Message of Swami Vivekananda in times of Corona

By Neena Badhwar

Swami Vivekananda was deeply aware of the inequality and injustice that prevailed in the Indian society. Poor in India were in hundreds of millions in the early twentieth century, they still are and now with Corona hitting India in a big way with every day around 250,000 cases are being reported. State of Maharashtra which is mired in allegation of corruption, drugs, underworld and political manipulation in extorsion cases, the government there has overlooked Corona and the safety that should go with it, reporting around 60,000 cases every day. Yet India has much fewer number of deaths as compared to UK, Europe, America and Brazil.

Why one wonders when millions who have no support of any welfare from the governments, state or federal, are soldiering on as many poor rely on their daily income which is derived from their little business trying to fend for themselves and their families. There is no choice for them but to go out and earn in whatever way they can even when the lockdowns are in place. The everyday sabziwala, the footpath seller of small goods, the servants, the nearby grocer, the fruit seller, they all need to work to make a living in these tough times. They have no governmental support or perhaps little support. Definitely it comes to mind how the big political rallies with millions that we see on television, are they immune to Corona virus. Or the Kumbh Mela or any other religious gathering or sit-in protest which the farmers are doing. Does it not infect them. Strange.

Health and well being is the right of every citizen, rich or poor. WHO’s (World Health Organization) principal value is health and its goal is ”˜health for all’. Does this principle apply to millions of poor living in poor hutments (jhuggi jhonpdi colonies) where hygiene, clean water supply, toilet facilities, garbage removal are lacking. We have heard how people in India when infected with Corona have ended up paying lakhs of rupees for medical care. Many survived but many succumbed as well. How many of those who died were rich and how many poor, one will have to see the data to analyse that. Rich we think would be less in number because they had the money to fall back on. Those who could not afford like the  rich could with their sheer spirit of survival were offered oxygen cylinders being sold openly in the market. Either one can afford the hospital or the bed which are in short supply anyway, or you are told to go get an oxygen cylinder, shown how to operate it and told to go home, isolate from the rest of the family. Rest is up to God. We have heard many such cases that have managed to survive with the patient being isolated at home till the infection subsides. That is the case with the middle or lower middle class. But the poor have no choice even for that luxury since they live in dinghy crowded conditions. The survival spirit of Indians and the innovative ways of surviving against all odds is built in our genome. After all we have survived the Mughal and the British Raj through the sheer resilience of our people.

Coming to health and Swami Vivekananda’s message to the ailing person was that Vedantic philosophy and truths can drive away disease. He had written to one of his ailing brother disciple: “Even the poison of a snake is powerless if you can firmly deny it,” he went on, “It is owing to the negative, the self abasing spirit.”

He said about the sick brothers, “Tell them to brush aside their illness by mental strength, and in an hour illness will disappear. I the Atman smitten with disease! Off with it! Tell them to meditate for an hour at a stretch, ”˜I am the Atman, how can I be affected by disease!’ ”“ and everything will vanish. Think all of you are the infinite powerful Atman and see what strength comes out”¦.I am, God is, everything is in me. I will manifest health, purity, knowledge, whatever I want”¦Who says you are ill ”“ what is disease to you? Brush it aside! Repeat to yourself that such and such are Atman, that they are infinite, and how can they have disease? Repeat this an hour or so on a few successive days and all disease and trouble will vanish into naught.”

“Whenever any of you is sick, let him himself or anyone of you visualise him in your mind, and mentally say and strongly imagine that he is alright. That will cure him quickly. You can do it even without his knowledge, and even with thousands of miles between you.”

What a pertinent message by Swamiji when the whole humanity is inflicted with the Corona ivirus. He urges to the doctors to serve the patients as the veritable embodiments of God. ”˜Serving man as God’ is the dharma the yuga or the difficult times we are in, can be the religion for the present age. This attitude turns a secular act into a consecrated one and service of men into the best form of worship of the divine. In this worship of the patient-God, the physician or the surgeon is the chief priest, the nurse, the compounder, the assistants, the anaesthetists and others his helpers; and the objects of worship are the tablets, injections, infusions, and vaccines etc.

Swamiji lays down a few important conditions though, he says: “Three things are necessary for great achievements. First feel from the heart. Real love and sympathy, armed with necessary skills to serve, irrespective of any return in the form of money, name or fame, or recognition. The relevance of these conditions by Swamiji for an ideal medical worker can be immediately appreciated if we look at the prevailing medical scene in India. Due to lack of feeling this noble method of service, the medical profession is getting converted into a trade and an ugly method of exploitation; due to proper lack of proper knowledge it is being reduced to quackery.

Swamiji advocated social reforms  in India pointing the root cause of all ills, in short, poverty and ignorance, that the Indian masses had very little to eat and were ignorant about the basic laws of health.

Corona has taught us to follow hygiene safety rules. Washing hands, using masks, using sanitisers, boiling water to wash dishes and food  before consuming it or selling it for consumption. Basic education on sanitation, first aid, preliminary treatment of many maladies can be easily be taught to the people. Spread of diseases and the outbreak of the epidemics can only be prevented if the masses are informed and armed with ways and means of preventing them.

And of course praying and meditating on oneself, the Atman which according to Swami Vivekananda is disease free. Let us all pray for our health and for people around us, the ones close to us or even the ones who are thousands of miles apart. And definitely follow the Covid safety rules, for sure.

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