Buddhism in the Pandemic – Video Materials


Webinar (Jul. 8, 2020):
Global Roundup of Buddhist Responses to COVID-19

Six leading scholars of Buddhism discuss Buddhist responses to COVID-19 in Singapore, North America, Nepal, Japan, China, and Thailand.


Webinar PowerPoints and supplemental materials:



Documentary Films

  • NHK World Japan. 2020. “Japan vs. Epidemics.” Core Kyoto https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/ondemand/video/2032212/ “Over the centuries, Japan has suffered from repeated outbreaks of diseases like smallpox, measles and cholera. Where did the people of the past think these epidemics came from? And how did they cope? Our theme this time is Japan vs. Epidemics. Our main guest is Yamamoto Satomi, an art historian. She explains historical attitudes to disease by examining works of art, and the characters they feature. We also take a look at a contemporary social media trend.”
  • NHK World Japan. 2020. “Kyoto Amulets: The Embodiment of Prayers for Happiness.” Core Kyoto https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/ondemand/video/2029137/ “Kyoto is dotted with Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines offering amulets for health, longevity, safety, easy childbirth and other blessings. An amulet warding off an epidemic centuries ago now eases Kyotoites’ anxiety in the age of COVID-19. But amulets change with the times. A card that slips into a wallet and a microSD containing a Buddhist image for uploading to a mobile device keep the deities’ spirits close by. Discover the charm of amulets through their history and their creation process.”
  • NHK World Japan. 2020. “Fudo Myo-o: The Enduring Power of a Wrathful Deity.” Core Kyoto https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/ondemand/video/2029138/ “Flames rising from behind, piercing eyes and an enraged expression, statues of Fudo Myo-o hold a sword and lasso, both ritual implements. Despite its formidable appearance, this deity has a wide following among devotees and common folk alike. The solid power it emits has attracted many people craving comfort during the coronavirus pandemic. Discover the faith and customs surrounding Fudo Myo-o, and the undertakings of a monk cum Buddhist sculptor who is captivated by this protective guardian.”
  • CNA International Edition. Faith Over Fear: Religion In A Time Of COVID-19. https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/video-on-demand/faith-over-fear/faith-over-fear-religion-in-a-time-of-covid-19-12798182 “At times of crisis, people often turn to faith for strength and hope. This was true during COVID-19, as the way people worshipped had to be significantly altered, even during major festivals. This documentary, filmed in part by the story’s characters, offers an intimate account of how religion was practiced under safe distancing measures. Devotees and elders from Singapore’s 10 most practiced faiths tell of how they adapted and built on the foundations of their faith to serve themselves and society as a whole.” (Includes discussion of Buddhism among other religions.)


Primary Source Videos

  • Ajahn Corona: There are no visuals in this sixteen minute video but the audio is illuminative about Buddhist teachings. The video presents bhikkhuni Venerable Canda interviewing her teacher, Ajahn Brahm. Both are British and part of the Theravada tradition. The main point Ajahn Brahm makes is that we should accept the world as it is, rather than wishing it were otherwise. This pandemic has created an opportunity to reflect and contemplate instead of rushing through our daily tasks. Corona virus is our teacher (Ajahn Corona) because it teaches us we are not in control of nature, but rather nature is in control of us. This helps us to want less and enjoy smaller things. Students could listen to this audio before class or the professor could play clips and have a discussion about the Buddhist teachings involved in thinking of this coronavirus as our teacher.
  • Feeling Safer During a Pandemic: Venerable Sangye Khadro is a Tibetan Buddhist teacher from America, who expresses her thoughts on fear and safety during this twelve-minute dharma talk. After reminiscing about her fear before her first dharma talk, she uses that experience to encourage people not to be afraid of the Coronavirus. She advises people to relax, think about why they’re scared, and to do a “reality check,” as oftentimes our fears are either over-exaggerated or simply untrue. She wants us to manage our minds and emotions to get through situations like the Coronavirus, and to ultimately accept the situation. This video can prompt discussion of fear in general and the ways Buddhist teachers advise dealing with it, as compared to other ways students have learned or used.
  • Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche message on COVID-19 outbreak: Tibetan Buddhist teacher from Nepal, Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche, speaks extemporaneously in this seven minute video. This is a short dharma talk, which could introduce students to the practice of the dharma talk, and how it can be used today. If our mindset is accepting of reality, we can grow into our full potential for wisdom. Yongey Mingyur Rinpochesees whatever we face in our lives as an opportunity to develop, and to transform fear and anxiety into support for our practice. He recommends watching the sensations of anxiety in the body and see them as clouds coming and going. Students could try this activity in class as an experiential way to test if and how one can feel sensations of anxiety in their bodies.


Scholarly Lectures

Lecture by William McGrath
Penn State Abington College Apr. 9, 2020

In eighth-century Rasa (Lhasa), following the death of a queen to a mysterious pox, Tibetan aristocrats and ministers blamed foreign monks and expelled them from Tibet. With developments in Tantric rituals and medicinal therapies, however, Tibetan adepts and physicians overcame their fears of epidemic diseases and dared to treat the sick and vulnerable. By placing these historical narratives and instructions within the context of contemporary discussions about the novel coronavirus in Tibet, the lecture concludes with a call for compassionate care and moral clarity in responding to COVID-19.


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