What should be a spiritual seeker's response to Corona Pandemic? Many have asked me this question in the last few days. Bhagavad Geeta was given in the battle-field where there was a war between Dharma & Adharma. Here are 2 tips from each chapter of the Bhagavad Geeta to fight the Corona Pandemic successfully.
Geeta Chapter 1
- Arjuna was caught unaware. He was not prepared for this crisis. He had acquired skills for the war but did not prepare emotionally to handle his own attachments and he was overwhelmed by them. He underestimated the crisis and the fact that this time he did not have to defeat the opponents but actually destroy them.
We have to understand the gravity of the Corona Crisis. Neither underestimate it nor overestimate it and panic. Many countries like Italy, Iran etc. are paying the price of not being alert and of underestimating the Corona crisis. The countries who took precautions have been able to contain the spread of the Virus - Hongkong, Singapore, Taiwan etc. India has been alert and we should aid the Govt. in all efforts to contain the spread by all adequate measures required, including social distancing. We are at a crucial stage right now. The next few weeks are extremely critical. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/india-enters-critical-phase-in-fight-against-covid-19/articleshow/74665879.cms
- The first chapter of the Geeta is full of justifications and excuses of Arjuna why he does not want to fight the war. There are many people who are still giving lame excuses and justifications in the name of not panicking, and are not taking enough care. Inspite of strict instructions not to gather in public and not to have social functions etc. some people are taking it casually. Some are hosting / attending public programmes, organising social events at home etc.
“Everything we do before a pandemic will seem alarmist. Everything we do after a pandemic will seem inadequate.” This is the dilemma we face, but it should not stop us from doing what we need to do.
Importance of Social distancing can be viewed here where it clearly shows how an exponential growth in cases happens if we do not take enough precautions - https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2020/world/corona-simulator/
Another very well researched article which emphasises the steps we need to take - https://medium.com/@tomaspueyo/coronavirus-act-today-or-people-will-die-f4d3d9cd99ca
Geeta Chapter 2
- In the 7th verse, Arjuna surrenders with humility and becomes open to instructions(Shishyaste aham shaadhi maam tvaam prapannam). We must learn to take precautions and identify symptoms:
- Remember the Immortal, Indestructible and Imperishable nature of the Self(Atma) and derive strength from it. (Verse 23 -Nainam Chindanti Shashtrani…. Weapons cannot cleave it, fire cannot burn it, water cannot wet it and wind cannot dry it.). Do not give-in to fear or fear-mongering. Fear brings down our immunity.
Geeta Chapter 3
- Do your obligatory duties(Verse 8 - Niyatam Kuru Karma Tvam). Do not avoid obligatory duties in the name of not panicking. Eg. Washing hands again and again in normal circumstances could be an example of OCD(Obsessive Compulsive Disorder). But in Corona Virus situation, it is an obligatory duty.
Exercising is obligatory. If we cannot go to the GYM or Parks or Beach etc. find other ways to do exercise at home. Yoga, Zumba, Stretches, Treadmill@home etc. can be done.
Cancelling programmes, classes, events or shifting them to online, to avoid public gatherings is a duty, not a sign of panic. Incase you have a doubt if you did the right thing by cancelling, please read this article that was tweeted by Barack Obama: https://www.vox.com/2020/3/10/21171481/coronavirus-us-cases-quarantine-cancellation If you still haven’t cancelled some of the public events / shut places where public can gather, then please do it now. Better to be safe, than sorry.
- Mutually co-operating with each other we can attain the highest(Verse 11 - Parasparam Bhavayantah Shreyah Paramavapsyatha). Individuals, families, religious organisations, Large Corporations, SMEs, Doctors, Schools, Entertainment industries, Malls, Govts…..Everyone has to come together and support each other and not indulge in blame game. We are together in this. What we do affects everyone else - positively and negatively. What happens to others will also affect us equally. Vedanta says we are all connected. Remember the concepts of Virat, Hiranyagarbha & Ishwara? This is the time to apply them.
