As we go through the coming days of inner purification, let us pray to obtain illumination in our minds and hearts as to what course we must chart for a better future for all of us
We need Durga Shakti to beat Covid-19. Photo – lauraplumb.com
By Dr R Neerunjun Gopee
To the delight of those who had were getting tired of the rainy, wintry, dark mornings and days, summer has come creeping in by the by and is now pretty well settled in. Dawn comes earlier, bringing with her the soft daylight of the rising sun – an immersive experience that has to be truly lived for one to feel the joy of being suffused with the glow and the warmth that is radiated out for all to partake of. How could I afford to miss out on this?
As I started my walk at Trou-O-Cerfs yesterday, the golden saffron orb of the sun was emerging from behind the dark grey clouds that spanned the horizon. Soon there was a bright golden halo that was spreading out in tandem, even as the rims of the clouds were in their turn transforming into lace-like patterns of shining gold against the backdrop of the sky gradually turning blue. As if to add to the beauty and deepen the encounter with the source of life, a light mist embraced all that was, and a gentle breeze kissed my face.
Despite the presence of other walkers and their chatter and laughter, I felt a profound silence as I stopped and stood transfixed at the sight in front of my eyes, which I instinctively closed after a few seconds of staring at the bright centre of the halo, the sun, our life-giver and bearer of universal Light. No wonder my ancestors the rishis called the sun Surya Devta, and yogis enjoined us to express our gratitude for these boons in the form of Suryanamaskar.
After a few minutes I resumed my walk, feeling ‘blessed in that dawn to be alive’, and even more blessed as one by one my walker companions joined me to share our stories and cares. How lucky we are here, I told myself, to be able to freely move around and especially enjoy our morning walks. Because in most of the countries of the world, the Covid pandemic has led national authorities to so severely impose restrictions that people are forced to be housebound, and even children are avoiding visiting parents for fear of spreading the virus.
Two days ago, I was speaking to a relative in Mumbai who was exactly in that sort of situation, that has been going on for months now. Husband and wife live in an apartment, one daughter lives not far away – they can see her apartment block from where their own stands – and yet they can only contact on the phone. Vegetables are ordered and delivered outside the gate. Thank goodness, she told me, for the smartphone which allows video calls – and Zoom, via which the relatives were able to ‘celebrate’ the 75th birthday of one of theirs who is based in Dubai, where they all had scheduled to meet for the occasion. And we reminisced about their visit to Mauritius here a few years ago, having come on a package tour they gifted themselves for their 50th wedding anniversary.
Earlier this week I met another elderly couple who were feeling rather stressed for not being able to visit their daughter and family of two grandchildren who are in the US. It goes without saying that there are many people who are in a similar dilemma, myself included, and at the very best all we can do is to wait and pray for this pandemic to be brought under control as soon as possible, itself a big question mark. And in the meantime, find consolation by socializing to the extent we can and in our environments. Of which, for me and my friends, Trou-O-Cerfs is certainly unique.
On the other hand, the Hindu calendar provides ample occasions throughout the year for partaking of soulful and joyous experiences of the kind that connecting with Surya Devta in the mornings affords one. But they are also opportunities and moments for introspection and reflection about ourselves and some of the deeper issues and matters about life, about existence as a whole.
Thus, for example, Durga-Puja time is here again, occasion to remind us – for we tend to forget – of the centrality of the Universal Mother in our existence. Belief in a Mother Goddess can be found in almost all cultures in the ancient times, the Semitic, Hellenic, Nordic and Teutonic alike, but what singles out India has been the continued history of the cult from the hoary past till now. As Elizabeth U Harding, an American devotee and the author of ‘Kali: The Black Goddess of Dakshineswar’ observes: ‘Consider the first being a child relates to is its nurturing mother, and considering that primitive people who had no scientific knowledge must have watched the miracle of birth with wonder and awe, it comes as no surprise that our remote ancestors greatly revered the mother. When ancient peoples began to conceive of a higher supernatural being that would nourish and protect them from evil, they naturally conceived it in the image of the mother.’
Harding emphasizes this intimate link by noting that ‘if we dig through our carefully built-up layers of society-dictated values, we will admit that somewhere deep in the heart is a very soft spot reserved for our earthly as well as archetypal mother.’ But as we evolved, she continues, ‘we began to understand that there cannot be any creation unless there is the union of two, the male and the female. Extending human analogy to the creation of the universe as a whole, we came to believe in a Primordial Father and a Primordial Mother which formed the first pair. All the pairs in the universe are said to be replicas of this first pair.’
In the words of Swami Vivekananda: ‘Every manifestation of power in the universe is Mother. She is life, She is intelligence, She is Love. She is in the universe, yet separate from it… She can show Herself to us in any form at any moment. She can have name and form, or name without form, and as we worship her in these various aspects, we can rise to Pure Being, having neither form nor name.’
No one who has ever participated in a Durga-Puja with a clean heart could have missed this experience of rising to a sense of self larger than the material – and emerge enriched for a more meaningful involvement with fellow human beings, with one’s own family to begin with.
As we go through the coming days of inner purification, let us pray to obtain illumination in our minds and hearts as to what course we must chart for a better future for all of us in these tough times.
We need Durga Shakti to beat Covid-19…
* Published in print edition on 16 October 2020
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