— Swami Narasimhananda —
These are testing times. Everything around us has suddenly become uncertain. The certainty of human fatality has never been more palpable. The only thing certain in our lives is that we have an expiry date as human bodies and that is being reminded to us in all its unpleasant starkness. Panic is eating into our comfortable lives. A virus, the Corona Covid-19 virus, which is an infinitesimally less complex and fine organism than the human being, has become the cause of disease, distress, and death. This virus has compelled us to question our aims and priorities in life. It is high time and an opportune moment for serious soul-searching.
A clear understanding of who we are and what we want helps us to face times of adversity like the present one. Are we mere structures of flesh, bone, blood, and filth? Or are we something beyond these perishable contraptions? Reminding ourselves who we really are is the best antidote to any episode of stress or panic. When Arjuna was afraid and deluded upon seeing his kith and kin in the enemy army of the Kauravas in the battlefield of Kurukshetra in the Mahabharata War and when he gave up his arms and desisted from fighting the war, the first thing Sri Krishna did was to remind Arjuna that he was not the body, but he was the Atman that cannot be killed by sword, burnt by fire, or dried by wind. This is how Sri Krishna’s instruction starts in the Bhagavadgita. When Swami Vivekananda saw India bound in foreign slavery having forgotten her glorious past and slumbering in unquestioning submission to all alien traditions and customs, he gave the clarion call culled from the Katha Upanishad: ‘Arise, Awake, and stop not till the goal is reached!’ Swamiji emphasised the invincible nature of the Atman, which is the true nature of all of us, and Indians, who pondered upon his words were instrumental in reviving India’s glory and finding her freedom.
The certainty of human fatality has never been more palpable.
Reminding our true nature is exactly what we need to do now to fight the Corona Virus. We are not mere bodies or mere minds even. We are the Atman, a reading of the ultimate truth, the Brahman. We exist eternally, we have infinite bliss, and unlimited consciousness. The history of humankind is nothing but a microscopic dot in the eternality of Atman. Every human being has seen thousands of lifetimes, has incarnated over and again as lowly life-forms to intelligent birds and animals. The present birth is only a passing station in our journey to the destination of understanding that we are Brahman.
When Arjuna asks Sri Krishna what are the qualities of a person who has realised one’s true nature, Sri Krishna’s answers have one cardinal aspect—the external circumstances do not affect one who knows one’s true nature of being the Atman. But what about those who are not aware of one’s true nature? That which is the sign or quality of a person established in Brahman is the practice for an aspirant wanting to be established in Brahman. Knowing full well that we are eternal in our true nature, we should be calm and composed in responding to the external circumstances. To fight the virus outside, we have to first be aware of the virus of ignorance of our true nature that we carry with us every time.
One has to diligently follow the guidelines for protecting one’s body and preventing the spread of the Corona Virus. All this we have to do without panicking and also without making fun of the situation. We have to be empathetic to the suffering caused by the virus but also aware of the eventual impermanence of this universe. We have to follow the science to manage the spread of the virus, but we have to be always aware of our spiritual reality. All massive human suffering has made us think deep about the human condition. World War II gave birth to many thought systems that analyse human life and its relation to the universe.
The Corona Virus has reminded all human beings that they are united by their being susceptible to all human failings. It has reminded us that death unites us. The virus does not discriminate and thus brings home the message of the intrinsic equality of all human beings. It has reminded us of the inevitability of the impermanent. The perishable will perish. That is why it is called the perishable. Our bodies are perishable. This should not come as a surprise to us.
Swamiji said that the apparent in this universe, also called maya, is nothing but a statement of facts. The factual has to be accepted. There is nothing much we can do about facts. We might record them, write commentaries on them, or draw inferences from them, but facts cannot be changed. However, what is factual today becomes history tomorrow. Today’s fact takes the place of yesterday’s fact. Facts are like the flitting images on a movie screen. That is why they are true representations of maya. One cannot deny facts but they are not real because they keep on changing. One cannot deny maya but it is not real because it keeps on changing. The Corona Virus is a statement of fact but it does not define who we are. We need not panic because this virus is not greater than our nature. We need to manage it and follow all instructions for its management in letter and spirit because we need bodies to function and these instructions are needed to keep the bodies alive and healthy.
It is quite important in these uncertain times for us to be rooted in the truth that we are not bodies or minds, but the eternal Brahman. This rootedness will give us tremendous courage and wisdom to be calm and collected in this time of crisis. We have to constantly remember that such times are opportunities to examine ourselves to see how much we have imbibed the teachings of the Upanishads that we are not bodies and minds. These are times when God tests our faith. It is in times of crises that we find out the extent of our faith and dependence on God. The wisdom that God or Brahman alone is real and all the names and forms of this universe are unreal will help us sail smoothly through this test of faith.
