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January 18, 2021

Cultural Shift


“There are causes for all human suffering, and  there is a way by which they may be ended, because everything in the world is the result of a vast concurrence of causes and conditions, and  everything disappears as these causes and conditions change and pass away.”

— Teachings of the Buddha

I have been observing the number of people who wear masks and how many don’t wear masks during the current pandemic crisis. I call it a crisis, because that is exactly what it is: a crisis. People are getting deathly ill and dying as a result of Covid-19. It is hard to believe there is anyone who is not aware of the urgency of our current situation.

Although the governor and state and local officials, doctors, scientists and teachers all encourage social distancing and the wearing of masks, there are many who are out in public not wearing masks. Why is this? I believe it is an inherent selfishness of people. It has been said on numerous occasions by many that the wearing of masks is not so much for oneself, but for the protection of others. And yet, people talk about individual rights and freedoms.  

What we need here is a cultural shift in thinking and practice. I don’t want to condemn a whole culture or society, but we have to stop thinking so selfishly. We have to start thinking about our interrelationships and our effect on other people. Everything, every person in existence is all interrelated and our actions will affect others. This goes beyond the current crisis of the Covid-19 but extends to the environment and simple human relations.

As long as we continue to think of ourselves as the center of all things we will continue to create a wake of suffering as in the case of the virus deaths. We have to move from thinking about “I” to thinking about others and our connection to all beings.

It would be nice if we could shift our thinking from centric to think about all that we receive. Imagine if all children understood that their neighborhood, their schools, etc. are assets to be looked on as gifts that we receive. There would be a deep sense of responsibility to take care of those gifts. Imagine if all of us became more aware and appreciative of the air we breathe that gives us life. There would be a deep appreciation for nature and all it provides

This is not an easy shift for many people. I believe it starts with each of us living our lives with the understanding that every thought, word and action affects others. We are all part of a larger whole. Today it starts with the simple act of wearing a mask in consideration of others. 

Let us each be the start of a cultural shift where our homes, neighborhoods, cities and country are understood to be a part of each of us individually, and as a result we will live a life of gratitude for all that we have  received and we treasure the gift of life.

Rev. Hosei Shinseki leads the Watsonville Buddhist Temple. His opinions are his own and do not necessarily represent those of The Pajaronian.


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