One World, One Wave

On December 26, 2004, a natural event of overwhelming magnitude shattered the tranquil beauty of a tropical day. As the people in countries surrounding the Indian Ocean went about their daily routines, working, playing, worshipping, an earthquake spawned giant tsunamis. Within hours, devastation leading to the death of over 170,000 people had occurred. Almost immediately a worldwide relief effort began.

A natural catastrophe of such enormity raised these questions? What was the role of God in this disaster? Why would He allow this to happen? What was His grand purpose? Theologians of all religions began their discussion and debate. Buddhism does not have a Supreme Being, therefore, I did not concern myself with these issues. Rather, I examined this event for examples of the Dharma teachings.

The First Noble Truth, all life has suffering. When the tsunamis struck they made no distinction among those who died. Swept away were people from a multitude of religions, races, nationalities, and social status. The waves did not choose the good or bad, the holy or unholy. The waves just came.

Karma is the idea that all actions have infinite effects. Often, we are unaware of either the effects of our actions or how outside actions affected us. The tsunamis demonstrated this in many ways. Geologic pressures had been building for hundreds of years beneath the ocean. An earthquake occurred off the coast of Indonesia. The residents felt the quake and a short time later the tsunami struck.. Hours later, thousands of miles away, the waves struck people who had no idea an earthquake had occurred. Known and unknown cause and effect. Immediately before a tsunami, the water will rapidly move away from the shore. In Thailand, fascinated by this sight, many vacationers approached the shoreline to watch. Elsewhere, an island tribe, with no written language, recalled a legend that said that when the ocean moves away you should go to the higher ground. Thousands of vacationers died. Only one member of the tribe was killed. Our actions affect our future.

All life is interrelated. This Oneness finds expression in the Infinite Wisdom and Compassion that is the universe. War, famine and genocide are an all to common fact of human life. Often, when confronted with these, we make our moral judgments why they are happening. We decide whose fault it is and whether we agree or disagree with the underlying cause. Our political, religious and national beliefs help to shape our decisions. We reach out to help those with whom we agree. We shun the rest. The tsunamis forced us to realize we all share the same planet, a planet filled with forces we cannot control. In the faces of those suffering we saw ourselves. We examined no issues of morality. From the core of our being we felt compassion. For this passing moment, Oneness, a common humanity.