When our bodies and minds are not permanent or eternal, how can a virus that endangers the body be permanent? This is only a passing phase. If the body has to perish because of a virus, it will. If the body has to conquer the onslaughts of this virus, it will. Neither the defeat or the conquest of the body will remain. What will remain in the next lifetime is the knowledge that our true nature is beyond defeats and conquests, that it is beyond the lifecycle of a virus, however great or dangerous the virus might be. Let us all remind ourselves of our true nature of being the children of God, of being of the nature of Brahman and transcend this virus.
One thought on “Rooted in the Truth”
SHREE GANESA SARADA GURUBHYO NAMAHAH
Times and climes are neither better nor worse. The world is going through a pandemic situation, that of SARS-2/Covid-19 virus. The entire or almost the entire humanity reels under the silent onslaught of the said virus. One (can) understand(s) the Nation-State(N-S) Governments and the respective Medical Establishments and the peoples fighting back the virus with all the might in hand and asking the peoples to comply with personal hygiene and other health protocols which are basically individual-compliances such as physical distancing, social non-aggregation, face-mouth protection, etc;. It is necessary that we should follow all the prescribed health protocols to protect our body as ‘Shareera’ is the first vehicle of fulfilling our ‘Dharma’ as per the aphorism ‘SHAREERAMAADYAM KHALU DHARMASADHANAM’. Shree Patanjali Rishi’s Yoga Soothra lists ‘Shoucha’ as the first ‘Upaanga’ under ‘Yama’ and prescribes ‘Aasana’ and ‘Pranayaama’.
Also, both as a short-term approach and long-term measure-Nation -State Governments, along with the Private Sector, are now on a Research and Development (R&D) phase in producing a vaccine to provide active acquired immunity to the particular infectious disease.
But it is in such pandemic situation(s) that we have to keep ourselves protected from scaremongering and self-fearing. How this can be done. While Empirical History comes in handy, Self-Knowledge gives us the Supreme Protection. This might seem either as trite or as odd. Again, it is at this time, we have to be reflective, both empirically (VyAvahArika-thala) and transcendentally (PAramArThika-thala).
Empirically speaking, each of the 1918,1957-58,1968 and 2009 pandemic epidemic recorded higher fatalities. Still the world and humanity recovered and moved on. In the present Covid-19 virus situation (infection and) fatalities are/may be because of existing co-morbidities, lack of adequate medical attention and other attendant disabling circumstances and compounded by an indifference, particularly in Europe and Americas, out of a kind of irreverent Post-Modernism. A part of the fear, particularly at the psychological level, is also because of this sceptical Post-Modernism. But again, as a silver-line, at the Plebian level, the common people are not overly fearful; they are only, rightly so, worried over their and their families’ day-to-day life.When a part of ‘Prakriti’ strikes back vehemently as a reaction because of certain sections of the humanity committing acts of Adharma, the tragic effect is that a larger part of humanity gets adversely affected; that is the ‘Law of Samashti Karma’. But then the larger and protective dimension of ‘Prakriti’ will, after a period of time, restore a new dynamic balance. This is the law of Nature. Larger-interest-cum- Objective assessment make or force authorities, communities, families and individuals to re-purpose, re-prioritise and re-order the micro and macro lives based on the ‘Principles and Values of Dharma’. That is ‘Life’, ‘Fulfilment’ and ‘Evolution’. Viktor Frankl, the great Austrian-born psychiatrist and neurologist, who personally suffered and survived four concentration camps in World War-2, believed that even in the midst of dehumanizing and atrocious conditions, suffering had a purpose and that life still had meaning. According to him, even during extreme physical circumstances, a person could survive, through his or her spiritual-self, seemingly unbearable conditions. He believed the spiritual self could not be affected by external forces. Even at the VyAvahArika-thala, by being objective which is to be also universal in the spirit of ‘Advaita’,one can understand fear and manifest forth inherent values and take recourse to attitudes and actions within the Law of Morality, i.e., ‘DHARMA’-such as taking self and mutual responsibility within the family, keeping commitments, forgiveness, caring and sharing, learning and re-learning, self-respect and deference, humility and confidence, larger involvement, etc.,- here a question arises-is this possible? The answer is that this is possible to a large extent because each one expects all these (and more) from the rest. As a beginning, one can comply with these values and attitudes and actions within the family. From a general point of view, one can start or restart the practice of ,say, music, drawing,writing,etc.,.To be more concrete and pointed, on the proto-Spiritual and Spiritual domain, one can do Aasana, Pranayaama,Svādhyāya,Japa, Bhajan etc., The latter can be practiced individually or collectively. All these, particularly the latter, will cleanse the mind of the set of impurities which is the source of existential fear.
