Yoga and the coronavirus
by Joseph Le Page
According to the philosophy of Yoga, prakriti, the material world, exists with the purpose of recognizing purusha, our true Being. In other words, the world is a field of learning that exists for the bloom of our true being as purpose and destiny of our life. If, as Yoga says, the world is a field of learning whose goal is spiritual awakening, what are the lessons to be learned from the current pandemic of the coronavirus? Although I fully recognize the gravity of the situation and the understandable fear and anxiety that the entire planet is experiencing, there is also something positive that can come from it; is there also a teaching?
Reflecting on this, several topics are presented:
Fragility – The social, political and economic systems that sustain the lives of human beings, including governments, health systems and companies, strive to present an image of permanence, stability and even invincibility. The current crisis reminds us of our fundamental fragility and vulnerability. This virus is a human tragedy, especially because it takes away from us those who should be most valued, the weak and the elderly. Compared to other pandemics in the past, however, this virus is not among the most threatening to life. Even so, it is beyond the ability of many governments and healthcare systems to deal with it effectively. From the point of view of Yoga, this fragility is inherent in our midst, which is subject to constant changes. This impermanence inherent in all things created is a vivid reminder that this life is not to be an end, but only a means to the recognition of our true being, a source of inner strength, of peace, and peace, which is always present, regardless of what is happening around us.
Interconnectivity – There were much worse pandemics in the past, but the world has never been as interconnected and interdependent as it is today. In the past, crises happened in other countries, far away, with no direct relation to our lives. Today, however, the mutation of a virus in a wild animal market in China almost instantly becomes a crisis for the entire planet, not only from the point of view of health, but also by all the large scale economic implications. Yoga teaches us the consciousness of our interconnectivity, that every thought and action is like stones thrown in a lake whose waves spread infinitely. Therefore, Yoga teaches awareness in all our activities with an understanding of how they will affect others and society in general. Yoga teaches the interconnectedness of all things, so that we, as a species, can no longer afford to act in an individual or selfish way.
Respect to nature – it is a known fact that the coronavirus can spread from unfit and unnatural creations of wild species, but what is less known is that this type of transmission is more likely when these species are under stress. This virus originated in China, but the number of places on the planet in which nature is threatened and under stress is numerous and increases exponentially. We can’t separate ourselves from the cycles and rhythms of nature whose essence is balance and harmony; we can’t expect nature to be patient with us indefinitely, even if our abuse of the natural world continues to continue. This virus can’t be seen separately from deforestation and global warming. Nature is Gaia, a living entity whose care and balance is now an absolute necessity for the survival of our species.
Simplicity – Many of us around the planet now live under restrictions in which only essential services, such as health, food and medicines, are working. With most of our shops closed, we have the possibility to see how many of our desires and needs really go beyond what is absolutely necessary. Yoga tells us that the search for satisfaction through material things will never be enough, because the material world was not to be an end in itself, but only a means of discovering the intrinsic contentment of our true Being. Yoga also teaches that we seek satisfaction and happiness in our surroundings in such a compulsive way, because the pleasure that we experience through material things is a glimpse of the complete peace of our true being that we know that is always present and waiting The best of the world. Maybe this is a time to reflect on our true desires, needs and priorities, wondering if the happiness we seek is in the material things or if it is already really present in our own being, closer to us than our own breath, waiting only to be clearly recognized.
Appreciation – In this moment of crisis, many are separated from the things that are used to do, things that provide pleasure and comfort, and even those that support our spiritual growth and awakening. Some are simple things, like meeting up with friends and family, going to a Yoga class or other group activity, walking in the park or going to the beach. Perhaps this moment of social distance is a time for a deeper appreciation of the blessings that we receive in every moment of daily life. This pandemic reminds us that even our breath is a gift and that we must live and breathe every moment, even the most challenging, with a lot of gratitude and appreciation.
Autonomy and freedom – According to Yoga, prakriti exists for purusha; all creation is a field of learning whose purpose is to awaken to our true Being. The body is a precious vehicle for this journey and, in times of crisis, it is normal for survival, both physical and economic, to become priority. And although this is a time to focus on staying physically healthy, it should also be a time to focus on the ultimate goal and purpose of this body, which, from the perspective of Yoga, is to know the true Being beyond any doubt, theory and questioning, through spiritual awakening. And while the physical being is finite, the true self is infinite and immortal; it is who we are in reality, who we have always been and who we will always be. Even if we value what is finite in this moment of crisis, this is also a moment to prioritize what is immortal, infinite, and always waiting to be seen, our real being, through the practices of yoga and meditation.