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More Viruses and More Waves—How to Cope? || With IIT Patna (2021)

Author Acharya Prashant

Acharya Prashant

8 min
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Questioner: The pandemic situation has been very hard for us physically, mentally, and emotionally too. Many of us have lost our near and dear ones. This situation has changed our perspective on life and death, and made us see that many of the things we consider important are actually meaningless. All in all, the pandemic has hit us all hard and continues to challenge us every day. We got to know that you were also infected by COVID-19 quite recently. How did you manage it? How can we maintain mental composure during these turbulent times?

Acharya Prashant: The first thing is to not get infected, not only for your own personal sake but also for others as well. Because if you get infected, there is a chance that you will infect a few others as well, or maybe many others as well—there are super-spreaders. So, that is the first thing. Second thing is, we ask for remedies or solutions only when trouble strikes us hard, but that often is not the right time to take corrective action. The window of opportunity is not open at that moment, right?

For example, if you get a heart attack and then at that moment you ask, “What to do, what not to do?” there is not much left to do. Now the utmost that can be done is that an ambulance can be called and you can be rushed to the emergency. Now whatever is to be done the doctors will do. You probably won’t even remain conscious to do anything; now the doctors will take care of the situation.

Similarly, once you are infected, or once you are affected by the COVID situation in any way—be it joblessness or depression or economic losses or the effect of COVID on your studies, as students you are—at that time if you ask, “What to do?” then the remedial measures would not be very strong or effective. The thing then, obviously, is to live, lead a right life before and after COVID.

Think of the heart patient. He has just got an attack and you tell him that “You should not take fats and oils and sugar, and you should jog daily.” The fellow has just had a heart attack and you are telling him to go jogging. Not much use, right? He should have gone jogging since the last two years; that is when it would have been useful.

So, the right life has to be lived, because you do not know whether the COVID tragedy is the last one to hit you. You are all young people, and the way the planet currently is and the direction in which mankind is moving, unfortunately there is a huge possibility that you all will have a lot to see, much worse to see in the future. Now, how will you be ready for that? The only way is to keep preparing within even in times that look relatively better. How?

Read a lot of wisdom literature. Give life a good purpose. Surround yourself with the right people who have a certain depth in knowing, in understanding. Do not act frivolously. Do not do things that make you too dependent on circumstances. Do not bet a lot on the future. And these are all things of lifestyle, right? And of all these things that I listed—and of course the list can be much longer, I am just being impromptu—of all these things, the one thing that keeps you going in all situations is having a great purpose in life to live for. It keeps the life force strong within you: there is a fire within that refuses to die out.

And if that is not there, then circumstances can get the better of you very easily. A third wave might soon be upon us, and after that who knows—the next virus might already be in the making. We are making all these pathogens, you see; that is how mankind is today. And then there is the horrible spectre of climate change with all the devastating impacts that are likely to accompany it.

So, know life, know who you are, know why you exist at all. Don’t just live frivolously, because everything that is frivolous and shallow will be carried away by these waves, and you will find yourself in a terrible position. But that is not necessary, that can be avoided. And when to avoid it? The time is now.

Remember that you do not prepare for a heart attack when you are in the moment of the attack; you prepare for the heart attack well before it happens, right? If today we find that COVID has resulted in an avalanche of mental disease cases and so many other things—there is so much of social upheaval as well, and if you talk to doctors, they tell you of many unpleasant things that are happening even in patients who have recovered from COVID—it is because, first of all, we were not living rightly. Because we are not living rightly in the personal sense and also collectively as humanity, therefore, firstly, a tragedy like COVID happened, and secondly, when it happened we were totally under-prepared in front of it. So, prepare yourself well. Be strong.

See, what scares us is loss and death—loss of all kinds, that horrible possibility, and then death, the death of near ones, our own death. That is what affects the mind badly.

Now, if you go to a text like the Katha Upanishad where there is that little boy, and that little boy is being too petulant with his father—he is pestering his father, “Father, you are making the wrong kind of donations! Father, your charity is not honest!” He is doing all this, and the father says, “I am giving you away to death!” It is an allegorical thing. Everything is replete with symbols, so it has to be understood that way. Not that the father murdered him or something, but the story wants to act as a pointer to something else.

So, the father says, “I am giving you away to death! You go away. You make a lot of trouble, you go.” So, this boy goes and straight away faces the death god, and then there is such an illuminating conversation between the boy and death. And if you have been in touch with such literature right since your early years, then death will not be that big a scare to you. You will realize what life means and, therefore, what death really means.

Currently, we know neither life nor death. We do not know what to live for. We do not know why we live at all. Therefore, when things start getting taken away from us, we become very, very anxious, and that is when, in the first place, we never knew why we need those things at all. A double whammy. We do not know why we need such stuff in life and yet we keep spending energy in accumulating it, and then when a tragedy strikes us, a tragedy of any kind, and those things start getting taken away, we become very anxious.

So, know what is worthy of being earned, know what is worthy of being kept with you, and then you will see that you can really look at death and loss in the face. Please live rightly, because all of you have long years to live. And if you do not have depth in life, if you are not exposed to wisdom literature, if you have not thought about important things, if you are not contemplative and meditative, then things can get unfortunately harsh at times. Avoid that. It is avoidable.

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