The pandemic in India has created a situation that is both heartbreaking in terms of human suffering and staggering in its numbers. Many reputable sources say that the reported statistics of 400,000 new cases of Covid and 3,000 deaths per day are actually many times lower than the true figures.
Yet what really brings this situation home for me are the letters and texts from our friends in India. This morning we received one from Ananda’s center leader in Bangalore, in which she wrote: “The situation here is astonishing. Almost every member of our community has a friend, relative, coworker, or someone else close to them who either has Covid, is recovering in the hospital, or has passed on.”
Even as we grieve for and with our friends, I think we all are asking, “Why is this happening?” One can point to mistakes made by political leaders and to the dire consequences of poverty and overpopulation, but we should also look for deeper reasons behind what’s occurring on the surface.
Swami Kriyananda has said that India is the guru of the world. Through their search for ultimate truth, India’s sages down through the centuries have given us the science of yoga, the model of the guru-disciple relationship, and the Vedantic philosophy in all its depth.
Now is the time for people everywhere to reflect on India’s teachings that this material world, which seems so real, is only maya, delusion. The light of God’s consciousness, from which our souls have been brought forth, is the only true, lasting reality.
In the Bhagavad Gita, when Arjuna grieves for those who will die in the impending battle, Krishna consoles him with these beautiful words:
With words of love (and seeming wisdom) you have been grieving over those who deserve no lamentation. The wise mourn neither for those who live on earth nor for those who leave it. . . .
The indwelling Self is ever changeless, imperishable, and without limitation. Only these fleshly garments can be destroyed. . . .
That Self is not born, nor does it perish. Self-existent, it continues its existence forever. It is birthless, eternal, changeless, and ever the same.
In Paramhansa Yogananda’s Autobiography of a Yogi, we read in page after page about the unreality of death. In thrilling stories he tells of the physical resurrection after death of his guru, Sri Yukteswar, and in turn of his guru, Lahiri Mahasaya. The first of this spiritual lineage, Babaji, is a deathless master who has chosen to remain in a physical body for this cycle of time to guide and uplift humanity.
Master also relates there his own unusual vision regarding death. While in Kolkata at his father’s home, Yoganandaji was sadly reflecting on the vast toll of death occurring on the battlefields of Europe during World War I. Suddenly he found his consciousness transported to the body of the commander of a battleship under siege. A bullet pierced his chest, and he fell dead.
“At last the mysterious footstep of Death has caught up with me,” he thought. Suddenly he found himself once more seated in lotus posture at the home in Kolkata. Joyfully, he realized he was alive in a body free of wounds. No sooner had he begun rejoicing, however, when to his bewilderment he once again found himself in the body of the dead captain.
“Lord,” he prayed, “am I dead or alive?”
A dazzling light filled the horizon. The words came forth: “What has life or death to do with Light? In the image of My Light I have made you. The relativities of life and death belong to the cosmic dream. Behold your dreamless being! Awake, my child, awake!”
What consolation can those of us find who have lost loved ones? Of course, we will grieve for them as Master did as a young boy when his mother died. But beyond that loss is the promise that our souls will be united forever in God.
Yoganandaji wrote a beautiful prose-poem entitled “Conquering Fear of Death: The Dying Youth’s Divine Reply.” It tells of a beloved youth who is mortally ill. His family sobs, begging him to stay, but he replies joyously, “You weep for me dark tears, sorrowing at your impending loss in me, but I weep for you glad, joyous tears, for I am going before you—yes, for your own welfare’s sake also—to light candles of wisdom all the way. I shall wait for you there, to welcome you to my place of eternal freedom with my one and only Beloved, and yours.”
So, my friends, why is this happening? Perhaps to remind us that God’s light and love are the only realities is this world of shadows. The suffering of the pandemic will pass, but grief and suffering will come again wearing another garb. The only lasting way out is to dissolve into God’s light.
Let us draw comfort from His eternal reassurance. It will give us strength to serve others in need. As my friend from Bangalore wrote in her letter, “This situation has brought so many people together from all over India. It is the spirituality and depth of India that are shining forth during this time of horror. Everyone is helping in some way, big or small. People everywhere are stepping up and being selfless and creative in helping their country.”
With loving thoughts and prayers,
Join your energies to bring more light, more solace to our loved ones, and to our larger family, the entire world, with these resources from Ananda India and Ananda Sangha Worldwide. In addition, many of us are practicing the Astral Ascension Ceremony during this time for souls in need— download it here as a PDF.
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