There is certainly a way to help you! —2020 Buddhist Manual of Eliminating Epidemics Instructions from Acharya Zhiguang As we all know, the outbreaks of pneumonia caused by the novel coronavirus are very serious at present. It is said recently that the novel coronavirus comes from wild animals. Some people got this disease after eating wild animals that carry the virus. From the Buddhist point of view, all diseases result from killing. So, I would like to give you the following advice: 1. Refrain from killing as much as possible. 2. Refrain from eating wild animals. 3. Try to stay…
There is certainly a way to help you! —2020 Buddhist Manual of Eliminating Epidemics
Instructions from Acharya Zhiguang
As we all know, the outbreaks of pneumonia caused by the novel coronavirus are very serious at present. It is said recently that the novel coronavirus comes from wild animals. Some people got this disease after eating wild animals that carry the virus. From the Buddhist point of view, all diseases result from killing.
So, I would like to give you the following advice:
1. Refrain from killing as much as possible.
2. Refrain from eating wild animals.
3. Try to stay on a vegetarian diet.
4. Repent your negative karma.
5. Update yourself with the latest news and maintain good personal hygiene.
6. Wear a mask outdoors.
7. Don’t go outside and go on retreat at home if possible.
Faced with the epidemic outbreaks, what can we do for our country, society and sentient beings? On one hand, we should stay at home, and on the other hand, we should generate Bodhichitta to chant sutras and mantras and dedicate the merits to our country and the whole world. According to Buddhist scriptures, there are many methods to eliminate epidemics. These methods are certainly helpful.
Today I’m going to introduce in detail some Buddhist methods that I know of to eradicate epidemic diseases. I hope this can help to quell the outbreaks of pneumonia caused by the novel coronavirus.
Method 1: Medicine Buddha practice
1. Enshrine and worship the statues of the Medicine Buddha or the Seven Medicine Buddhas, as well as the Sutra of the Merit and Virtue of the Past Vows of Medicine Master Vaidurya Light Tathagata (also known as the Sutra of the Medicine Buddha), and make offerings to them frequently.
2. Recite the Sutra of the Medicine Buddha.
3. Chant “Namo Medicine Master Vaidurya Light Tathagata” or “Namo Medicine Master and King of Vaidurya Light Tathagata.”
4. Recite the Medicine Buddha Dharani.
The Medicine Buddha Dharani is as follows:
Om Bhaishajye Bhaishajye
It is stated in the Sutra of the Medicine Buddha that: “Moreover, Ananda, when the anointed Ksatriya kings find themselves beset by calamities, such as epidemics, foreign invasion, internal insurrection, an adverse alignment of the stars, an eclipse of the sun or the moon, unseasonable storms or a failure of the monsoons, they should develop compassionate feelings toward all sentient beings. They should also pardon prisoners and make offerings to the World-Honored Medicine Buddha in accordance with the rites described earlier. Thanks to these good roots and the power of the Medicine Buddha’s past vows, peace and stability will immediately return to the affected countries; the rains and winds will be favorable; crops will mature on time and everyone will be healthy and happy. The country will be free of evil Yaksas out to harm the populace. All the evil omens will immediately disappear, and these anointed Ksatriya kings will enjoy greater longevity and vitality, finer appearance as well as greater health and freedom than ever before.”
The phrase “such as epidemics” refers precisely to the circumstances that we are faced with now. What should we do then? We should “develop compassionate feelings toward all sentient beings.” So, we should cultivate Bodhichitta for all beings. What should we do next? We should “make offerings to the World-Honored Medicine Buddha in accordance with the rites described earlier.”
