COVID-19: Mother Natureís Messenger
Humanity has been stopped in its tracks from overdoing everything that it does. Rishi Rathod explores the spiritual significance (as well as the medical, economic, and environmental angles) of the arrival of the coronavirus and the wisdom it brings to the human race
COVID-19. A mysterious malady, which, till a few months ago, was limited to a small Chinese province, has suddenly snowballed into a hydra-headed monster, rapidly swallowing up one country after another in its deadly jaws. The biggest of powers have been left bewildered, and collectively, the human race seems to be on the brink of devastation, both economically as well as physically.
The medical fraternity is grappling to understand the temperament of a tiny virus which attacks humans indiscriminately while sparing all animals. The contagion travels via the saliva, phlegm, or droplets of sneeze or cough of the infected, making it super easy for it to spread its tentacles.
More than a hundred thousand people have died worldwide and 18 hundred thousand have been infected, with the count still rising. Governments all over the globe are resorting to indefinite lockdowns to break the virus’s cycle, focusing only on the present, as our collective future hangs in suspension.
Suddenly, nothing is important to us anymore. We don’t need to shop, travel, hoard, party, gossip, splurge, indulge in addictions, fight, or make loads of money. Locked inside our homes, we are realising the value of all that which really matters to us. Our life, health, loved ones, basic food, and clean air and water.
Since this is a situation which affects all and spares none, entire mankind has been forced into introspection, reflection, and analysis of what Nature wishes to communicate to her human children through this pandemic. If we connect the dots, we would realise that Mother Nature is telling all of us to sit back, reflect, and ruminate over the way we go about the business of life. Most of us never thought that a virus could cause enormous human suffering, destroy the world economy, and rip apart the very fabric of our daily life. We have to contemplate upon the way we grow and consume food, use resources, build new towns, travel, work, and do business. We never thought that the day would come in our lives when we would be forced to stop our ceaseless pursuit of happiness in the outside world. Today, despite all our material progress and advancement, Mother Nature is showing us as to who is in charge. In the words of Bill Gates, “It is reminding us that this Earth is sick. It is reminding us that we need to look at the rate of deforestation just as urgently as we look at the speed at which toilet rolls are disappearing off the shelves. We are sick because our home is sick.”
As far as the physical emergence of the coronavirus is concerned, many theories abound. According to one, it was lab-created as a weapon of mass-destruction, while another states that 5G radiations may be the cause of it. However, a growing chorus of critics is focussed specifically on the wet markets. Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, recently said that the pandemic was the “direct result” of the conditions found at the wet markets. “It boggles my mind how, when we have so many diseases that emanate out of that unusual human-animal interface, we don’t just shut it down,” he says. However, the issue is less of hygiene and more of the existence of a place where the mass killing of animals is allowed for the sake of food. This mindless eating and abuse of birds and animals started in China during the great famine from 1959 to 1961 when the Chinese went to the forests to catch and eat anything for their survival. Surprisingly, between 1800 and 1900, under the British rule, India too suffered nine famines where millions of Indians lost their lives, but Indians never resorted to killing wild animals for their survival.
Is there a spiritual angle to the malady? How do people on the spiritual path, as well as teachers and gurus perceive this pandemic?
Acharya Prashant, a spiritual teacher rooted in Advait Vedanta asserts, “My opinion might sound controversial, but the disease is coming from a land where all kinds of spiritual practices are banned. Had there been a temple, it would have taught people not to kill whatever animal they get, in order to fill their stomachs. I am not saying that if there were temples viruses wouldn’t be there. A person can argue saying that there are temples where animal sacrifices happen. Try and grasp the deeper meaning of my words. Temples and dharma teach compassion, and where there is compassion there is lesser violence and torture of animals.” He further adds, “Without dharma, there is no difference between man and animal. Infact, man becomes more dangerous than an animal without the light of dharma.”
The lack of dharma reflects in various atrocities committed by humans on others. It could result in the eating of live animals and birds, mass destruction of our flora and fauna, and extreme selfishness in our actions.
Jaina Desai, director and teacher at Art of Living says, “Every incident in life has a higher spiritual purpose which makes us go within, grow as people, and become better and more caring. Perhaps, humanity needed a wake-up call to step away from the rat race, to take a collective deep breath, and take greater care of itself, the planet, and the environment.”
