Guiding Light: Spirituality in pandemic times

Spirituality became a buzzword during the lockdown but how much of it is for real and because of people looking for solace? If the pandemic acts as a trigger point for people to question their life priorities, to question where they are headed in life, what is life about and to stick with finding answers to this question even when the pandemic is over then the pursuit is real.

However, in most cases, this is ‘smashaana vairagya’, the dispassion related to the cremation grounds or ‘prasuti vairagya’, the dispassion towards sex when you are delivering a child. When one sees the death of a close person at the funeral, as the smoke of the cremation rises upwards, his thoughts also rise upwards questioning what life is about. Here was a person, young and full of life with so many plans and dreams snatched away by death. Sounds philosophical! When this person returns home to his family after the funeral, has a shower and a meal, thoughts about death seem to disappear.

There may be a lingering sadness for his friend who is gone, but nothing more than that. All the fundamental questions about life have disappeared. Similarly, when a woman is delivering a baby, she may well vow, ‘never again, am I going to have kids’. A few days later she is back home, holding the baby in her lap. All the words uttered about ‘Never again’ have disappeared from her mind. It is natural and healthy.

Similarly, the king who has ‘nashta rajyam vairagya, the dispassion born of losing a kingdom, who says, ‘There is nothing left for me. Let me become a monk’. In all these examples, the dispassion is triggered by different situations. The dispassion is not real and does not last unless the situation has triggered a certain fundamental questioning of yourself and remains as a priority to be addressed, when the situation is long gone.

Only then we can say that the pandemic has really made people spiritual. I am sure that there will be a handful of people like that. The vast majority will consider spirituality just as a feel-good factor and as soon as things are back to normal, will get busy with the rat race again.

(The writer is the founder of Aarsha Vidya Foundation. You can write to him at aarshavidyaf@gmail.com)

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