In the news coverage this morning of a second storm approaching the Irrawaddy delta in Burma, a rickshaw driver named Min Min, whose house was lost to Cyclone Nargis, expressed his fear of the coming disaster.
“I prayed to the Lord Buddha, ‘Please save us from another cyclone. Not just me but all of Myanmar,’ ” he said. Min Min, his wife and three children now live on their wrecked premises under plastic sheets.
Min’s prayer highlights what I have found to be one of the most difficult aspects of Buddhism to understand: if, indeed, everything in this world is ruled by the overarching cause-and-effect system of karma, what could have possibly happened to the 2 million people hit by Cyclone Nargis that they would deserve to be in this situation? Could this be karma’s way of rectifying the bad deeds that have, perhaps, accumulated over the eons? Or is it something greater, perhaps the karmic result of mankind’s abuse of the planet and its inhabitants (including his fellow man) since the Industrial Revolution?
While scientific proof might point to the latter, it is still tough to reconcile.
Tougher still is watching the events unfold. I ask myself if my own prayers for the safety and strength of the Burmese people, coupled with a geniune desire to generate as much compassion as possible for them, is enough.