Dedicate this for the well-being of yours, your family, community, country and world at large. This is called Yagna-spirit(Verse9 - Tadartham karma kaunteya muktasangah samachara). Economic crisis, banking crisis, corona crisis…..Everyone is going through tough times. This is the time to be Selfless, Caring & Understanding. Google has set up fund to offer paid sick leave to contractors and temp workers who can't work due to COVID-19 symptoms or quarantines. We must realise the value of our most important and irreplaceable asset - human beings. We can be caring in our own ways. If we can’t set up funds like them, we can atleast have conversations with our employees/workers/everyone who is a help at home/work etc. and support them in whatever way we can - financially, emotionally etc. They would understand and appreciate it.
Geeta Chapter 4
- Offer all functions of the senses and the functions of the breath in the fire of the Yoga of Self-restraint, kindled by knowledge.(Verse 27 - Sarvani-Indiriya-Karmani Prana Karmani Chapare Atma-samyama yogaagnau juhvati jnana deepite ). We learn about sense control, mind control, withdrawal, forbearance, faith and absorption(Shatka-Sampatti in Vedanta). This is the right time to invoke all these 6 qualities and live in self-control. Avoid touching the face with the hands(Dama). Let the mind be calm(Shama). Make good use of the time by reducing socialising and going out(Uparama). It may be uncomfortable to be home bound. But have forbearance(Titiksha). Have faith in the Higher(Shraddha) & Absorb yourself(Samadhana) in the following: Work from home. Develop a hobby. Catch up on sleep. Get quality “Me-Time”. Spend time with the immediate family….. Take it as a positive step rather than a restriction imposed by some authority.
- One who has faith discovers the Supreme.(Verse 39 - Shraddhavaan labhate Jnanam Tatparah samyatendriyaha Jnanam labdhvaa paraam-shantim achirenadhi gacchati). Faith is the antidote of fear. Invoke more and more faith in yourself, in the Supreme, in the Guru-parampara and the time-tested wisdom of Vedanta. Brave die but once. Cowards, every moment.
Geeta Chapter 5
- Be detached like the Lotus leaf(Verse 10 - Brahmani adhaya karmani…..Lipyate na sa paapena Padma-patram ivambhasa). Do the best and leave the rest. Do not be obsessed the whole day with Corona Virus. Focus on positive aspects.
- With the whole being(Body, Mind & Intellect) seek a Higher Purpose / Supreme.(Verse 17 - Tad-buddhayah Tad-Atmanaha Tannishtha Tatparayanaha). Higher the goal, greater the inspiration. In the absence of a Higher purpose, our mind becomes petty. The Higher purpose can be maintaining Equanimity, being Selfless, doing Service, cultivating Purity of mind, discovering Freedom etc.
Geeta Chapter 6
- Lift yourself by yourself. No one else can do it for you. (Verse 5 - Uddharet Atmana-Atmanam Na atmanam avasadayet). Already the spirits of people are low. Don’t add to it. Be the One who empowers and inspires oneself and others. Be careful of what you forward on social media. Many fake news and forwards are doing rounds.
- Be calm, fearless and established in self-control. Emotionally tune-up to the Divine through Meditation.(Verse 14 - Prashant-Atma Vigata-bhihi Brahmachari-Vrate Stitaha Manah Samyamya Macchitaha Yukta Asita matparaha). We have Freaked-out enough. This is the opportune time to “FREAK-IN”. Meditate daily. Sleep well so that your immunity is stronger and you can meditate well too.(Verse 17- Yukta Svapna-Avabodhasya yogo bhavati dukhaha)
Geeta Chapter 7
- We all are like different pearls strung together in a necklace, bound by a common thread.(Verse 7 - Sutre Manigana iva). Be proud of the efforts that India has taken to rescue not only Indians stranded in China, Iran etc. but also helped the citizens of other nations, including our neighbours. We respect everyone as manifestations of the Divine and greet each other with Namaste - implying that I salute the Divinity in You. Today the whole world has adapted Namaste to greet each other. Watch a video of Swami Chinmayananda on Namaste.
