Every crisis presents an opportunity to recalibrate social patterns.
Last year, around this time, we were already six weeks into the lockdown. Usually, we spend so much time talking about others and making a judgement on others that we forget to look deep into ourselves. But during that first lockdown, I found time to do some reflecting, using tools learnt at meditation retreats. It is easy to meditate for 30 minutes and be in peace, but the challenge is how to manage the rest of the day when your mind is in pieces.
The key challenge is to keep the positive energy flowing in an environment where every conversation is fueled by the negative news floating around. Therefore, it puts more pressure on people to think deeply—not in those thirty minutes of mediation but as we go by our lives each day. There is that deep sense of anxiety, uncertainty and fear, but the awareness of these feelings an important step to move past them. This is easier said than done, but we are better prepared now to anticipate these challenges. Last year, I started voluntarily sessions on internalising and implementing change that I am restarting for people who are open to ask questions relating to themselves in front of others.
For me, the pandemic brought about the need for a deep sense of understanding about oneself and the necessity for change. This time around, there are two major thoughts that I am reflecting deeply on. First, our connection with past and future lives. Second, the need to be part of social functions.
Birth and rebirth
As someone who was born a Buddhist, past lives and future lives are discussed more than the current life. There are functions and ceremonies for the people who are dead and gone. We spend more time correcting our past lives and wanting a better life rather than focusing on this life. So what is the reasoning one can have when someone who went to perform rituals for one’s ancestors in a shraddha ceremony actually dies contacting Covid-19. Is this person’s current life less important than the lives of that person’s ancestors? Or, was it his karma to die this way? Many people believe that our destiny is written when one is born or even when one died in the previous lives.
Similarly, people would not stop weddings as they believed in the auspicious time (saait) of the weddings are pre-destined. But what about the couple who married on this auspicious time and contacted Covid-19 in that bargain and actually died. What if a guest attending contracted Covid-19 this way? So is it important to adhere to the auspicious time, even if it means that people may actually die? I am looking for answers.
There is that immense pressure to be part of social events be it birth, marriage or death. And there are a host of religious functions. All the people who made so much noise even in Nepal and India last year, accusing the Islamic Tablighi Jamaat movement of spreading Covid-19 in the region, kept quiet when millions took a dip in the river during the Maha Kumbha Mela in India; the scale of infection in the latter event was much higher.
One fails to understand what prompted our septuagenarian former king along with the former queen to decide to visit this religious function. Even after lockdown, social media is filled with pictures of people attending weddings, birthdays, baby showers and other social functions—at a time when one is advised to wear masks even at home.
Many in Nepal claim that one’s sanity is more important than one’s safety; therefore, one cannot avoid social functions. The problem here is that Nepalis are rights oriented rather than responsibility oriented; we think attending or hosting social functions is our right. The issue of ethnicity and culture is then brought into the discourse, when people are asked to refrain from organising big-scale events like a jatra.
Is it that our current lives are less important because we have many lives coming up in future that we do not mind sacrificing our own lives, or the lives of others? Or is it that the sense of martyrdom sets in when someone succumbs to Covid-19 when attending a social or religious function? Perhaps the tendency of seeing such people as unlucky martyrs rather than stupid fools who did not follow protocols tend to make people take these issues lightly.
When one is in lockdown, the mind is the only thing that can travel and traverse the world. While it is easy to let the mind wander outside, it is also equally important to lock down one’s mind and let it explore deep within oneself.