The Sutra of the Medicine Buddha also mentions that one can avoid nine forms of untimely death by doing the Medicine Buddha practice, in which the first untimely death covers the situation where one contracts an illness but has no medicine to cure it. This sutra states that: “Ananda then asked the Bodhisattva Salvation: ‘Good Man, how can an expiring life-span be lengthened?’ The Bodhisattva Salvation replied: ‘Virtuous One, did you not hear the Tathagata explain the nine forms of untimely death: I would urge everyone to make longevity banners and lamps and cultivate merits and virtues. Thanks to such cultivation, they will escape suffering and misfortune throughout their lives.’ Ananda further asked: ‘What are the nine forms of untimely death?’ The Bodhisattva Salvation replied: ‘Some sentient beings contract a minor illness which goes untreated for lack of a physician or medicine; or else even though there is a physician, he prescribes the wrong medicine, causing premature death…’”
Method 2: Practices of the Great White Umbrella Deity
1. Recite the White Umbrella Mantra of Protection
2. Make offerings to the Mantra Wheel of the White Umbrella Deity (Usnisa-sitatapatra)
3. Make offerings to the image of the White Umbrella Deity
4. Hang the Mantra Wheel of the White Umbrella Deity (Usnisa-sitatapatra) on the door
5. Wear the Mantra Wheel of the White Umbrella Deity (Usnisa-sitatapatra)
It is said in the Great White Umbrella Dharani Sutra that the White Umbrella Mantra of Protection can eliminate all infectious diseases and epidemics, not only epidemics of humans but those of animals as well. Other than protecting beings from calamities like epidemics, this mantra can also eradicate all illnesses that affect various parts of the body, extinguish afflictions, and eliminate violent deaths, imprisonment, nightmares, and harm by Yaksas. It can also protect one from 84,000 evil spirits and foes, destroy all violent and evil deeds, poisons, weapons, water and fire, and keep one from falling into the evil realms. Therefore, not only can the White Umbrella Mantra of Protection prevent disasters and cure illnesses, it is also very conducive to the spiritual cultivation of Buddhist practitioners because it can overcome all hindrances.
If one wears the Mantra Wheel of the White Umbrella Deity (Usnisa-sitatapatra) on his body, he will be safe from harm by weapons, poisons, fire or water; he will be protected by 84,000 guardian deities day and night throughout his present and future lives. In ancient times, people used to hang the Mantra Wheel of the White Umbrella Deity (Usnisa-sitatapatra) on the four gates of a city, and the whole city would be protected. So, I think the area where we live will be protected if we place the mantra wheel on the doors or in the shrine at home.
There are many kinds of White Umbrella Mantra. Today, I will teach you the White Umbrella Mantra of Protection (also known as the Ushnisha Sitatapatra’s shielding mantra), “Hum Ma Ma Hum Ni Svaha”. By reciting this mantra, we will be safe like being protected by a strong armor. I taught this mantra and initiated a group practice of recitation one month ago. So far, we have completed 40 million recitations. I hope that all of us will work together to achieve the goal of 100 million to end the current epidemic outbreaks as early as possible.
Method 3: incense offering
Making incense offerings can definitely help eliminate epidemics. From the Buddhist point of view, many epidemics are actually related to ghosts and spirits. Therefore, when making an incense offering, we should visualize that we are making offerings to all the ghosts and spirits who have caused the epidemics, pleading with them to ease their anger and try not to hurt living beings. In this way, the epidemics will gradually stop.
Method 4: Fire offering
Fire offering can also eradicate plagues. It is stated at the end of the fire offering ritual written by Mipham Rinpoche that: “This is a supreme skillful means to achieve the perfection of generosity and eliminate various obstacles. Therefore, all practitioners should practice it diligently, especially in the troubled world at times when the greed and cravings of sentient beings are excessive; when lots of hungry ghosts and evil spirits do harm to human beings and animals and deplete their resources; when such hungry ghosts and evil spirits roam about in various places for food and fortune, spread plagues, deplete livestock, and cause nightmares; when wolves, rats and the like rampage and harm other beings; or when beings are afflicted by ghosts or suspect that they are afflicted by ghosts. If one practices this ritual, such obstacles and calamities will be quelled; and if one practices it with constant compassion in one’s mind stream, one will naturally attain temporary and ultimate benefits for oneself and others, such as redemption from death, staying away from illness, extinguishing nightmares, increasing good fortune, and accumulating perfect merits. The importance and benefits of this ritual are immeasurable and beyond description; therefore, practitioners should practice it with great exertion.”
The fire-offering ritual can also be performed using incense sticks, incense powder or cone incense specially made for incense offering. One can also conduct the incense-offering ritual first, and then carry on with the fire-offering ritual.
Method 5: Food offering
Food offering is a common practice in Tangmi (Tantric Buddhism which originated in China in the Tang Dynasty) that is extant in the Tendai and Shingon traditions of Tantric Buddhism in in Japan. Some rituals of this practice are quite complicated. Today, I will teach you a very simple one in Tangmi to offer food to hungry ghosts. Everyone can do it conveniently before having meals at home.
