The coronavirus pandemic has created a global crisis with far-reaching social, economical and spiritual repercussions. Our resilience during these challenging times will be tested not only by how we combat the spread of the virus but also how we make the best out of the circumstance. While it is important to take this pandemic seriously and act responsibly, it is definitely not the time to panic.
Beating the virus requires collective action. Everyone must follow the rules such as staying clean, washing the hands frequently, maintaining social distance and more. Initially, these might appear challenging but aren’t hard to practice. If you observe, these mannerisms have been part of many traditional cultures. The ancient philosophy of yoga lays a great deal of emphasis on cleanliness, not only of the body but also of the mind and the surroundings.
The first personal ethics of yoga or niyama is about cleanliness or saucha. Saucha, as enunciated in the Yoga Sutras of Maharishi Patanjali, advocates purity and cleanliness as a key foundation for yogic life. Saucha, in its deeper sense, also includes avoiding unnecessary physical contact and intimacy. The self-discipline of eating healthy and chemical-free food which keeps us clean from within is complementary to saucha. It also includes the discipline to sleep enough, work out, meditate, and the like — anything that leads to purification of our system. Making asanas, pranayamas and meditation an integral part of lifestyle can go a long way in boosting one’s immunity and keeping the coronavirus at bay.
The most important contribution we can make during these tumultuous times is to isolate ourselves to reduce the possibilities of contracting and transmitting the virus. Stay indoors, avoid travelling and going to public gatherings or community feasts. I would recommend even avoiding congregational prayers and rituals. Meditation and mental prayers are far superior and much more effective than rituals. Take the imposed social distancing or self-quarantine as an opportunity to slow down and go inward. It offers you space and time to focus on yourself, to reflect and reset your roles and goals. It is also an excuse to break the monotonous pattern of fast-paced life and indulge in some right-brain activities such as creative writing, cooking, playing music, painting or learning a language. It’s the time to move beyond the scenery and find the lost seer. It’s also the time to strike a balance between rest and activity. One who is always in rest doesn’t progress in life, and one who is always in activity misses the bliss of deep rest.
Social distancing is not a punishment. Silence and solitude are a potent means for personal growth and self-renewal. Many great works of the world have emerged out of solitude. Meditate more and use this forced solitude to improve your mental strength, creativity, empathy and productivity. Now that you are getting to spend more time with your family members, listen to them. Talk less and avoid arguments.
So far, India has done extremely well in combating the spread of coronavirus, but there is a lot more to do. During catastrophic events, people must care about each other and also share. The haves should resort to some austerity and spend the savings on those who are in dire needs. I urge all those who can afford, to take a pay cut and form endowments to take care of daily wage earners and low-income groups in their areas so that the economic burden is shared by society locally. Let’s reassure ourselves and others that there is enough humanity to take care of everyone.
This is a temporary phase of uncertainty. Mankind has fought against and prevailed over such threats before. We have overcome epidemics like SARS, Swine flu and bubonic plague in the past. Be assured that we will overcome this one too. I request everyone to desist from circulating unfounded information about the pandemic. While we need to be informed of what is happening, do not get obsessed with corona. Endless TV debates and mindless social media shares could add to the uncertainty and cause an upsurge of anxiety and panic.
Coronavirus is a catastrophe for the world but it is not the apocalypse. Despite the dark clouds of gloom, the silver lining is emerging bright enough to bring hope. This is what we need to focus on. The stories of birds chirping again in Wuhan or skies and water bodies clearing up as people stay indoors or people opening up their hearts to provide solace to those who are in need might not immediately compensate the losses brought about by the novel pandemic. But they do bring lasting reassurances of the good for the human race. For sure, this crisis will also leave the population more sensitised about cleanliness, personal hygiene and healthy ways of life.
Time indeed is a great healer. Let’s give time, time with patience, courage and compassion.
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar is a humanitarian leader, spiritual teacher and an ambassador of peace.