The progress and development of the past 50 years had led us to believe that humans could dominate nature, and that technology and science can resolve most of our challenges. To an extent, it is true, but we have also encroached upon the habitats of other species and taken advantage of the patience and tolerance of Mother Earth. Vindya, a magnified healer from Chennai, says, “It is not just the killing of animals but the overall mindless greed and selfishness of humans which has brought us to this brink. Nature is showing us its power. It is balancing itself and pushing people towards a mass-awakening. When people have been snatched from their daily running around, eventually, they will question everything. True love will prevail and save us all.”
Nivedita Tiwari, a seeker and actor from Mumbai, says, “From a dharmic perspective, a pandemic or ‘mahamari’ is usually the form of Kali, who comes to balance the maternal forces of nature which have been violated by human greed through the indiscriminate exploitation of her resources. Even from a scientific perspective, nothing exists in a vacuum. The pandemic is a result of human action. Whether one believes that the virus was ‘created’ in a lab in China or that humans ate animals which carried the virus, the truth is that we cannot escape the responsibility of having generated this disease. Though the empath in me wouldn’t want to blame an entire nation, yet the Chinese politico-economic system is undeniably the most rapacious in the modern world. They are an irresponsible power. America’s rabid capitalism is atleast held accountable by the democratic forces in the country. But China isn’t a democracy, and hence their policies go unchecked.”
Lessons from the malady
Although we are facing an unpleasant crisis, Nature is actually playing the role of a compassionate teacher. Quarantined in our homes, we need to learn important lessons and rethink how we are going to lead our lives post the coronavirus era. Now is the time to realign ourselves with the universal laws and move forward in harmony with other beings.
Dr Anuradha Iyer, professor and HOD at a government medical college, asserts, “As a doctor, I feel that disease is the time to look at the human being in their entirety. A human being is body, mind, and soul. A disease can harm the body and mind but never the soul. So it is a test for all. If one has focussed on the soul, one is safe. A doctor can only treat the disease. It is the individual’s responsibility to be focussed inwards, as only that can save him.”
Bill Gates has made some very humbling yet enlightening observations regarding the coronavirus pandemic. He says:
“It is reminding us that we are all equal, regardless of our culture, religion, occupation, financial situation or how famous we are. This disease treats us all equally; perhaps we should too. If you don’t believe me, just ask Tom Hanks.
“It is reminding us that we are all connected and something that affects one person has an effect on another. It is reminding us, by oppressing us for a short time, of those in this world whose whole life is spent in oppression.
“It is reminding us of the shortness of life and of what is most important for us to do, which is to help each other, especially those who are old or sick.
“It is reminding us of how important our family and home life is and how much we have neglected this. It is forcing us back into our houses so we can rebuild them into homes and strengthen our family unit.
“It is reminding us to keep our egos in check. It is reminding us that no matter how great we think we are or how great others think we are, a virus can bring our world to a standstill.
“It is reminding us that this can be a time of reflection and understanding, where we learn from our mistakes or it can be the start of a cycle which will continue until we finally learn the lesson we are meant to.
“It is reminding us that after every difficulty, there is always ease. Life is cyclical, and this is just a phase in this great cycle. We do not need to panic; this too shall pass.”
The pandemic is reminding us that we are small, that our knowledge is limited, and that we are not the masters of this world. We can clearly see that God can topple our greatest of cities and civilisations with a tiny, invisible virus. This is not to undermine the value of science and technology, and the progress brought about by them, but to realise that there is a higher power which is running the actual show and which needs to be listened to. COVID-19 reminds us that we are vulnerable and permeable, and inextricably tied to one another.
Saiswaroopa Iyer, an author and venture capitalist, says, “At a societal level, it is time for us to review our practices, especially those that have a direct bearing on community hygiene. Our habits as consumers too come under this. One stark thing that I have noticed is about how the neighbourhood shops have played the saviour as against the multinational or even pan-national supermarkets, whose supply chain has become vulnerable at this juncture. As a civilisation, we have survived for millennia, as we were an entrepreneurial society with conscious customers playing the guard. We must view this pandemic as an opportunity to cut down risks of future dangers that might occur due to our callousness. As a family, we must rediscover ways to function as a team, share responsibilities, and support each other. It is also time to realise the value of things we used to subconsciously take for granted. At a personal level, we must rediscover and reconnect with our own inner self.”