1. Food offering to hungry ghosts can be performed any time in a day before meals.
2. Before the meal, offer your food and drink to the Guru-Three Treasures first, and then make a food offering to the hungry ghosts.
3. Take a clean small cup, fill it with clean water or milk, and then put a little rice (bits of pastry such as pie crust can also be used) in it.
4. Bend the middle finger and ring finger of your left hand and press them against the palm, then put the cup on them and hold up the thumb, index finger and little finger of the same hand to keep the cup stable; make a fist with your right hand, then stretch out the ring finger and press it against the rim of the cup.
5. Recite the ritual and visualize that the food and water (or milk) in the cup become limitless and boundless offerings to all ghosts and spirits or all sentient beings.
6. After finishing the ritual, take the offering outside and pour it over a clean place with grass (you can also pour it into the flower pot on your balcony), then snap your fingers seven times to invite all living beings to enjoy the offering.
7. Remember that the offering should not be poured under willow, peach or pomegranate trees.
8. Recite Buddhist sutras or verses to making offerings of Dharma.
9. Dedicate the merit.
The ritual of food offering is as follows:
I now make offering to the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. (3 times)
I vow to rid myself of all evils. I vow to cultivate all virtues. And I vow to liberate all beings. (3 times)
Mantra to multiply the offering
Namo Sarva Tathagata Avalokite Om Sambhara Sambhara Hum (7 times)
Namo Prabhutaratna (Abundant Treasures) Tathagata
Namo Surupakaya (Wonderful Form) Tathagata
Namo Vipulakaya (Extensive Body) Tathagata
Namo Abhayaṃkara (Free from Fear) Tathagata
By the universal transference of this merit,
May we and all other beings together attain the Buddha path!
It is stated in the Great Dharani Sutra Spoken by the Buddha on Offering a Taste of Nectar to Hungry Ghosts that “people with particularly serious karmic debts should practice food offering using rice mixed with a little milk. If they keep doing so for seven days, all their negative karma and obscurations will be eliminated.”
“And no plague or other disease, no hindrance of negative actions or evil spirit, will be able to get near them.” If you practice food offering every day, no plague or other disease will come near you, whether they may be caused by negative karma or evil spirits.
Food offering is simple and convenient, but it generates tremendous merit. Not only can you extend your life, increase your merits and improve your health and complexion, you will also be free from harm by any ghosts or evil spirits.
Method 6: Chanting the names of Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara and Buddha Amitabha
Master Yin Guang, one of the eminent Buddhist monks of the Nationalist period of China, made a statement on how to cope with plagues in his reply letter to Layman Mu Zongjing (Collected Works of Master Yin Guang, 3rd edition, Volume 1, Part 2): “To chant the name of Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara (for protection against the plague), you should not only involve Dharma friends of the Pure Land school, but should also proclaim to all the folks in your village and neighboring ones that all men, women and children, young and old, should stay in their own homes, take on a vegetarian diet, and keep chanting ‘Namo Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara’ while doing their daily chores and even when walking, standing, sitting or lying down. If they can do so, they will certainly not suffer from the plague. Cholera was rampant widely in the year before last. Hundreds of people were infected and killed around Siqian Township in Chengcheng County of Shaanxi Province. There were 50 or 60 households in a Buddhist disciple’s village. The disciple asked all his fellow villagers to chant the name of Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara. As a result, only two evil persons were killed and all other villagers were safe from the plague. He Hongji, a layman in Gangu of Gansu Province, advised the locals to chant the names of Buddhas, and the plague did not enter the areas where people followed his advice.”
Master Yin Guang was the emanation of Bodhisattva Mahasthamaprapta. The case he mentioned about how people kept themselves safe from the plague by chanting the name of Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara is very reassuring. Master Yin Guang said that “Plagues will not enter places where people chant the names of Buddhas.” This is because it is stated in the Sutra on the Ten Methods of Rebirth in Amitabha Buddha’s Land that, if one chants “Namo Amitabha Buddha,” there will be 25 Bodhisattvas guarding him/her day and night, thus the plague will certainly not enter where he/she is.
Method 7: Prayer to Eradicate Diseases and Disasters by Thangtong Gyalpo
Recently, the 17th Karmapa also gave a special lecture on the Coronavirus outbreak and recommended a prayer, which I think is very valuable. So, I also recommend that you recite this prayer.
