Lessons Corona-ji has forced us to learn

By Dr R Neerunjun Gopee

In Hindu tradition adding the suffix ‘ji’ to a person’s name is to show great respect to the person. The reasons can be many: the person is powerful, learned, is engaged selflessly in a great humanitarian cause, and so on.

Covid-19 or the Coronavirus, an invisible, ultramicroscopic bit of life is so powerful that it has brought the world to its knees. Hence Corona-ji.

It has led to many countries going into lockdown, sanitary curfew or couvre-feu sanitaire as we have called it here. Essentially, this means that, except for people working in essential services or going about to obtain essential items of food and medicine, everybody else is by law obliged to stay at home. The result is that families that may include grandparents, parents and school/college-going students are now housebound for a number of days. Of course, as far as the children go, this is just like being on holiday. Except that it is not.

In a matter of weeks, from its origin in Wuhan, Corona-ji has spread all over the world causing respiratory disease and death, known as a pandemic, which is taking away loved ones, leaving families grieving, and shaking to the core national authorities as they attempt desperately to stop its spread and limit the damage.

At the same time, though, it has forced us to learn – or re-learn – certain fundamental lessons that humanity seems to have forgotten in its frenetic pursuit of the pleasant (in Sanskrit: preya) at the expense of the good (shreya). I have come up with a few lessons. Readers may add their own to the list.

People clap and clang utensils to show gratitude to the helpers and medical practitioners who are working relentlessly to fight coronavirus in Kolkata on March 22, 2020. Pic – PTI

  1. Health is our greatest wealth: all the money is the world will not bring back a single person who has succumbed to Covid-19, nor be able to save the 1% of infected cases which will inevitably die no matter what. And here 1% means thousands already – and climbing day by day.
  2. The most precious gift of all is: LIFE. If we do not understand this now, we never will.
  3. Those who help to preserve or save lives are the true saviours: doctors, nurses and all healthcare personnel. While all places of worship are closed, with God shut away or hiding above, the only temples that are open indiscriminately to all are the hospitals where the true Devis and Devtas are toiling 24/7 at the risk of their own lives to care for the patients.
    As enshrined by Bhagavan Sri Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita, they are performing selfless service (Karma yoga) with great devotion (Bhakti yoga) using their profound knowledge (Jnana yoga) with a pure and focused mind (Raja yoga). That is why they are being acclaimed, by clapping of hands or ringing of bells/cymbals, by grateful people all over the world.
  4. Family together means being happy and in safety. 100%? No – cannot be measured.
  5. We do not have to go out to ‘enjoy’ as often as have been doing, or thought was necessary!
  6. We CAN reduce our needs to the minimum. This is beautifully expressed in a post I received quite some time back, lines written by someone who signed ‘Emily Marouttian’. Although she writes about growing older, the core of the message – that we can practise minimalist living, and perhaps start early on – is relevant not only under our present circumstances, but throughout our life cycle. Here goes:

Families of roadside shopkeepers ring bell and clap to cheer health workers following coronavirus outbreaks, in New Delhi on March 22, 2020. Pic – AP, Manish Swarup

‘As we grow older we let go a little at a time: a bad memory, a negative habit, a toxic friend. Bit by bit we shed what no longer serves us until we reveal we who are underneath it all. We soon discover that even though we gave up many things, there is no feeling of loss. What we have gained in return is far more valuable’.

Let us therefore use these days of togetherness fruitfully, to bond even more strongly among ourselves, to rediscover the strength of love and affection, and to ponder how our lives have been truly enriched during this Stay-at-home imposed for our own protection.

Thank you, Corona-ji.

* Published in print edition on 25 March 2020

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