- The strength of the strong that is devoid of selfishness and attachment is the manifestation of the Divine.(Verse 11 - Balam Balavatam chaaham Kamaraaga vivarjitam) So many people including all the health workers, Govt. workers, airport and airline staff, transport workers, army, many others are serving in these difficult times, risking their own health and safety. Say a prayer for them and their families. Say a prayer for everyone’s well-being and strength.
Sarve Bhavantu Sukhinaha.
Sarve Santu Niramayaha.
Sarve Bhadrani Pashyantu.
Ma Kashchit Dukha Bhak Bhavet.
May everyone be happy.
May everyone be free from diseases.
May everyone see the Auspicious.
May no one suffer.
Geeta Chapter 8
- Remember the Lord and do the duty.(Verse 7 - Maam anusmara yudhya cha) Do not neglect or postpone the spiritual practices. The Lord did not say in the Geeta Remember me after your duty. He said Remember Me and do the duty. It is simultaneous. Not sequential. Derive strength by remembering the Supreme.
Chant Hanuman chalisa / Mrityunjaya Mantra/ Shanti Mantras /OM…..Prayers in any language/culture. Prayer has great strength. Do not underestimate it
- There are two paths by which the Jivatma(Embodied soul) travels after dropping the body. One is the Solar path(Path of no return) and the other is the Lunar path(Path of return) - (Verse 26 - Shukla-Krishne gati hyete jagatah shashvate mate.…) There are many who have passed on due to this virus. Pray that they may get Satgati/ Rest In Peace. Many Eastern Religions do not believe in Rest in Peace(RIP). We believe that till the Jivatma does not realize the Self, one takes new bodies as per one’s karma. Hence pray for departed appropriately.
Geeta Chapter 9
- The Lord takes care of what we need and protects what we have.(Verse 22 - Yogakshemam Vahamyaham) Have faith in the Lord, remember the Lord and Surrender all anxieties.
- My Devotee shall not perish.(Verse 31 - Na me Bhaktah Pranashyati) The Lord loves all and protects all. Even those who have departed, the Grace of the Lord is with them.
Geeta Chapter 10
- Of all knowledge Im the Spiritual Knowledge (Verse 32 - Adhyatma Vidya Vidyanam). Spend time in developing Spiritual Strength. At times of crisis, we need spiritual quotient. Its not enough to be good and do good. Its important to be Spiritually anchored along with it, to overcome all crisis with calmness.
- Of all Spiritual practices, I am Japa(Verse 25 - Yajnanam Japa Yagnosmi). Mantra Japa is a powerful practice in all cultures. Choose a mantra. Daily chant the mantra for a fixed quantity and if possible, at the same time of the day.
Geeta Chapter 11
- I am the Time that is engaged in devouring the world.(Verse 32 - Kaalosmi lokakshayakrt pravrddhaha). The devotee sees the Lord even in the most challenging times. The Lord is the Creator, Sustainer & Destroyer. It is His will alone that prevails.
- The Lord is the Doer. We are only instruments. (Verse 33 - Nimitta maatram bhava savyasachin). We can be noble instruments in the Divine Hands and serve as much as we can.
Geeta Chapter 12
- Strive out of peace and contentment. Not out of anxiety and stress. Be determined and work hard. (Verse 14- Santushtah satatam yogi yataatma dridhanishchayaha…) We shall overcome…
- One who does not disturb the world and is not disturbed by the world, is the dearest to the Supreme.(Verse 15 - Yasmaan na udvijate lokaha lokan na udvijate ca yaha). Remain calm and composed. Watch a talk on "Calm Amidst Chaos"
Geeta Chapter 13
- Reflect upon the pains of birth, death, oldage & disease(Verse 8 - Janma-Mrityu-jaraa-vyadhi-dukha-dosha-anudarshanam) Develop detachment from the body. Reduce the body identification by constant reflection on the pain associated with it. Sharira means that which is perishing and perishable.