I believe that we have got a break from the mad rush of multitasking and juggling, which had no pause button. Our addiction to high-speed Internet, chatting, dating, and online shopping, and gaming apps have come to a halt. Now, we can relearn patience and slowness. Slowing down can make us see aspects of our existence that we took for granted, such as our own self, our work-life balance, relationships, our children, spouse, and elders. Interesting things happen when we are immersed in our actions without rushing. Nivedita Tiwari, an actor from Mumbai, realises something similar: “It is not just an opportunity to spend time with your family. It is an opportunity to spend time with your own self. How often do we do that, especially in urban societies? Sadhguru says that sitting alone is the most difficult thing in the world. One has to stand the test of one’s own intelligence. And that is why it is so important to sit alone periodically. For me, this is a great time to make myself more pleasant by strengthening my sadhana (spiritual practice). If I am pleasant, those around me will also feel pleasant.
“I am reading, painting, doing my sadhana, doing household chores, reaching out to those I haven’t interacted with for a long time, and reflecting. It is a good time to reflect that a slow life isn’t so bad after all. Also, humans have a great capacity to adapt. We learn how to live with the resources we have. This crisis has also shown us our capacity to give and give deeply.”
Finally, this lockdown and quarantine are telling us what the sages have been telling us since long: don’t take things for granted, be it your job, health, food, relations, or economy. Appreciate and love whatever you have because you never know when you might lose them. Freedom is fragile.
Do alternative remedies work?
The conventional mode of medicine is struggling hard to find a cure or a vaccine for COVID-19. Meanwhile, all sorts of combinations are being experimented with to see if anything can help in combating the disease.
Many alternative therapists and healers have come forward to suggest that their remedies can be of some help in battling COVID-19. Chinese traditional medicine as well as Indian ayurvedic and Siddha medicines are claiming to have some impact in arresting the spread of this virus. Most of these medicines are immunity boosters, which don’t work directly on the virus or prohibit its spread but build immunity which neutralises its mutation.
There is plenty of data supporting the efficacy of herbs in treating the contagion. Chinese researches had initially obtained some promising results from their clinical observation. The southern province of Guangdong and coastal Zhejiang area of China had some of the highest numbers of patients after Hubei. These patients were given herbal drinks to relieve their symptoms even before they were tested.
Guangdong reported a mortality rate of just 0.1 per cent of the infected people compared to Wuhan’s rate of 2.6 per cent, and none of the 1155 confirmed patients in Zhejiang died.
23 coronavirus patients were discharged from hospital after treatment with both traditional Chinese medicine and Western medicine according to the report published by Stephen Chen on South China Morning Post website.
Subodh Gupta, a yoga and holistic health consultant who operates in India and the UK, received a 74-year-old patient with the symptoms of coronavirus such as very high fever, severe dry cough, breathing difficulty, pneumonia, water in the lungs, body ache, joint pain, and diarrhoea. He managed to recover the patient only on the basis of natural remedies. Subodh says, “I have researched and discovered a nine-step strategy to fight and cure any disease, but at the moment, the focus is on curing coronavirus patients.” He has created a special combination of natural ingredients in a specific proportion which can fight any virus or bacteria by boosting your immunity.
With the help of paracetamol to control the fever and the combination of these Indian natural herbs, he managed to save the life of the 74-year-old man. Now the patient is fine, and all his reports and parameters are normal. Gupta has even posted a few of the blood reports on his blog www.subodhgupta.com titled Coronavirus cure is possible by natural remedies.
Dr Thanikasalam Veni of Rathna Siddha hospital, Chennai, with 25 years of experience in the field of Siddha and ayurvedic medicine, says, “We have formulated a medicine from an extract of herbs. It is very effective to cure any type of viral fever. So far, coronavirus has no medicinal cure, but I am confident that our medicine will be very effective.” Dr Veni claims that the medicine formulated by him along with his team treats infections caused by any virus within 24 to 40 hours. In this given time frame, when he treated the dengue virus with his special herbal medicine, many patients with reduced platelet count, acute liver failure, immunity deficiency, and low white blood cells saw positive results.
In the name of coronavirus, there is a lot of fear and panic floating around. Herbalist and researcher in functional nutrition, Shikha Sharma says that the coronavirus can be an opportunity to create wellness for yourself and your loved ones.
