A more refined humanity
DR. V. RAMAKANTHA is a former Indian Forest Service officer and member of the Green Kanha Initiative at the Heartfulness Community’s Meditation Center at Kanha Shanti Vanam in India. Having spent most of his working life living in forests and jungles, in tune with the natural world, his slant on our current corona crisis is steeped in nature and also in the stories and traditions of ancient India.
While people around the world are worried that shaking hands, hugging and kissing might help spread the virus, the Indian traditional greeting of ‘Namaste’ comes in handy. Even Prince Charles and President Trump have popularized it as a fashionable corona greeting!
When we fold our hands in greeting, it is to communicate that “You and I are one and the same, sparks of the same Divinity; and I salute the Divinity within you.” When the world appreciates this greeting with folded hands, it is likely to stay even after the threat of the virus vanishes.
The slowdown and shut down of activities we are facing also offer us an opportunity to ponder over some basic issues. There has never been a paucity of wise people, sages and philosophers around the globe who can influence society by their reflections on the purpose and goal of human life. Ancient Indian literature, about which I am familiar, is replete with analyses, stories and metaphors concerning the transient nature of human life on Earth. Also, Indians, like other Asians, stand out in having no compunction in talking about life and death in the same breath! In a way, this nonchalant attitude helps us deal with the corona crisis.
Here, the story of ‘The Woman and the Buddha’ is worth recounting. A grief stricken woman approached Buddha and pleaded that he should bring back her husband, who had died. The Compassionate One pondered for a while, and said that he would help her, but she had to first bring a fistful of mustard seeds from a home where there was no death. The lady was pleased with the offer of help. She went looking for the mustard seeds. Wherever she went, she was told that there was a death in the family. She eventually discovered the truth that death is inevitable. In helping her to discover the truth for herself, Lord Buddha expressed his compassion.
There is another piece of great perception in the epic Mahabharata:
In this cauldron fashioned from illusion, with the sun as fire, day and night as kindling wood, the months and seasons as the ladle for stirring, Time (or Death) cooks all beings. This is the simple truth!
The first thing that we may try to do is not to be obsessively worried about death. Fear in the heart of a human being is damaging. It attracts other emotions, like prejudice, hatred and anger, and leads to an imbalanced life. Undue worry and excessive fear affect the body and the mind adversely, and can even be the premature cause of death itself. Is there a way to overcome the fear of death? Yes there is.
Though it is too naïve to believe that reading literature about the ephemeral nature of human existence will help us overcome the fear, such an understanding may propel us to explore the field of consciousness, and embark on the path of a meditative practice.
It has been my personal experience during the past 25 years that Heartfulness practices have helped me to bring my turbulent mind to stillness and calm. This form of meditation, aided by yogic Transmission, has enabled me to overcome the primordial fear of death that is inherent in almost all of us. Cessation of the turbulence of the mind is Yoga. When we turn our attention inward, meditate, and achieve stillness of the mind, we experience peace, and ultimately joy, which is the quality of the soul. Through such meditative practices, an awareness dawns within us that we are in a body, but we are beyond the body. We have a mind but we are beyond the mind. Once we experience the immaculate joy stemming from meditative practices, in a mysterious way the fear starts losing its grip on us.
The very first blessing that comes our way through yogic practices is Viveka – the discriminative ability. It is imperative that all of us must be cautious during a medical crisis such as this, taking all the precautions available on the WHO website and through national and local public health authorities.
Those of us suffering from any type of cold, cough, fever, body ache and similar symptoms ought to stay at home, avoid public gatherings, and refrain from travel unless absolutely essential. Those of us who are lucky enough to have regulated minds through meditative practices will not unduly worry about attending to our duties and responsibilities in the face of the pandemic. If travelling is unavoidable, we will embark on it with all the necessary precautions (this is specifically for those who are privileged to help their fellow beings, offering essential services).
One last thing. In the past five decades or so, many of us have been feeling that the world is running too fast for our comfort. Many of us have had everything but time! In our anxiety to earn a living, to make a career for ourselves, and for many other reasons, we have been deeply engrossed in so many activities that there was no time even to breathe. It is a metaphor, but literally true also, that an expert in Pranayama would have no guilt in declaring that most of humanity does not even know how to breathe! In the face of the spread of coronavirus, the world has not only slowed down, but quite a few of us would vouch that it has stopped. Staying indoors, we have so much time that we do not know what to do with it.
I have a proposition to make. Siddhartha was a prince in India, who was a normal human being like any one of us. He wanted to find the truth about human existence, and took refuge in a dense jungle and meditated. After many years of tapasya, he came back from the forests as the Enlightened One to show the way to the confused world. And the world could not forget him and his teachings. If an ordinary human being by the name of Siddhartha could become the Buddha, the worship worthy, can we not explore that possibility?
It is said in the yogic literature that when we meditate we transcend Time; we transcend Space. If that is so, when Time cannot catch us, how then can it cook us? If you have time on your hands, please consider making a journey towards inner evolution and enlightenment. You will soon figure out that there is much more to human existence than meets the eye.
Every adversity offers an opportunity; we become more sensitive to the miseries of others; we understand that one day we too will need the compassion of our fellow beings, as well as their assistance; we learn to stick together, and it is softening our hearts.
Some of the WhatsApp messages I receive these days are beautiful. People are voicing concern over the insensitivity of humanity, which has been blind to the generosity of this planet that is graced with many assets. Probably, this calamity is a prelude for a more just humanity, one that is more refined than that of the past.
Article by DR. V. RAMAKANTHA
Photographs by JOSH BULRISS
May 31, 2020
May 31, 2020
May 31, 2020