Rev. Ron, what do you say to someone when they sneeze?
There are a variety of explanations for why people say “God bless you” or “bless you” when someone sneezes. Among them is the belief that it is said to prevent the devil from stealing your soul because it once was believed that a sneeze separates the soul from the body.
According to Wikipedia, National Geographic reports that during the plague of AD 590, “Pope Gregory I ordered unceasing prayer for divine intercession.
“Part of his command was that anyone sneezing be blessed immediately (‘God bless you’), since sneezing was often the first sign that someone was falling ill with the plague.” By AD 750, it became customary to say ‘God bless you’ as a response to one sneezing.
The other common response to a sneeze is “gesundheit,” which means to wish someone good health when they sneeze and hopefully to forestall the illness that the sneeze portends.
But these explanations don’t relate to any Buddhist beliefs or those in Asian cultures and, thus, as a Shin Buddhist, there is no need for a “blessing” when someone sneezes. But as an American, it is certainly appropriate to respond to a sneeze with a “bless you” or “gesundheit” out of cultural politeness—just realize that it is not a Buddhist thing.