Krishna Prema's Food for Thought 2020 # 10 - Coronavirus - A Reality-Check
The whole Coronavirus situation feels very surreal. It's unbelievable what's going on in the world. From today on, also in Switzerland, all shops, markets, restaurants, bars as well as entertainment and leisure facilities such as museums, libraries, cinemas, concerts and theater houses, sport centers, swimming pools, and ski areas are closed. All public and private events across the country are prohibited.
Some people claim the whole thing is a fake. They say it's just a yearly flu to which they gave a fancy name. Others go even further and proclaim that the virus is actually a biological weapon spread by the Americans. What's real and what's fake? What reality do we live in?
Let's take another approach. Let's forget about the conspiracy theories and just look at what's going in front of our eyes. Although not everyone got infected by the virus, certainly, a large number of people got infected by fear and anxiety. People are worried about how this whole situation will develop. Many lost their interest to consume and enjoy the way they usually do or they are simply restricted to do so by the governments closing down all entertainment and leisure facilities. This in itself must be a sobering experience for many. But ironically, all of that brings us closer to reality. What reality? The reality of the material existence. Let me try to explain:
Imagine you are tasting your favorite dessert, whatever it may be, sweet rice, vanilla pudding or a strawberry ice cream, but then someone throws some sand in it. Can you still relish the sweet? Not really, because the sand between your teeth spoils the whole experience. Similarly, in this world there are many ways to enjoy life, but because it's the world of duality, wherever there is enjoyment, there will also be suffering. „How long do I need to suffer?“ I once asked a Sadhu, he replied immediately „As long as you want to enjoy!“ It's the natural calamities like birth, disease, old age and death that are `the sand` between our teeth, that spoil the illusion of happiness in this world.
Once I gave a talk at a public program where I mentioned the temporary nature of this world and that it is full of suffering. At the end of the program, one guest approached me and said: „These samosas are great, wonderful food you got! But your philosophy is really pessimistic!“
People too much attached to sense gratification are not able to appreciate philosophy. That's why we sometimes see that in countries that are, materially speaking, very advanced often lack a sense for deeper spirituality. „Why do you tell us that life is suffering? We enjoy, we are happy“, is what people are telling us. Unfortunately, they do not see that this kind of happiness is temporary and cannot give true satisfaction to the heart.
Buddha taught the same thing: Life is suffering! This is the first of the four noble truths of the enlightened one. Just as a T-shirt has a label that says: Made in Bangladesh, 100% Cotton. Similarly, the Lord put a label on this material world that says duhkhalayam asasvatam - This world is a temporary place full of suffering. This is not exactly the kind of spiritual truth that people are looking for, but this is part of reality.
And what is the benefit of understanding this? We learn that this world is not our true home, that we are not these bodies that can become sick and that will die at some point. We are actually spiritual beings who belong to a different reality and that there is a more fulfilling happiness that we are meant to discover in a relationship with God.
My hope, therefore, is that this whole coronavirus dilemma will stimulate people to question their priorities in life. To make them more introspective about reality. The human form of life is meant to solve the problems of life, namely birth, disease, old age and death. But for this, a reality-check is required. The questions should be: „Who am I? Why do I suffer? What's the goal of life? How can I end the cycle of birth and death?“ If we do so, then the coronavirus has helped us to come closer to reality.