The author of this prayer, Thangtong Gyalpo, was a highly accomplished Buddhist master who attained Buddhahood in his lifetime. He is called the Iron Bridge Living Buddha because he built 108 iron bridges in Tibet in his life. This prayer that the 17th Karmapa recommended, the Prayer to Eradicate Diseases and Disasters, is also called the Verses that Saved Sakya from Sickness: A Prayer for Pacifying the Fear of Disease, because Thangtong Gyalpo wrote this prayer to quell a plague that was rampaging in Tibet at the time, and as soon as people recited his prayer, the plague was immediately eliminated.
The words of the Mahasiddhas are called “vajra speech,” so this payer will surely come true as long as you recite it. A prayer written by an accomplished one like Thangtong Gyalpo will certainly bring blessings to you. Therefore, I also recommend you to recite this prayer.
Method 8: Ways to eliminate epidemics mentioned in several other Buddhist sutras
The Supreme Sutra Spoken by the Buddha on the Consecration and Mantras to Summon Naga Kings of the Five Directions to Subdue Plague and Poisons
1. Read Buddhist scriptures, understand karma, and repent the negative acts of killing committed in the past and henceforth refrain from such acts and protect the lives of other beings.
2. Chanting the names of Naga kings will stop the small dragons, mountain spirits and ogres from spreading poison to harm people, and bring happiness to people and peace to the world.
3. Generate Bodhichitta and chant the names of Buddhas, the name of Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara and the White Umbrella Deity Mantra of Protection (Ushnisha Sitatapatra’s shielding mantra).
When Buddha Shakyamuni was present in the world, a plague was so severe in the state of Vesali that countless people were killed. The Buddha said that the state suffered from the disease because its people liked to kill and had no compassion. When some highly intelligent animals were killed, they swore with resentment that those who killed them would suffer from fires and plagues.
Here the Buddha talked about the possibility that sometimes a fire or a plague is actually not a natural phenomenon. From a certain perspective, it is a manifestation of karma, because there are so many killings by humans that the beings who were killed retaliate against us by setting fires or releasing poisons. A list of Naga kings is provided in this sutra, and the Buddha said that chanting the names of these Naga kings would stop the little dragons and ogres from harming people.
Why can infection be prevented by chanting the White Umbrella Deity Mantra of Protection (the Ushnisha Sitatapatra’s shielding mantra)? Because by chanting this mantra, you will be protected by the guardian deity that keeps away plagues and other harms. By chanting the names of Buddhas, you will be protected by 25 great Bodhisattvas. It should be noted that we must repent the bad karmas that we created in the past, generate Bodhichitta and chant the names of Buddhas, the name of Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara, and the White Umbrella Deity Mantra of Protection (the Ushnisha Sitatapatra’s shielding mantra) if we want to achieve a good effect.
Sutra of the Plague-Dispelling Incantation
1. Take refuge in the Three Treasures.
2. Worship the Buddha every day.
3. Offer incense before the image of the Buddha.
4. Chant the mantra (in the sutra) twenty-one times to bless drinking water, and then make the patient drink it.
5. Write on the paper the names of the seven spirits mentioned in the sutra, tie the paper with a five-colored thread and hang it on the door.
6. Refrain from eating meat or the five forbidden pungent roots (garlic, scallion, leek, onion, and asafetida).
7. Recite the Sutra of the Plague-Dispelling Incantation.
8. Transcribe the Sutra of the Plague-Dispelling Incantation, put it in a bamboo tube and hang it on the door.
Method 9: Metta meditation (loving-kindness meditation)
The power of loving kindness is enormous. If you cultivate compassion and loving kindness, all the evil spirits will not hurt you. So, practicing Metta meditation (loving-kindness meditation) will also have a positive effect on eradicating epidemics caused by ghosts and spirits.
The origin of Metta meditation (loving-kindness meditation) is related to ghosts and spirits. One year in the Buddha’s time, the disciples of the Buddha lived and practiced in a forest according to the Buddha’s instructions during the summer retreat. The tree gods in the forest created a lot of obstacles for these Bhikkhus, making them unable to practice. At that time, the Buddha taught them the secret weapon to eliminate the hindrance of ghosts and spirit—Metta meditation (loving-kindness meditation). After the Bhikkhus meditated as instructed by the Buddha, their practice in the forest went smoothly.
