Since the last few months, the people across the world have been witnessing the destructive play of the small virus called Covid-19. It looks like this dreaded virus has changed everything about life. With its strong grip that has already controlled our economic, political, and medical life, it has even stepped into our ritual world.
With this, it has forced us to confront some questions of human existence that are more profound than we have faced ever.
Sad, it is upending the rituals of death. The people of the countries cruelly hit by this virus would agree that our end is more excruciating than we thought it to be before.
The grim video clips of body bags being loaded into refrigerated trucks outside hospitals, ambulances frequently screaming down eerily empty streets, coffins of lifeless bodies being pitifully lined up in Churches waiting to be buried or cremated, dead bodies being left on the roadsides, the new ditches being dug for possible mass burials, and funerals being performed without full rituals would make one rethink about the pride and vanity of life that one holds so dearly.
Like the funeral directors of the corona devastated countries who got scared and depressed by loads of dead in these days, we too have felt sick by the awful pictures of deaths went viral on different media. Though in death our bare appearance comes out and hence is true, albeit cruel, we do not just want to admit it, for we dearly love the samsaric Maya we cover this truth with.
Even, the great man like the Buddha was also engrossed in such illusions until he came to learn that aging, ailment, and death are inevitable in human life. As he learned the inevitability of these cruel truths, he started seeing double facets in everything that he thought to be absolute and one.
His new-found stance got firmer when he saw the disgraceful sleeping sight of the courtiers in the night of his flight from the royal palace. As he was passing through the rooms of the courtiers, he saw the prettiest dancing girls, the most excellent singers, and the best musicians, who in their best costumes and ornaments tried to make him happy just hours ago, were sleeping on the floor in the most shameful and ugliest positions with their mouths wide open and snoring. He thought ‘how oppressive and stifling this all is’ to see the real appearances that remain concealed under their gorgeous outfit.
It is often hard to accept the truth. Even harder is the way to attain it. When coronavirus occurred in Wuhan, probably no one knew this small virus would travel across the world and create a global catastrophe. That fever and cough too can lead to a serious end were perhaps unimaginable for many of us.
Oftentimes we go with these diseases without any medication waiting for natural healing. But with more than 200 countries and territories under a vindictive clutch of Covid-19 with around 3728879 effects and 258372 deaths as of now, we are compelled to alter our impression about this hitherto negligible ailment.
As the virus spreads through droplets from someone who may contain it, the WHO advises us to maintain social distance and self-isolation besides regular and thorough hand cleaning.
With no vaccine and life-saving drug, it is the only measure we can adopt to minimize the death and suffering of the weakest. So the more we are socially disconnected, the safer we are. And the more attached we are, the more susceptible we are to this menace.
The feature of this pandemic says that attachment leads to suffering.
Here the Buddhist wisdom seems relevant. Understanding the Buddha’s three universal truths—impermanence, suffering, and no-self— may be handy in this time of crisis.
Impermanence says everything on this earth changes. Every element, which appears for a moment, is a dependently originating element. Humans too are changing from birth to decay where every stage is dependently originating from the previous one.
Like everything, this dreaded situation is also momentary. This too shall pass. Impermanence teaches us letting go.
Life is a disquieting struggle. The process of the movement consists of moments. It is a staccato movement, momentary flaches of a stream of energy. Everything is evanescent. There is not any substantial matter.
Even the so-called self consists of an aggregate of ever-changing elements without any perdurable and stable element at all. Thus trying to get a hold on something which is incessantly passing is imprudence.
This ignorance leads to suffering.
During this epidemic, being ignorant of the medical protocol related to Covid-19 will invite more suffering. It is not the time to socialize, gather around the deceased for funeral rituals, or to hug the loved ones tightly.
Then letting go is not ‘doing nothing’ and leaving all to destiny. The Buddha taught humans to live out the moment fully and meaningfully without any worries of the past and the anxiety of the future.
The present moment spent meaningfully will beget a fine future moment and so on. So let’s spend every moment following the instructions of the medical experts and pass this difficult time meaningfully.