Dear members and friends,
We are really passing through a hard time and crisis. We must cope with it in a positive and practical way. I read an article on “The Loneliness of Social Distancing” in New York Times on Tuesday, March 24, 2020. People are locked down or in quarantine because of coronavirus, a terrible and fearful disease that is threatening the human race.
The article says: “Social isolation has been linked to a 50 percent increased risk of dementia, a 29 percent increased risk of heart disease, and a 32 percent increased risk of stroke.” “Loneliness is the subjective feeling that you’re lacking the social connections you need – the feeling of closeness, trust and affection of genuine friends, loved ones and community.” As you are homebound, it suggested reaching out, “Pick up the phone, call someone and ask how they’re doing.” A phone call is better than an email.
The news media is working hard to bring awareness of this disease to the public. The masses are really fearful and confused. They do not know what to do. Some are stocking food at home, some are working at home, and some have already lost their jobs. Uncertainty is everywhere – there is no clear solution of this horrible disease in the near future.
Human beings live in three planes: physical, intellectual and spiritual. So under such circumstances here are some positive and practical suggestions. Please note that each of you will need to consider which suggestions are applicable for yourparticular circumstances.
- Think that you have 2 months’ vacation and have decided to go to a lovely, meditative place, or to go to Uttarkashi or Rishikesh in the Himalayas to practise austerity in a cave. This kind of thought will take away the homebound feeling.
- As you are at home all 24 hours, make a routine: One hour japa and meditation and study before breakfast, lunch, and supper. Morning study: one chapter of the Gita, noon study: a lecture of Vivekananda’s Jnana Yoga, and evening study: Gospel of Ramakrishna. These three hours will keep you in the spiritual plane. If you wish, devote more time. This will help develop faith and a close relationship with our Ishta (Chosen Deity), which will make us strong and free from anxiety.
- Work 6 hours a day: personal business, homework, cleaning, cooking, and so on. Engage yourself with a project and do something constructive.
- While cooking and cleaning, listen to some bhajans, or music, or listen to some lectures of the swamis from YouTube. Always keep your mind engaged with something.
- Help others, if you can, but from a distance (6 feet).
- Exercise is very important: Do what you can at home or outdoors; do some yoga asanas in the morning before meditation; or do some freeform exercise in the morning and in the afternoon walk for an hour.
- Those who have a reading habit, please take a Vedanta book and read thoroughly: My suggestion: Gospel of Ramakrishna, Ramakrishna and His Divine Play, Holy Mother and Her Divine Play, Swamiji’s four yogas.
- Watch something funny or interesting from the internet. The other day I watched B.K.S Iyenger demonstrating hatha yoga in London in 1985. He is amazing.
- Ramakrishna said: Religion is not possible for an empty stomach. Please keep appropriate food at home and eat only what is needed for your level of activity. Follow basic hygiene (especially wash your hands with soap thoroughly and avoid touching eyes, nose, and mouth).
When human efforts fail, we seek divine help. Let us pray to the Divine Mother: “O Devi, when satisfied, you destroy all illness. No calamity befalls human beings who have taken refuge in you. Those who have received your grace, they become truly a refuge for others.” Chandi, 11:29
Chetanananda, March 27, 2020
Devotees and Friends:
We are truly passing through a global crisis. During my lifetime I have never come across such a horrible situation. We shall not be panicky or lose our hearts in fear. Please remember the tornado or hurricane does not blow all the time. It comes and goes. This terrible coronavirus will go away eventually. Scientists all over the world are working day and night to invent a vaccine of this deadly virus for saving the humanity. When I read the news of China, Iran, Italy, USA, I observe how human beings are helpless. The government, money, doctors cannot save our lives.
We must be bold and have patience. Use commonsense for physical hygiene. Avoid public contact and maintain aggressive social distancing. Follow the guidelines of the city or government. Most of us are now home-bound. So eat less as we are not doing too much physical activities. Do your regular work from home as much as possible. Walk or do some physical exercise daily. Study and practice spiritual disciplines more and pray to the Lord wholeheartedly: “May all be happy. May all be free from disease. May all realize what is good. May none be subject to misery.” Sometimes we find that good comes out of evil. Perhaps the Supreme Being wants to stop our outgoing tendencies for the time being and turn our minds inward, so that we can get time for introspection and to focus on the true goal of our lives.
There is a beautiful message of Vedanta: “What will not happen will not happen. What will happen will happen. – This knowledge destroys the poison of anxiety and eradicates all delusion.”
In May 1898, during the plague epidemic in Calcutta, Swami Vivekananda wrote a manifesto. In part he said:
- Please do not panic due to unfounded fear. Depend upon God and calmly try to find the best means to solve the problem.
- Always keep the house and its premises, the rooms, clothes, bed, drain, etc., clean.
- Do not eat stale, spoiled food; take fresh and nutritious food instead. A weak body is more susceptible to disease.
- Always keep the mind cheerful. Everyone will die once. Cowards suffer the pangs of death again and again, solely due to the fear in their own minds.
- Do not pay any heed to rumors.
We requested our members not to come to attend the Sunday services for some weeks, but we shall send the spiritual food to your homes through live streaming. Do not lose faith, we shall see the light.
Vedanta Society of St. Louis
March 17, 2020