Dec. 6, 2020 Zoom Sermon

Texans take football seriously. There was a high school football game on Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020, between the Edinburg High Bobcats and the Pharr-San Juan-Alamo High Bears where an incident occurred. It happened in the second quarter of the game. Edinburg was leading PSJA, 21 to 14. Let me describe what I saw on tape. PSJA was playing offense, while Edinburg was on defense. The quarterback of PSJA threw a pass which fell to the ground, incomplete. There Edinburg’s defensive lineman Number 88 proceeded to rough the passer after the play was blown dead. Then, Number 88 exchanged a few words with an official.

The head referee stood in the middle of the field and announced that Number 88 of Edinburg was charged with two infractions: a personal foul for roughing the passer after the play was done, and for unsportsmanlike conduct for arguing with an official. Then, the head referee announced that Number 88 was disqualified and ejected him from the game. With penalties called, everyone assumed that the game would recommence after the ball was spotted. But, out of nowhere, Number 88 who was on the sidelines started running on to the field, with his coaches chasing him. No one could figure what Number 88’s intentions were, but everyone could sense the rage within him. In full speed, Number 88 blindsided the head referee, knocking him over with immense force. While the referee lay hurt on the ground, coaches and players on the Edinburg team tried frantically to hold Number 88 at bay. Officials and other coaches tried desperately to deescalate the situation.

The referee is a 59-year-old veteran of 27 years. His name is Fred Gracia. I watched the video over and over, and he was literally tossed into the air, and came crashing down. He could not see any of it coming. He was struck so brutally that he laid there on the field for several minutes, and needed to be carted off. He never reentered the game, to be hospitalized with undisclosed injuries. But, while still on the field, he was examined for a concussion and a shoulder.

Number 88 happens to be one of Edinburg High’s star athletes. His name is Emmanuel Duron. He is eighteen, and a senior.

Duron was arraigned at the Edinburg Municipal Court and charged with a Class A assault the next day. A Class A

assault is a misdemeanor. Bond was set at $10,000. If convicted, he could be punished for up to 1 year in county jail, along with a fine of up to $4000. Duron may have been on course to an illustrious career in sports, but this incident will certainly raise a dark cloud over it.

What this high school student athlete did was absolutely atrocious. First of all, it showed that this person had no control of his emotions. But, more importantly, this incident

Duron happens to be the reigning District 31-6A

Defensive Player of the Year. This season, Duron led his team in both tackles (102) and

sacks (8). He is also the team’s kicker and punter. He even successfully completed a 51-

yard field goal last month. Duron also happens to be Edinburg’s star wrestler.

These distinctions are impressive, but they may not matter anymore. Duron was booked

at the Hidalgo County Jail on assault charges on Friday.

exposed the faultiness of his reasoning or complete lack of it. His choice of placing blame on the referee was clearly illogical. What was the cause of the two penalties in question? It was not the referee’s fault. The initial point of his problems was that he roughed the passer; and, when it was pointed out, he made the unwise decision of arguing with an official about the call. The cause of these penalties originated from none other than Emmanuel Duron. Had Duron not taken the action that he did, he would not have been penalized. When the principal referee charged Duron with these penalties and threw him out of the game, Duron made another mistake of somehow transferring blame on to the referee. Knocking down the referee is certainly an immature choice, but he was led to it by his faulty logic. Had Duron retraced the events of his actions correctly, it would have led him to charge at the official.

If we are not careful, redirecting blame upon developments or on to those who have nothing to do with the cause of our pain can become habitual. The head referee did nothing to create Number 88’s problems. The referee exists solely to maintain order and equity between opposing teams. He is not there to favor one team over another.

How does this relate to spirituality and the Buddha? I am not certain how many times people have asked me, “Why must I suffer so?” “Why does the Buddha do this to me?” And, it is my pain to have to explain to them that it is not the Buddha’s fault. The Buddha’s role is somewhat similar to Fred Gracia, the head official. The Buddha oversees aspects of our world with which we have no power to control. The Buddha does not affect individual results, be they construed as good or bad by us.

Let us take the coronavirus vaccine as an example. Happily, we now have two effective vaccines, one from Pfizer and another from Moderna. Possibly, there will be another from Johnson & Johnson which will be equally as effective. Some people may believe that it was God or the Buddha that brought us the vaccine. No, the Buddha did not research and develop the vaccine. It was created by men, the fine researchers that we have working day and night. Where then is the Buddha’s contribution? The Buddha would be involved in instilling in men and women, the purpose and inspiration of attaining a vaccine to fight COVID-19, to motivate them towards good, to initiate, and to insure that they can keep working until a vaccine is available. Just having the vaccine in possession would be pointless if enough people avoided getting injected with the vaccine because they had no confidence in its safety. Belief in the efficacy and safety of the vaccine is actually intimately connected with our belief in people and society. The word and example of great doctors like Dr. Anthony Fauci will be the key to encourage people to get this vaccine themselves. Trust and assurance in people is not innate. It needs to be nurtured. For most of us, this trust is instilled within us by our family through our upbringing. Trust in one’s family is analogous to trust in the teachings of the Buddha. The Buddha’s teaching of truth and compassion can offer a guiding light that translates into confidence in the vaccine. The vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna have already been shown to have a 95% efficacy. Once again, this efficacy was attained by our very competent researchers. Where does the Buddha come in? The Buddha becomes relevant in terms of how the vaccine’s efficacy can be maintained in an equitable manner, by insisting on conditions such that the vaccine’s

95% efficacy will be maintained from one person to the next regardless of our wealth, age, race, ethnicity, sex, or sexual preference.

The Buddha, in other words, is a purveyor of the macrosystem of processes, such that the laws of physics will not change from one country to another, or that a mother’s love for her child will be as deep as the next generation’s love for their child, or that one’s treatment of another should be the same from one person to the next. The Buddha maintains universal laws. When we humans follow these universal laws, we are in harmony. When we ignore these universals, there is a great possibility that we will find ourselves in trouble. The Buddhist principle of causation is one such example. Number 88’s inability to subscribe to causation placed him in potential jeopardy. Unable to see that his perils were of his own doing, he then turned to laying blame on someone else, incriminating himself further.

(Eisei Ikenaga)