When I read the news this morning, I got scared. People all over the world are starting to brace themselves in fear of the coronavirus epidemic. “What if coronavirus spreads really far and wide? What if devotees get coronavirus? What if I get coronovirus? What if I die?” I started to think.
Vaishnava or not, we all fear death. Therefore all of us are concerned, to a greater or lesser degree, about whether or not we will become infected by the coronavirus. In spite of our trying our best to avoid the contamination, we may end up catching the virus. How we do see this precarious situation from the eyes of Scripture?
According to the Gita, we all are souls encaged in material bodies, and these bodies are themselves testimony of our being “contaminated” by the three modes of material nature. In his purport to Srimad Bhagavatam 4.11.25, Prabhupada states, “That we have a material body proves that we are infected by the three material modes of nature.” In one way, all of us are already contaminated, since the state of being “contaminated,” or “infected,” is a state of being that all souls in the material world share.
Furthermore, Krishna declares this world as “ashashvatam,” temporary (8.15) – a place of misery “wherein repeated birth and death takes place” (8.16). Seen from this angle, death is not surprising down here. We all have to die, one way or other. Therefore there is no need for a conditioned soul to be surprised by the possibility of dying, including dying from cononavirus. All of us will die, one way or other.
Krishna also says, “You have a right to perform your prescribed duty.” In the same verse, Krishna adds, “But you are not entitled to the fruit of action.”
As a practicing Bhakti yogi or Bhakti yogini, It is your duty to take care of your material body as intelligently as possible. It is your duty to take all necessary precautions to avoid catching the coronavirus (or any virus, for that matter). But you should also be detached; you should think “If I catch the coronavirus, so be it.”
Krishna says, “I am all-devouring death” (10.34). In this respect, Srila Prabhupada once recalled the time when, during World War II, bombs were falling on Kolkata. Prabhupada said, “I was in the bomb shelter, and the bombs were falling; and I was thinking as I was chanting Hare Krishna that if I had to die now, it would be wonderful to die while chanting Hare Krishna.” (Srila Prabhupada Lila, “Return to America, 1967”).
Prabhupada was teaching by his own example that if one is Krishna conscious (or even trying to be Krishna conscious), then one should see death as a form of God and should be confident of God’s care, remembering His promise in Bhagavad Gita (8.10) that if one, at the time of death, engages himself or herself “in remembering the Supreme Lord in full devotion,” then he or she “will certainly attain to the Supreme Personality of Godhead.”
If we therefore continue living our life in the spirit of dependence on the Lord, all the while being detached from the result of our efforts to avoid diseases of all kinds, we will live a relatively peaceful life, and – if the words of the Gita are true, chances are that Krishna will take us back into His kingdom after our death – a place free of viruses and full of love of God.
Jan 23, 2022
Anandini Tikunov (8th-grade student)
Jan 22, 2022
Sunanda Das, tovp.org