First up, some cold numbers.
As of 10th of August 2020, more that 20.2 million people have been afflicted by the novel corona virus, which have resulted in 7.40lack fatalities One of the most highly developed nations in the world, the USA leads the pack in terms of those afflicted. Meanwhile Russia has developed Sputnik V a vaccine to combat the disease.
Novel Corona virus or COVID-19 has entered the lexicon of everyday use. As per the most optimistic forecasts of virologists it would take a minimum of 16 to 24 months before a vaccine is anywhere on the horizon.
Erudite scientist, Stephen Hawking had advanced the argument that man would need a new planet to inhabit as they would have to counter nuclear warfare, climate change and biological warfare in the near future.
Did the English cricketer Jofra Archer in his prescient tweets predict the pandemic or was it mere coincidence?
But certainly, there are early references to pandemics in the Bible and treatises like the Yoga Vasishtha.
As per the Old Testament, as man was overcome with avarice and practised idolatry he earned the wrath of God. As a result ancient Egypt was afflicted with plague during the times of Moses.
Yoga Vasishtha is a dialogue between sage Vasishtha and Lord Rama, while Rama was a tutee of the sagacious sage. Apparently there was a female demon (rakshashi) who survived high in the Himalayas. Through rigorous penance she obtained a boon from the creator, Lord Brahma, to be able to metamorphose into the form of a needle. This needle or suchika afflicted humans in the heart, pulmonary tract and the spleen and normally survived in filth.
Today, as India braces with Lockdown 3.0, and there have been relaxations, man has once again turned religious and spiritual, beseeching the Almighty for succour. It only reflects the fickle nature of the human mind, this tendency to look for spiritual and religious solutions when sucked in the vortex of deep trouble.
As we grapple with the lockdown and continue to operate from the sanctuary of our dwelling places, humans need to differentiate between loneliness and solitude. How one responds to the enforced social distancing will decide whether we look upon this period as one of loneliness or one of solitude.
Loneliness will make us mental wrecks. We will not be joyous or loving rather become grumbly and develop antagonistic attitudes.
Serpentine queues formed outside liquor shops on the 4th of May, once they were opened after being garrisoned for over a month. Alcoholics and tipplers queued up and waited the entire day to buy the ‘stuff”. It was also reported in the media that those dependant on alcohol began to consume sanitizer during the lockdown period, adversely affecting their rehabilitation process and some of them even snuffing out their lives.
A lonely person invariably indulges in such an act out of sheer desperation. A person in solitude however would be centred and calm irrespective of the situation he confronts.
This loneliness needs to be transfigured and metamorphosed into solitude.
Solitude is a state of becoming antarmukhi; a state of being in harmony with the outer world while looking deep within in order to suffuse the mind with efficacious thoughts and draw on our inner reservoirs of energy.
As the country went into lockdown mode, people re-discovered yoga, pranayama and the deep silence of meditation. In that silence Indians cogitated on the sound of the Universe, the Soham Swarup of this majestic creation and a state of ‘thoughtlessness’.
So in the times of this pandemic savour the solitude. Take deep breaths and clear your mind of the shroud of cacophonous fear.
Wherever you are, just relax, relax, relax, rejuvenate your mind and body, connect with your families, learn new skill sets and crafts … discover the YOU in the silence.
H.H. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar the spiritual master has been regularly conducting online meditation everyday as have several others too. The techniques include various guided meditations and Yoga Nidra to soothe frayed nerves.
As gyms are shut down, and it is only now that some places are available for walks (unlike the migrant labour who undertook the ‘long walk’ to reach their destinations), yoga and pranayama have resurfaced for humans to strengthen their immune system. Irrespective of their religion people are practising Surya Namaskar, pranayama techniques like Bhastrika, Nadi Shodhan, Kapal Bhati and Brahmari.
In these times of adversity, nature is finally getting a chance to breathe freely. This ought to teach us to live in harmony with other species. But this is possible only if humans are not caught in the vortex of self-aggrandisement and acquisition.
At this crucial juncture of human history, man will need to dig deep and discover solutions from science, sound economics, cooperation and spirituality to chart a future that is in harmony with the environment.