by Uma Majmudar
You may naturally wonder, what does spirituality have to do with the Coronavirus crisis? How are the two related, if related at all? Isn’t this monstrous virus with its global grip a subject of medical/scientific research and resolution? And shouldn’t we depend on the expert advice of an epidemiologist rather than trust the whims of a politician?
For both reasons — in order to not be infected and if infected, to quickly get rid of the disease, we must first consult and then scrupulously follow the dos and don’ts provided by CDC or an expert in the field of contagious diseases. Not only for our own physical health, but for the well-being of all humans, we must not violate or neglect health rules.
This disease is so merciless. It sucks away jobs, cripples the economy, may crash the stock market, as it also separates children from parents and parents from their parents dying in hospitals. The self-quarantines, the spreading joblessness, and the day-to-day social/ recreational deprivation — all take their toll leading to deep depression, acute stress, anxiety, and even suicides. To borrow Thoreau’s phrase, people live right now in a state of “quiet desperation!” It seems like the sky is falling and there is no where to hide, no one to go to, no way out, and no refuge! But is that true? Is all hope lost?
NO, THERE’S HOPE! THERE IS LIGHT AT THE END OF THIS DARK TUNNEL!
When all hell breaks loose, the only refuge is your SELF —your own built-in spiritual reservoir; as one of the lines in a Gujarati bhakti-poem says, “Only if you take a deep look within, Harivar or Ishvar always resides there; it always shines and beacons you!” And what is that shining light but your own Atma-shakti or Soul-power?!
Mahatma Gandhi called it his “still small voice;” it never fails to solace you, guide you, and show you the way out of the darkness to light, take you from the lower to the higher truth, and from death to immortality — whether death by Coronavirus or any other disease!
From a Vedantic perspective, authentic spirituality is rooted deeply in“Sat-Chit-Ananda” or “Truth Consciousness-Bliss.” As Bhagwan Shri Krishna explains to his disciple Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita (Ch. 2:55), the number one characteristic of a “ sthitaprajna ” (one who abides in equanimity) is that he/she is always “REJOICING IN THE SELF BY THE SELF;” that person is “ Atmanandi” (Atma: Self, and anandi: full of Joy ) or “Nijanandi” (nija: one’s own self, and anandi: J oyous ), meaning, one is immersed in the “Bliss of the Self”! What is “Bliss?” It’s an uninterrupted, steady state of peace and joy within!
Surpassing all the sense-born pleasures and worldly treasures, it is that in-dwelling state of serenity and tranquility unaffected by the roller-coaster of emotions — happiness and sorrow, elation and depression. Beyond the pairs of opposites such as praise or blame, gain or loss, heat or cold, suffering or enjoyment, a Self-realized mystic like Shri Ramakrishna or a Mahayogi like Swami Vivekananda, Raman Maharshi or Jesus Christ is able to transcend physical pain, gain, blame and shame!
Most of us, however, have not reached yet that highest spiritual stature of such Self-realized souls, but we surely are capable of developing that kind of inner resilience of spirit, and an unwavering state of peace and bliss! No disaster natural or unnatural, whether from outside or inside, not even a disease as deadly as Covid-19 should then be able to dampen our spirit, our inherent source of peace and bliss.
As Swami Vivekananda said, “We are children of immortal bliss”. Or just remember who we are: “ Chidananda rupah Shivoham Shivoham ! Or “I am Shiva, I am Shiva — that Eternal-Blissful-Peaceful Shiva!”
Uma Majmudar, a member of the Vedanta Center of Atlanta, is the author of Gandhi’s Pilgrimage of Faith: From Darkness to Light. She has taught courses in religion and philosophy at Emory University and is currently leading classes on the Bhagavad Gita at Spellman College. Uma can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.