We cannot control the crisis that grips the planet, but we can control how we respond to it


Today, amidst fears of Covid-19, as humanity experiences two basic instinctive reactions, panic and paralysis, if ever there was a time to fall back on the teachings of our ancient collection of sacred scriptures, the Vedas, it is now. The anxieties of working from home, not having a home, not having work, death and gloom, all spiral us into a hole of despair which seems impossible to climb up from.

Philosophy, religion and spiritualism are judged by their capacity to enhance and illuminate life. We rely upon them to help us deal with life’s many challenges. Therefore, the question today is how does the wisdom of Vedanta, India’s treasury of spiritual wisdom, help us cope with the demands and stresses of the Covid-19 pandemic?

Within each of us are basic desires, such as connecting socially and physically with family and friends. In the current phase, we find ourselves encountering barriers that thwart those desires, creating frustration, anger and fear in us. Vedanta—which includes worship, meditation, spiritual study and selfless service—teaches and guides us to filter what we digest, thus conquering our fears. It is more important than ever before to navigate through the current times with mental clarity and unwavering faith. Fear is addressed in the Vedas as self inflicted. Our focus on the crises occurring every day initiates in us the panic that everything is slipping from our control. We cannot control the fear around us, but we can limit the fear within us.

The Vedas speak of the benefits of minimalism when things get tough in life, getting back to the basics, centering our focus inwards, where peace really lies. Outwards lies only ramification and attraction to bright and shiny objects. Ancient teachings emphasize that fascination with the outer can mislead our senses and entangle us in a state of bondage. The roller coaster of emotions meshed in desire leads us to the last stop, despair, because that which is temporary was mistaken as having lasting value.

We must change the narrative, change our consciousness and practice raising our defenses against the distress and anxiety surrounding us. The Vedic practice of meditation allows us to achieve this by shifting the balance and training our minds to quiet our thoughts. Through meditation, the whirlwind outside subsides, leaving us in silence and equilibrium inside.

It is not an easy task to face the innumerable types of experiences, challenges and changes the world subjects us to. Once we start practicing co-existing in the state of Brahman (the infinite consciousness) and the World, we slowly start to feel the greater reality of one over the other. We become aware of how we drive our lives forward by using our mind and by seeking sense pleasures, which in today’s Covid-19 world are limited. Spiritualism and its practice teach us to see this world through a different lens, exposing its illusory nature.

Global suffering connects us today like never before and invokes the ancient imperative to overcome division through unification. It requires us to overcome disconnectedness through establishing connection with our self. Vedanta practices bring awareness of our existence and pure consciousness and guides us in finding the light amidst the darkness. We cannot control many things around us, but we can shift our attention and have faith in our inner strength and courage, knowing there is no birth of consciousness without pain.

“Elevate yourself through the power of your mind, and do not degrade yourself, for the mind can be the friend and also the enemy of the self.”          Bhagavad Gita 5.6

Vini Melwani is author of the blog Hinduism Symbolism @HinduismSymbols . She also writes for the non-profit organization One Bread Foundation Inc.