She suggests consuming herbs, vegetables, and fruits that we generally have in our kitchen and some exercise to fight the infection and virus. She lists the following must do’s to raise your chances against COVID-19:
• Get adequate amount of oxygen and sunshine
Spending time outdoors away from crowds would ensure that you get sufficient sunlight for 30 to 40 minutes at least. You would also be oxygenating your blood, which will increase your chances of fighting any infection. If you cannot be outdoors, by all means, be out on your balcony to get a good amount of sun exposure, preferably on your back if it is during midday.
• Ensure a healthy gut
More than half your battle is won if you have a good balance of healthy bacteria in the gut. Buying a probiotic supplement can be difficult during the lockdown, but you can make lassi (sweet curd-based Indian drink) or buttermilk at home for a fraction of the price. Probiotic concoctions abound in the traditional Indian diet. Kanji (rice porridge) made with purple carrot or beetroot is great for daily consumption. Panta Bhat (a rice-based dish), a preparation consumed by Bengalis and Oriyas, is another method of getting a healthy supply of gut bacteria.
• Drink green tea
With one tea bag, you can make up to a litre of tea. To get maximum benefit, soak the tea bag in about a litre of water (preferably overnight/10-12 hours) and then heat it to make a full-bodied tea. Aim to get three to four cups of this tea. You may add honey, if the tea is lukewarm, or else use jaggery.
• Reduce the digestive load
Eat smaller meals. Have fresh lemon or lime in your salads. They’ll ensure your vitamin C levels are up and working; also, you’ll have a good supply of digestive enzymes to properly breakdown and metabolise your food. Amla (Indian gooseberry) is loaded with antioxidants, and you’ll have an army working up your defences.
• Early signs of cold and cough or the flu
If you have a throat or body ache and you feel that you are coming down with the flu, give this herbal remedy a try before rushing to pop a Crocin or Tylenol. Brew turmeric, black peppercorns, and ginger into a mild black or green tea. After the water reduces a little, add 1/2 to 1 tsp ghee and drink it. Two to three glasses a day are sufficient to break an early infection. Honey and fresh amla juice (squeezed from 1-2 amlas) can be had once or twice a day to further boost the immune system.
• For sore throat and pneumonia-like symptoms
If you have developed full pneumonia-like symptoms and you cannot rush to a doctor and have to be in home quarantine with or without medications, then you may try the following procedure to get relief: Boil some eucalyptus leaves in water and do steam inhalation. Keep a peppercorn in your mouth if the coughing is persistent and dry. The peppercorn will help to expectorate the phlegm and open the airways.
If you can get Ocem 5 from the pharmacy or fresh tulsi (Holy basil) leaves, use either with ginger tea. Crush two to three leaves per cup and let them steep into a freshly made tea. Drink upto three cups a day.
The future of working from home
Now is the time to re-imagine the future. The pandemic has forced many employers to send their millions of employees to work from home. This can be considered as an opportunity as we have the technological facilities in place to facilitate this idea. With the help of the Internet, software, smartphones, and other related tools, more than 50 per cent of the workforce can work from home. Though it might not be possible for all the sectors, in industries like IT, automation, and telecommunication, it can easily be done. There will be an overall saving of time, money, and energy by adopting the work-from-home policy. Indians spend more time in their daily office commute than most countries in the world, with more than two hours on the road every day, as per the report by office commute platform MoveInSync Technology Solutions. Calculated on a monthly basis, the time spent in traffic is between 40 to 60 hours per month, which induces stress, irrespective of whether you are in a car, metro, train, or bus. This further negatively impacts the productivity of the employees.
If working from home becomes the norm, it will have a trickledown effect on everything. The elimination of the daily commute will enable a relaxed lifestyle for many, resulting in a better, while at the same time, ease up the load on the transport network. People can balance home and work life more easily, resulting in overall job satisfaction. Satisfied employees don’t change jobs that frequently, thus reducing the attrition cost of employers. To better understand the efficacy of remoteworking, Airtasker surveyed 1,004 full-time employees throughout the US—505 of whom were remote employees—about their work habits and productivity. According to author Sean Peek’s online article ‘Communication Technology and Inclusion Will Shape the Future of RemoteWork,’ the results indicate that remote workers are actually more productive than their office-based counterparts.
The work-from-home policy will further help in reducing the overall consumption of fossil fuel, which is a big reason for global warming and noise pollution caused by honking vehicles. Additionally, it will cut down on travel and fuel-related expenses of a householder, helping them save more money.
