On Wednesday 23 July, Nalanda Centre was filled with devotees who came to participate in a Memorial Service for the casualties of MH17. Bro. Tan led devotees in pūja, chanting and Mettā meditation. After which, a short but impactful video clip showing the last moments of MH17 and aftermaths of the tragedy was presented. Following that was an inspiring Dhamma talk by Bro Tan.
The Buddha’s response to tragedies was not in rushing to perform prayers, but in wisely guiding people to understand the realities of life. Bro. Tan thus said that the Buddhist approach to tragedies is by: (1) being concerned and empathize with victims and their loved ones; (2) being considerate with acts of kindness and compassion; and (3) being reflective and understand ‘Aniccam’ – the constantly changing vicissitudes of life.
Bro. Tan spoke about the “eight worldly conditions” – gain and loss, popularity and unpopularity, praise and blame, pleasure and pain. He explained with practical examples that these conditions constantly alternate due to changing circumstances. It is our attachment to ‘desired’ conditions that causes suffering; the degree of suffering depends on the strength of our attachment.
Furthermore, the way to overcome suffering that arises from changing conditions is to develop spiritual resilience, through cultivating the five strengths (‘bala’) namely – faith, energetic effort, mindfulness, tranquility, and wisdom. Quoting historically Kisa Gotami’s and Patacara’s immense losses, Bro. Tan shared how understanding the nature of life and spiritual cultivation freed both of them from sorrow and grief.
The stirring talk concluded with a meaningful message from Bro. Tan – “Start developing your spiritual strength NOW! Do not wait until ‘misfortune’ strikes. But do not treat ‘misfortunes’ as calamities… These so called ‘misfortunes’ could be great blessings in disguise! It is through facing and overcoming such adversities that mundane people become supramundane!”
The tranquil and spiritual evening ended with the recitation of ‘Karaniya Mettā Sutta’ (Discourse on Loving-kindness) and dedication of merits to those in need. Devotees then offered flowers with wishes of peace to the departed, while reaffirming their own refuge in the Three Jewels. ‘Santi’ – Peace.