Buddha Weekly: Buddhist Practices, Mindfulness, Meditation

How the Thai Cave Rescue inspires us as both humans, and Buddhists

Dedication: I would like to dedicate this article to the rescuers, the 12 boys, their football coach and especially to the memory of Thai Navy Seal Saman Kunan whose bravery and sacrifice were a credit to humanity. May he rest in peace. (Guest contributor Lee Clarke)

Over the past few days I — like millions of other people around the world — was gripped by the international attempt to rescue 12 young boys and their football coach from a cave in which they had been trapped for almost two weeks in Thailand.

Thankfully, due to the bravery, skills and gruelling effort of everyone involved, all 13 people were rescued successfully — by compassionate heroes. Aside from the Bodhisattva heroes who rescued the boys, there are also the boys themselves, who endured their ordeal, in part, through Buddhist meditation.

 

Rescuers were surprised at how calm the the Boars football team were when they were finally found alive after nearly two weaks trapped in a cave. Ekapol Chantawong, their coach,  (left) was credited by many news sources, for helping keep the team calm and in good spirits through Buddhist meditation techniques. He was a Buddhist  monk for ten years.

 

Since Thailand is a Buddhist country, heavily influenced by Buddhist culture, Buddhism was also in the back of my mind when I was following this story. I feel like the entire heroic saga could serve as an inspiration for us as both Buddhists and humans — and it certainly inspired me.

Buddhist Meditation helped keep the kids calm

Ekapol Chantawong, the coach for the team, exemplified Wisdom and Compassion during the ordeal. With wisdom — according to numerous news sources — he kept the team calm with Buddhist meditation techniques. As reported in AP, a mother of one of the boys said:

“Look at how calm they were sitting there waiting. No one was crying or anything. It was astonishing.”

 

The coach taught them meditation techniques to help them remain calm and also preserve their vitality in what must have been a terrifying ordeal for all of them.[1]

 

Guest contributor to Buddha Weekly Lee Clark: “I’m a Buddhist, Quaker, Humanist, existentialist and pacifist. Budding professor of religion. Love many subjects, bilingual third year uni student.” On Twitter>>

Ekapol had once been a Buddhist monk, going to live at a monastery when he was orphaned at the age of twelve — only leaving ten years later, to care for a sick grandmother.

 

Besides Wisdom, he showed Compassion, when he reportedly gave all food that he had to the boys, suffering from malnutrition himself —  doing his utmost to make sure they lived, at the expense of his own health.[2]

A cartoon by Mail Jacknight, that went viral, depicting the “Boars” quietly comforted by their coach Ekapol Chantawong:

 

Mai Jacknight’s lovely illustration of the coach keepilng his team, the Boars safe.

 

 

Humans as one: interconnectedness

 

Another of the first main Buddhist teachings that I felt that the rescue showed was the Buddhist concept of interconnectedness. This was one of the main teachings of the Buddha and is defined by Monk the Venerable Pomnyun as follows:

 

‘Buddhism views that everything in the world is interconnected. When Buddha gained enlightenment, it was the realization that interconnectedness is the true nature of all beings. We are not only connected to other people, but to the air through our breathing and to the universe through light. Thus, severing these interconnections means death for all beings.’[3]

 


What better illustration of interconnectedness could there be, than an entire world gripped by the rescue. Not only did people from around the world volunteer — divers, soldiers and rescuers came from all across the world to use their expertise to assist in the rescue — but the entire world seemed to engage compassionately with the plight of these children.

 

Could there be a better practical example of how we are all interconnected with one and other —and I don’t mean just through social media — as human beings.

We are all united by the compassionate connection we share as a common species. We have much more in common than divides us — and the cave rescue proved that. It wasn’t just Thailand or  the Thai people that were praying the boys. It was all of us – as one. Compassion is a resounding human trait.

 

Video shows how calm the kids were when they were first found by divers:


 

 

Bodhisattva path

I think this heroic tale also highlights the noble Bodhissatva path — that of compassion and love for all sentient beings.

 

Compassion was shown by millions of caring people in our world, not just the divers who risked their lives to make sure the boys got out alive. They were the heroes, but we all united in our compassion for those kids. All of the divers knew the dangers, that by participating in the rescue they may lose their life — and one brave Thai Navy Seal tragically did. This was true compassion.

 

This is what Buddhism is about, the aim of a Buddhist is to escape from suffering. A Boddhisattva aims to end the suffering of other sentient beings. Is this not what the rescuers and the coach were doing? I believe that all involved in the rescue are Boddhisattvas.

 

As the Buddha said:

 

Just as a mother would protect her son, her only son with her own life, so one should develop towards all beings a state of mind without boundaries and towards the whole world one should develop loving kindness, a state of mind without boundaries, above, below and across, unconfined, without enmity, without adversaries.[4]

 

Universal connecting compassion

 

This feeling of universal connecting compassion is what I believe everyone developed towards the boys for their rescue. The rescue of the 13 people from the cave in Thailand is inspiring not just for Buddhists, but for humans.

 

It emphasizes that we are all connected at a deep level by compassion and love. We can and should take pride in this living example of true Dhamma.

 

 

NOTES
[1]Eliza Barclay ‘How Buddhist Meditation kept the boys calm in the cave’ at https://www.vox.com/2018/7/9/17548512/thai-cave-rescue-soccer-boys-meditation-buddhism [Accessed 12th July 2018
[2]Tara Thiagrajan ‘Thai football Coach became malnourished after sacrificing his food so the boys could survive’ at https://www.worldofbuzz.com/thai-football-coach-became-malnourished-after-sacrificing-his-food-so-the-boys-could-survive/ [Accessed 12th July 2018]
[3]Venerable Pomnyun ‘We are interconnected beings’ at  https://www.huffingtonpost.com/venerable-pomnyun/we-are-interconnected-beings_b_8579002.html [Accessed 12th July 2018]
[4]Bhikkhu Bodhi ‘The Suttanipata: An Ancient Collection of the Buddha’s Discourses’ (Wisdom Publications: USA, 2017). P.180

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