Shattered Complacency and the Path to Awakening


Lama Drupgyu looks at how the global pandemic and its fallout upsets our habits and makes possible fresh choices that benefit all.

Our world has known specific conflict and suffering more acute than the current situation, be it from wars — most recently we can think of Syria and the Middle East; or natural disasters — we can remember vividly Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans, or the more recent hurricane in India. These have tended to be local or regional, and so in most cases far from our own lives.

The current pandemic is different. It is silent and invisible, global, and deadly, at least to a percentage of the population — particularly those more vulnerable.

Of course the situation varies from country to country, and region to region. Here in Canada we have political and health leaders both provincially and federally who are transparent, and empathetic and have taken significant steps to soften the impact on our most vulnerable citizens. In the US the situation is much more chaotic. This is not the time or place to engage in a political polemic, but suffice it to say, given the dominant position of the US in the world, it is not inappropriate for us all to experience a degree of anxiety and concern about our current and future situation.

We can also say that the current pandemic is not the first, nor the last, and we could easily face another pandemic as contagious but much more deadly. And of course not far behind is the looming crisis of climate change and the ecological disaster we have visited upon ourselves.

This current situation has made obvious the degree to which our society as a whole has given itself over to personal self-interest, greed and the pursuit of power. And the usual “refuges” of denial and short-termed self-interest, have made us impotent to address the many challenges that face us globally.

What we have at the present moment is a historically unique situation. The true nature of existential reality — the tenuousness and fragility of our lives — has rudely and undeniably declared its presence in our personal experience. On the macro level then, our usual routines and assumptions have been challenged as our refuge in complacency and self-satisfaction has been shattered.

We could withdraw into a defensive posture, radical self-interested isolation, denial, and brutal self-preservation. Or we can accept this as a gift obliging self-reflection and honest reappraisal both of our relationship to our personal identity and its mode of operation and also of current social political systems in a way that opens us to solutions that reflect intelligent responsiveness and  encourage us to embrace efforts at radical re-alignment of economic-social-political structures to reflect an ethic of the greatest benefit for all.

So in many ways, the challenges we are facing on a macro level: of how to “be in the world,” are directly parallel to those we face in our micro experience of how to “be in ourselves,”echoing lessons from our training in mind and awareness on the path of awakening.

Excerpted from a recent Zoom talk that Lama Drupgyu gave on the Covid19 crisis. To read a transcript or hear the entire recorded talk, contact Ocean Lum at

Lama Drupgyu Tenzin, a student of Kalu Rinpoche since 1972 and a monk from 1974 to 1995, participated in the first three-year retreat for Westerners from 1976 to 1980. He teaches yearly retreats and periodically gives talks at Sukhasiddhi Foundation.