Method 10: The Mantra of Bodhisattva Tara
Recite the mantra of Tara Bodhisattva: om tare tuttare ture svaha.
Bodhisattva Tara is a very important Bodhisattva in Tantric Buddhism. She is called Jetsun Dölma (a semantic translation in the Tibetan language) in Tibetan Esoteric Buddhism. In Tangmi, she is called “Duoluo Bodhisattva” (a transliteration in the Chinese language). Bodhisattva Tara has supreme merits and countless emanations, among which the 21 Tara Bodhisattvas, or the 21 Taras are the most renowned ones. There are also Buddhist records about the emanations of 108 Tara Bodhisattvas or even 500 Tara Bodhisattvas.
Tara Bodhisattva is very compassionate. In the Sutra of the Noble Bodhisattva Tara, it is said that the noble Bodhisattva Tara is the embodiment of compassion of all Buddhas. According to the Legends of Noble Bodhisattva Tara, Bodhisattva Tara is the emanation of the tear of Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara .
It is stated in the Maha Vaipulya Manjushri Sutra that Bodhisattva Tara regards all beings as her own children, and she saves them with this kind of great compassion. Therefore, if we recite the mantra of Bodhisattva Tara single-mindedly, we will achieve the Six Perfections swiftly and fulfill all our supreme vows.
The Maha Vaipulya Manjushri Sutra states that Bodhisattva Tara is an emanation of the light emitted from the eyes of Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara. She vowed to save anyone who suffers in the ocean of life and death. Therefore, we will certainly be saved by Bodhisattva Tara if we pray to her devoutly.
In the Sutra on the Dharani of Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara According with the Heart, also known as the Sutra on Dharani of Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara Dharma-Bhrkuti According with the Heart, translated by Sramana Zhitong of the Great Zongchi Monastery in the Tang Dynasty, it is stated that chanting the Tara Mantra could eliminate epidemics- “The mantra can cure all illnesses, dispel all evil spirits and eradicate calamities and epidemics. It can also help accomplish all good deeds, and eliminate all karmic hindrances.”
It is also stated in this sutra that, by reciting the mantra of Bodhisattva Tara, one will be safe from harm by any Mara or evil spirits.
Chanting the Sutra of 21 Praises to the Noble Tara (translated by Anzang of the Yuan Dynasty) as well as the Mantra of Bodhisattva Tara also have the effect of eliminating poisons and illnesses. There are various types of poisons nowadays. Some of them are natural and some are synthetic, but we can dispel all of them by chanting the mantra of Bodhisattva Tara or the Sutra of 21 Praises to the Noble Tara. Moreover, diseases caused by evil spirits, such as fever, can also be eliminated by chanting the Sutra of 21 Praises to the Noble Tara 14 or 21 times.
Acharya Zhiguang’s note
You can choose to practice any of the above methods according to your ability and interest. I suggest that lay people should recite the White Umbrella Deity Mantra of Protection (Ushnisha Sitatapatra’s shielding mantra) as much as possible, and try their best to cultivate compassion towards all beings, practice the Metta meditation (loving-kindness meditation), and make food offerings. For monks and nuns in the temples and monasteries in China, I hope that, during the outbreaks of the novel coronavirus, they can often pray for the eradication of calamities and the protection of the nation by performing such rituals as the Medicine Buddha practice, Cundhi practice, and saving burning-mouth hungry ghosts. The acharyas of the Shimeisan Ichijo Temple in Kyoto should practice Acala Vidyaraja Fire Puja every day to pacify calamities for people of the motherland and all sentient beings. In the Chiri Samaya Fudōson Inuou Sisha Nenju hō, it is stated that “In addition, epidemics can be eliminated by continuously spreading milk over the fire and reciting the Fire Puja ritual a thousand times.” I believe the power of the Buddha-Dharma is the best protection for everyone.
Finally, I wish you all peace and auspiciousness. Let us take a retreat at home to improve ourselves and wait for the warm and blossoming spring.
- Meditation on Loving Kindness（English）
- Meditation on Loving Kindness（German）
- Dharma Talk of Acharya Zhiguang on the Vesak Day of 2020
- Notice of the Ekayana Dharma Assembly on Qingming Festival to Repay the Kindness of and Perform Transference
- There is certainly a way to help you! —2020 Buddhist Manual of Eliminating Epidemics
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