All the above said and done, only the Knowledge of PAramArThika Satya (Supreme/Absolute Reality) alone that can guide, inform, teach and protect each one of us from any seemingly/empirically depressing, frustrating, fearful situation like, say, the present Covid-19 virus one. The PAramArThika Satya understands, but at the same time, transcends the VyAvahArika Satya. The living-breathing physical body, as it is, will at one point of time dissolve into it’s individual elements notwithstanding Covid-19 virus. Even from the Physics-Chemistry point of view,’ ‘Energy’ and ‘Matter’ can’t be created or destroyed. They change from one form to another. While the individual in his present living-breathing body ceases to exist, the ‘I’ Consciousness continues to exist forever. This is like a person, after undergoing and coming out of medical surgery, saying(recollecting) that he was ‘unaware’ of the pain and process of the surgery at the ‘real time’ of surgery taking place. How can he ‘recollect’ (t)his ‘unawareness’ unless there is the ‘Consciousness’ ‘witnessing’, but not undergoing, the surgery. The ‘pure’ ‘I’ of yesterday continues to be the ‘pure’ ‘I’ of today and hence, logically, of tomorrow which (yesterday, today and tomorrow which just simply alternate among themselves) are only relative and hence arbitrary points of imaginary time. If the ‘I’ says that it does not exist post-dissolution of this living physical body, then again it is the ‘I’ which presently says so about it’s futuristic non-existence. If the ‘I’ says that it does exist post-dissolution of this living physical body, then again it is the present-futuristic ‘I’ which says so. This means the pure ‘I’, at the present moment itself, can imagine and project itself as the ‘I’ Consciousness into the endless eternity. This unique-universalistic reflective Advaitic visualisation immediately shreds to pieces the (non) existential fear of whatever type including that of Covid-19 virus.
Swami Vivekananda says to the effect that there is no place for fear in Vedanta.
The Upanishadic Rishi declares and addresses the humanity as ‘Amrithasya Putrahah’ in the Mantra:
“युजे वां ब्रह्म पूर्व्यं नमोभिर्विश्लोक
एतु पथ्येव सूरेः ।
शृण्वन्तु विश्वे अमृतस्य पुत्रा आ ये
धामानि दिव्यानि तस्थुः ॥
GeethaAcharya JagadGuru Bhagawan Sree Krishna categorically declares in श्रीमद्भगवद्गीता, inter-alia, the following:
न त्वेवाहं जातु नासं न त्वं नेमे जनाधिपाः ।
न चैव न भविष्यामः सर्वे वयमतः परम् ॥ 2-12
देहिनोऽस्मिन्यथा देहे कौमारं यौवनं जरा ।
तथा देहान्तरप्राप्तिर्धीरस्तत्र न मुह्यति || 2-13
मात्रास्पर्शास्तु कौन्तेय शीतोष्णसुखदुःखदाः ।
आगमापायिनोऽनित्यास्तांस्तितिक्षस्व भारत ॥ 2-14
नासतो विद्यते भावो नाभावो विद्यते सतः ।
उभयोरपि दृष्टोऽन्तस्त्वनयोस्तत्त्वदर्शिभिः ॥ 2-16
न जायते म्रियते वा कदाचिन्
नायं भूत्वा भविता वा न भूयः ।
अजो नित्यः शाश्वतोऽयं पुराणो
न हन्यते हन्यमाने शरीरे ॥ 2-20
वासांसि जीर्णानि यथा विहाय
नवानि गृह्णाति नरोऽपराणि ।
तथा शरीराणि विहाय जीर्णा-
न्यन्यानि संयाति नवानि देही ॥ 2-22
नैनं छिन्दन्ति शस्त्राणि नैनं दहति पावकः ।
न चैनं क्लेदयन्त्यापो न शोषयति मारुतः ॥ 2-23
अच्छेद्योऽयमदाह्योऽयमक्लेद्योऽशोष्य एव च ।
नित्यः सर्वगतः स्थाणुरचलोऽयं सनातनः ॥ 2-24
अथ चैनं नित्यजातं नित्यं वा मन्यसे मृतम् ।
तथापि त्वं महाबाहो नैनं शोचितुमर्हसि ॥ 2-26
जातस्य हि ध्रुवः मृत्युः ध्रुवम् जन्म मृतस्य च ।
तस्मात् अपरिहार्ये अर्थे न त्वम् शोचितुम् अर्हसि ॥ 2-27
देही नित्यमवध्योऽयं देहे सर्वस्य भारत ।
तस्मात्सर्वाणि भूतानि न त्वं शोचितुमर्हसि ॥ 2-30
दुःखेष्वनुद्विग्नमनाः सुखेषु विगतस्पृहः ।
वीतरागभयक्रोधः स्थितधीर्मुनिरुच्यते ॥ 2-56
So surrendering to Guru and Eswara and being rooted in ‘TRUTH’,one can understand and transcend the fear of the present situation and do one’s own duty at various levels along complying fully with the health protocols and guidelines issued by the National and State Governments.
JagadGuru Bhagavan Sree Krishna exhorts us to follow and comply with the following:-
सहजं कर्म कौन्तेय सदोषमपि न त्यजेत् ।
सर्वारम्भा हि दोषेण धूमेनाग्निरिवावृताः ॥18-48