Q. How can I see the current pandemic situation as being empty rather than harmful when there are so many people experiencing inconvenience and suffering?

A. To see things as empty is, in other words, to see things as being neutral. This is to say that all the characteristics pertaining to anything, or to any situation, are not intrinsic in their own right but are instead determined and defined by the view of the beholder according to circumstances. Put in another way, everything is meaningless and neutral, in essence, unless we give it meaning and put labels on it. If something is good, it is not because it is intrinsically good but only because we regard it as such. That is why what is the best to one person can be the worst to another and vice versa, and what is the best today can be the worst tomorrow.


Let’s consider the following story as an example. Once upon a time, there lived an old farmer named Saehong in China. One day his horse ran away, and he lost it. Then, his neighbours said to him, “How unlucky you are to lose your horse!” He responded, “Who knows whether it is fortune or misfortune?” Sometime later his lost horse unexpectedly returned together with a very handsome horse. His neighbours, this time, congratulated him on obtaining a nice horse for nothing. He said, “Who knows whether it is fortune or misfortune?” Sometime later his son fell off the horse and broke one of his legs. This time his neighbours said, “How unlucky you are that your son had his leg broken because of the new horse!” He said without any emotion, “Who knows whether it is fortune or misfortune?” Not long after that, a war broke out in the country. When many young people, drafted for military service, lost their lives, his son escaped being drafted for the war because of his broken leg.



To those who are undergoing suffering from the negative effects of the current situation; being infected, losing loved ones, losing their livelihood and so on, coronavirus is harmful and perilous. However, it is also true that the current situation has positive effects such as decreasing air pollution, creating ceasefires between warring countries, etcetera. To the people who suffer from respiratory disease caused by air pollution and who are now enjoying breathing cleaner air, the coronavirus can feel helpful.


Those who are undergoing negative effects because of the current circumstances can be compared to being in the situation in which the farmer lost his horse from the neighbours’ perspective. Those who are enjoying positive effects due to the current events can be likened to being in the situation in which the farmer’s horse returned with another nice horse from the neighbours’ point of view.


Which perspective will you take, the farmer’s or his neighbours’? It’s up to you.


©Boo Ahm


All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway


#zen #meditation #zenmeditation #enlightened #enlightenment #zenfools #photography

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