A Spiritual Response to the Virus — Vedanta Society

This is not fatalism. Nor does this mean that we do nothing, that we merely sit idle and let things take their own course. Far from it. What it does mean is that after doing the best we can to respond appropriately to any situation, we recognize that, when all is said and done, what is to be will be, what is not to be won’t be. There is nothing any of us can do more than our best at any given time. 

Our “best” is not a fixed quantity. It can, and generally does, change with time. To do our very best and, having done that, to step aside and stop worrying—this approach helps us to focus our time, skill and energy fully on the task in hand, instead of wasting them through anxiety and, in the process, weakening ourselves.

Practice being alone. One of the inevitable measures we have to take if we are infected—or if we suspect that we are infected—is to isolate ourselves, so as not to spread the infection. That means going into solitude. If we are not accustomed to solitude, then the quarantine-experience will be tough to endure. Now is a good time, therefore, to practice being alone every day at least for a few minutes.

Being alone is different from being lonely. To be lonely is terrible and a lot of people suffer from loneliness even when they are surrounded by people. But recognizing one’s aloneness leads to a state of supreme peace and clarity. This sounds paradoxical, but the more we realize our aloneness, the better we are able to relate to everyone and everything around us. Our relationships improve and our work becomes more meaningful. Every one of us comes to this world alone and we depart alone. A habit of daily, even if brief, forays into solitude helps us to live with sanity in the ever-increasing frenzy of the world. 

One way of practicing solitude is to stay away from television, the internet and the phone at least for a few minutes every day, and spend the time alone in our own company. If we get bored in the process, we’ll at least know how boring we are. If we cannot stand our own company, what right do we have to inflict it on others?

The practices such as prayer, worship, meditation, and scriptural study give us an opportunity to being comfortable in solitude. For perfection in these practices, we need to be alone with God, no matter in what way or form we visualize the divine. Those who have a daily spiritual practice are generally better prepared for solitude, voluntary or enforced.

Contemplate the possibility of death. We generally recognize the value of planning for the future, although none of us knows what the future has in store for us. While we plan for things that may or may not happen, how many of us have a plan for death, the one thing that is absolutely certain? The only thing unknown about our death are the time and the cause. None of us wants to die soon, but having a plan doesn’t hurt. The fatality rate of the coronavirus seems relatively low, but that doesn’t negate the possibility of me being one of the few who does get infected and succumbs to it. Even as we hope for the best, it makes perfect sense to prepare for the worst.

A neurotic obsession with death is a form of illness. It is debilitating and may need clinical intervention. But a positive approach to the phenomenon of death is not only healthy and strengthening but also spiritually beneficial. This may be a good time to start thinking about death—what it means to me and how I would like to face it. Spiritual texts and teachers provide much needed guidance in this matter. Swami Vivekananda encouraged his students to think of death always. His glowing words come to mind:

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