An ancient poet wisely warned: “O people, please do not put faith in life in this material world. It is tottering like a drop of water on a lotus leaf.” Perhaps more than any other time, today, mankind is realising the import of this wisdom. In the first three months of the dreaded COVID-19 pandemic, thousands of lives were lost, economies worth trillions of dollars crashed down like dominoes and entire countries went into self-imposed lockdowns.
A drop of water on a lotus leaf is beautiful to the eye. When it shines in the sun, it appears attractive. However, one strong gush of wind and the drop vanishes. Such is the situation today. People thought this was just a normal case of a spreading flu fever which could be dealt with in the same way that a normal fever could be diagnosed and cured.
Ancient India’s Vedic wisdom says that the purpose of life is to be happy and at the same time also warns that this material existence is an abode of misery and can be destroyed in the blink of an eye. Vedic wisdom asserts that the purpose of life is not to be miserable. Life is not programmed to heap misery after misery on a hapless victim but in reality, it may actually be so. The purpose of life is to become happy. ‘Sarve Bhavantu Sukhino’—this Sanskrit mantra from the ancient Vedas explicitly states that all human endeavours should be aimed for happiness.
Without becoming happy first, we cannot even yearn for spiritual enlightenment. And in order to be happy, all kinds of ingredients are provided by material nature. Human society just has to spiritually enlighten itself so that it can make the right choices. Unfortunately, the scenario today is completely opposite. In choosing blind materialism as the primary motive behind everything else all our plans are failing. It’s a classic case of the blind leading the blind.
We have to admit that although the primary goal of human activity is happiness, we should know that human happiness can never be achieved at the cost of rampant greed and corruption in human society, nations warring with each other over natural resources and the senseless butchering of innocent animals for food when nature is willing to provide healthy alternatives to feed the entire human population. We humans have rationality; the ability to reason or use our higher intelligence.
If you see around you, this rationality is used simply for improving our material well-being with hardly a thought given for other humans, animals and even the very planet on which we are living. Our bodies are just like a cage in which a bird is encaged and instead of feeding the bird, all our activities are like waxing and polishing the cage. The poor bird, which is our soul, our very essence, is starving and on the verge of death.
So much for our right to be happy at any cost we now turn our attention to the next piece of Vedic wisdom—Everything here is a potential cause of misery and can be destroyed at any moment. Miseries are of three types: Those caused by other living beings, those caused by upheavals in nature like earthquakes and tsunamis, and finally those caused by one’s own material body and mind.
This Covid-19 virus is described by scientists as simultaneously a living thing and an inert object. It is not a living person as it is just a piece of protein agent, but it can viciously attack a living person once it gets a favourable environment. No wonder that our politicians and army generals are perplexed as to how to deal with an enemy who is so powerful and aggressive and yet so tiny, that even a normal microscope cannot reveal his whereabouts.
The solution here is not to send bombs and missiles but to gain spiritual insight into the workings of this material world. Great wise and compassionate persons do piteously cry upon seeing the suffering of the general masses. But their cry is centred on their keen sense of identity that in the ultimate sense we have to take shelter of spiritual wisdom. We have to know our real spiritual identity and act accordingly. Our human experience has to centre in eternity of the soul. This is sure to bring about peace in turmoil. Great spiritualists from all faiths and all times have taught what it actually means to be a well-wisher.
It means we have to take ourselves out of the centre of our lives, feel for others, willing to sacrifice our own wishes. To help someone in need—physically, emotionally and spiritually—that will help solve the current crisis. The author is the spiritual guru at International Society of Krishna Consciousness