Currently, real estate prices are exorbitantly high everywhere in the world, making it impossible even for large corporations to open offices at multiple locations. Providing a work-from-home facility circumvents such investments without having to compromise on business and enterprise.
The good news is that companies are realising the value of working from home. They allow employees to work from home once, twice, or thrice a week if the latter can not move out for a few days due to domestic reasons.
“KPMG India allows employees to work from anywhere, be it a client location or home, provided that the role can be executed virtually and productivity, performance, and timelines are not hampered,” said Shalini Pillai, head of People, Performance, and Culture.
Another example is of Bangalore’s SAP Labs where they don’t monitor entry and exit timings. Employees decide when to go to work and leave. SAP allows employees to work from home too once a week. “It’s about output and not how many hours the employees spend on work,” a spokesperson for SAP Labs said.
Rohitashwar Poddar, MD, Poddar Housing, says, “As far as working from home is concerned, we have already started making the provision by means of creating a multipurpose hall in most of our residential complexes that we build. Now the society can come together and decide to start an office set-up or business centre for people who are working from home.”
Gandhian idea of self-sufficiency
We must revisit the beautiful Gandhian ideal of self-sufficient villages. If we can start depending on the local market in about a 100-metre diameter of our residence for our food, clothing, and other necessities, we would do immense service to the farmers, local artisans, ecology, and economy at a macro level. Our bodies are much more attuned to local food, clothing, and shelter materials which we use to make our homes with. We can still look global but remain grounded in what is local.
“Definitely, this Gandhian ideal is worth revisiting. I am all in favour of encouraging the neighbourhood cottage industries to whatever extent we can,” says Saiswaroopa Iyer, an author, “but there is no reversal from globalisation and connectivity. We must get along with the rest of the world, but an increased sense of caution and responsibility is a must in our interactions and exchanges. I would prefer the government coming up with a risk index for each country (or zone) depending upon food habits, manufacturing ethics, style of governance, and then deciding the level of interaction or relationship with that country.”
Satish Purohit, a writer and student of Tantra, says, “Vishnu is the all-pervader. His shakti Bagalamukhi is one of the 10 great wisdom goddesses of Tantra. She holds the power to stun everything into stillness. Anyone who strays too far from the laws of the Universe is halted forcefully by her great power. An epidemic that stops the world in its tracks is a display of Mother Bagala’s great power, reminding us that we have abandoned dharma or the path of righteousness. What we are witnessing is a powerful reminder that we have lost the centre—the dharma or the Tao—and need to retrace our steps. Bagalamukhi is closely connected with Bhudevi or Mother Earth. Both enjoy a conjugal relationship with Vishnu, the preserver.”
To summarise, these times are a grim reminder of how we humans have taken over the earth. We have encroached on the territory of other living beings. We have destroyed habitats, killed animals, and overused resources. We do not own this planet; we share the world with other living beings. Our lives are as much about cohabitation as about survival of the fittest.
There is a lot of fear, sadness, and anxiety around the world. The virus has caused havoc, but there are positives too. Let us, for a moment, rewind our lives. Can we see that plenty of things have changed in just a matter of days and weeks? Malls, theatres, restaurants, and institutions have closed down. Public spaces are empty. There are fewer cars on the road, pollution levels have come down, tourist spots and beaches are empty. Waterbodies are cleaner because most people are at home with their families. This coronavirus pandemic has pushed a reset button on a lot of things. We have begun to appreciate simple things in life, but the most important lesson that we are learning is that of coexistence. Since humans have begun retracting from public spaces, nature has begun reclaiming its space. Dolphins have been spotted in Mumbai’s coast; the Malabar civet cat, a critically endangered mammal not seen until 1990, has resurfaced; deer were seen in Nangloi, Delhi; and the nilgai was seen in Noida. Our revered rivers Ganga and Yamuna are much cleaner today.
The sky from my window looks like a picturesque frame. Now, parrots and sparrows come each morning to wake me up as well as in the evening to say goodbye. These delightful days remind me of the lines from the Louis Armstrong song What a wonderful world:
I see skies of blue and clouds of white
The bright blessed day, the dark sacred night
And I think to myself: What a wonderful world.
The truth is staring us in the face. Mother Nature has spoken. Mankind better mend its ways for its own sake and for the sake of all beings who are equally her children.
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