- Spend time in solitude and give up(temporarily) gathering together (Verse 10 - Vivikta-desha-sevitvam aratih jana-samsadi)
Geeta Chapter 14
- Sattva is characterised by Purity, Brilliance, Freedom from Diseases, Knowledge & Happiness(Verse 6 - Tatra sattvam nirmalatvat prakashakam anamayam sukhasangena jnanasangena) Cultivate Sattva Guna more and more as a seeker. Be free from psychosomatic diseases, operate out of strength and remain cheerful. Rajas is characterised by attachment, restlessness & Greed(Verse 7 - Rajo ragatmakam viddhi). Tamas is characterised by Ignorance, delusion, carelessness, indulgence, procrastination etc.(Verse 8 - Tamastu ajnanajam viddhi… pramaada alasya nidraabhih) Drop the harmful aspects of Rajas and Tamas as a seeker for your safety and others’ safety.
- Sattvik ones rise higher. Rajasic ones remain mediocre. Tamasic ones devolve.(Verse 18 - Urdhvam gacchanti sattvasthaha..) Sattvik Seeker follows precautions. Rajasik one resists precautions and Tamasic ones indulge in prohibited actions and suffer. In life here and hereafter, one who is light rises higher. Sattva makes us rise high in all ways - economically, socially, physically, emotionally, intellectually, spiritually etc. It brings success without stress.
Geeta Chapter 15
- The deluded ones don’t perceive the threat. The wise ones do. (Verse 10 - Vimudhah nanu pashyanti pashyanti jnana-chakshushaha)
- The Vaishvanara-Agni(metabolic fire) in us which digests the food, is the Lord’s presence in us(Verse 15-Aham vaishvanaro bhutva praninam deham ashritaha). Pray & Invoke gratitude before eating and know that the Lord nurtures, nourishes and protects us. Eat mindfully.
Geeta Chapter 16
- There are those who will not maintain cleanliness, good conduct and Truthfulness(Verse 7 - Na saucham na api ca acharaha na satyam teshu vidyate) Out of fear, one may hide the symptoms or refuse to get tested or even worse, escape the treatment. This puts everyone else also at risk.
- One should follow the time-tested wisdom of the wise and engage in the do’s and don’ts prescribed by them(Verse 24 - Tasmaat shastram pramanam te karya-akarya vyavasthitau). One should consult authentic sources and follow their advice and not believe in anything and everything that is unverified or forwarded. Eg. Should one wear a mask or not. Refer to this site - https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public/when-and-how-to-use-masks?fbclid=IwAR2QgY57cQ12LTeTrl5fLLFgbuM-koEK_MD80D4-OYx18X-mDUvpXxAzO_Y
Geeta Chapter 17
- Eat more of Sattvik food which increases longevity, strength, health, happiness & love(Verse 8 - Ayuh sattva-bala-arogya-sukha-preeti vivardhanah). Food which is juicy, lubricating, stabilising and which is good for the heart is sattvik. Eat food that boosts your immunity. All major meals should be balanced with Carbs, proteins, fats & fibre. Take Vitamin C. Drink Turmeric milk.
- Conserve the vitality of the body. At the physical level to live in complete non-violence while making food choices is impossible. What we can do is minimise the violence. Hence the insistence in spirituality on Vegetarian diet. It is a form of physical penance. (Verse 14 -Brahmacharyam ahimsa ca shaariram tapa-uchyate)
Geeta Chapter 18
- Develop fortitude and forbearance. That fortitude which inspires us to control the senses, vital energy and mind for a noble purpose is the Sattvik Fortitude.(Verse 33 - Dhrtyaa yayaa dhaarayate manah pranendriyakriyah… dhritih sa partha sattviki) Tough times don’t last, tough people do. Be tough and strong. Be a hero/Master, not a victim of circumstances.
- Where spiritual strength and disciplined dynamism are there; prosperity, success and glory will definitely be achieved.(Verse 78 - Yatra yogeshwarah krishnaha yatra partho dhanurdharaha tatra shrihi vijayo bhutihi)
"Alertness is the price you pay for freedom. Alert and vigilant living is a sadhana by itself." - Swami Chinmayananda. Let us invoke the spiritual alertness & strength, intellectual clarity, mental calmness, & physical disciplines to come out of this crisis stronger.