The first two chapters of the Bodhicaryāvatāra have made me reflect on my own escapes from suffering during this time of extraordinary suffering. Like many upon hearing the news that Emory would be closing campus amidst the escalation of COVID-19, I chose to spend the remainder of my time here visiting friends before we all went our separate ways without seriously considering the implications of my actions. As Śāntideva exclaimed, “I did evil in many ways on account of friends and enemies. This I did not understand” (2.35). While my actions made me happy and temporarily alleviated my own suffering, I failed to see that they created undue stress for my parents, who worry about my safety, and roommates, who worry about their own safety. Perhaps due to our humanity, it seems that in times of crisis such as now, we tend to put our own needs above all else and become selfish, but selfishness during crisis simply creates more suffering. Although it is incredibly tempting for people to visit friends and loved ones in hopes of escaping suffering, in times like this “it is to suffering that they run. In the desire for happiness, out of delusion, they destroy their own happiness, like an enemy” (1.28).
The most we can do right now is remain at home and find other avenues to escape suffering. I found this CNN interview with Bill Gates very helpful in understanding the importance of self-isolation and adhering to statewide shutdown regulations: