting global tragedies. They are called upon to seize the onus from successive failed governments and political leadership to holistically address the global challenges confronting humanity. Failure to do so yet again would cause more deadly virus outbreaks, natural disasters and other grave global calamities to strike back with greater vengeance.
Fixation on Materialism and Sensual Gratification
Another underlying condition which has to be addressed is how human development, progress and well-being has been erroneously been tied to materialistic and sensual parameters. Serious distortions in policy planning and implementation, fixated primarily on wealth amassment and sensual gratification, have been pursued relentlessly for generations. As a consequence, a privileged minority have enjoyed highly disproportionate opportunities to better themselves and enjoy greater affluence. Moreover, governments have been preoccupied with achieving high GNPs and implementing ego-driven mega projects. This distorted perception of human development and progress has invariably resulted in serious social, moral, ethical, spiritual and other aberrations in society. This underlying distorted condition too has posed serious repercussions on Mother Nature and the well-being of humanity.
In reality, our so-called modern society has degenerated rather than progressed. At the same time, governments have given scant regard to the avowed ethos of serving the common good of humanity and safeguarding Mother Nature. Proclamations regarding transparency, accountability, good governance and climate change etc. remain compromised. The flawed thinking and attitude among governments and political leaders stem largely from a narrow perception of human needs. The failure to differentiate between human needs on the one hand, and human wants and greed, on the other, have caused a serious disconnect between humankind and Mother Nature. Needless to say, the sooner humanity reconnects with Mother Nature, the more secure the delicate global ecosystem will be, and in turn, the future of humankind.
In a sense, the callous disorientations and distortions in the name of development and progress are not surprising. For generations, humankind has been accustomed to perceive human needs from a physical or tangible perspective. Right from the time of birth, or rather from the moment a child is conceived in the mother’s womb, the primary focus has been on providing for a physically healthy child. Hardly any thought is given to the holistic development of the unborn baby nurturing for nine-long months in the mother’s womb, despite this being so essential for holistic motherhood and child development. The child’s emotional, psychological, mental and spiritual development consequently is grossly neglected. Neither are these vital ingredients for being human nurtured in the child while growing up. This invariably impinges on securing a healthy social structure.
Distortions persist because unlike the physical needs of child development which are earnestly provided by parents, the latter ingredients of holistic human development are intangible. As a consequence these essential requirements are overlooked. A similar neglect is markedly perceptible in the system of education the child goes through. A holistic system of education aimed at cultivating the young to possess a wholesome cultured mind would appreciably reinforce a wholesome mind. Neglect of holistic child development and personal grooming has been further compounded by modern materialistic-driven lifestyles and ever competing demands of modern-day life.
Moreover, unlike the extended family-based social structures of bygone years, contemporary societies largely comprise nuclear families, especially among the urban population clusters wherein the benefits of the extended family environment are distinctly bereft. These underlying conditions further impinge on the holistic development, personal grooming and home education processes of a child and in turn on the cultivation of a wholesome mental culture.