For many of us it seems like a dream, or maybe the plot of the next hit movie. But this pandemic is our current reality. As Coronavirus ravages the Earth, there is still one fighting power that scientists haven’t tapped into and that is the power of meditation, love, and devotion. Although we should not ignore the science and the leaders of our nations, we can still use the ancient wisdom of spirituality, Buddhism, and Hinduism to help guide us through these dark times. The power of love and devotion has the potential to heal the soul of the world.
Lessons from Buddhism on Coping with Coronavirus
Accept the Uncertainty & Remember Impermanence
One of the key premises of Buddhism is that everything is impermanent. Like a tree blooming in the spring, its flowers will one day fade and fall to the ground only to come back and bloom again the following year. This is a fact of life; we move through cycles all the time. But the good part of this is that all cycles come to an end. Coronavirus too will come to an end, and at the end of this we will grow back stronger than ever before.
Another major component of Buddhism is that suffering is a part of life. We cannot control the events around us, and the pandemic of COVID-19 is a perfect example of that. The winds blow whether we want them to or not, and coronavirus spreads whether we want it to or not. The only thing we truly have control over is our mind. As the uncontrollable events of life unfold, we choose how we react to it. We can choose to let fear overwhelm us and to let anxiety take the driver’s seat. But we can also choose to be positive and to keep moving forward. We can choose to let this time be an opportunity for growth and inner searching instead.
The truth of the matter is that none of us really know what is coming or what to expect with coronavirus. As brilliant as the doctors and leaders of the world are, we have no way of knowing when the COVID-19 pandemic will end. The only thing we can do is accept the uncertainty and allow ourselves to sit in this feeling. Radically accept the state of the world and focus on the things that you do know and that you can control. This radical acceptance will allow you to move forward and let go of the need to control your surroundings.
Another major component of Buddhism is loving-kindness or metta. The basis of this practice is to send love to yourself and others around the world. In the panic of COVID-19, this is more important than ever. Recognize that we are all struggling right now, so give yourself some love and spread that love to others around you as well, because I guarantee you, we all need a bit of that right now! Call your family and friends, check-in, and tell them you love them. Just this small gesture can go a long way.
Besides caring for others, remember to check-in and care for yourself as well. Every day when you wake up, and a few times throughout the day, take a moment to pause and check-in with your inner state. Sit and be with your emotions. Allow them to be present, notice them, and then let them fall away. Acknowledge your feelings but allow yourself to simply be with this fear and uncertainty. At the end of the day, they are just emotions and they do not control you.
One of the top self-care things to do during these stressful times is to limit your media exposure. Although the media is certainly a powerful tool and a gift to the world, it can also be overwhelming if consumed too much. Seeing the fearful headlines about coronavirus every day can create a cycle of inner panic and fear that is difficult to break out of. However, we still need to stay informed and up to date on the current events of COVID-19. To protect yourself from getting too overwhelmed, try to avoid reading the news before going to bed or right when you wake up and limit your exposure throughout the day. Rather than reading the news, try calling a friend or practicing some meditation instead, moving inwards rather than focusing on events you cannot control.
Meditate and Focus Inwards
Meditation is a powerful tool that can relax you in these stressful times. Even practicing mindfulness meditation for 5-minutes each day can transform your inner state. Take this chance of seclusion to move inwards and try to incorporate this into your daily routine. Every morning when you wake up and every night before you go to sleep, take a moment to concentrate on your breath and relax your mind. If you feel yourself getting overwhelmed at any point during the day, just pause and take a moment to practice some mindfulness meditation.
Try these steps below to start practicing basic mindfulness meditation on your own:
- Find a quiet and peaceful place where you will not be disturbed and take a comfortable seat on the ground, you can sit in a chair if you would be more comfortable or you can lay down on your back as well (just try to avoid falling asleep!).
- Place your hands gently on your legs or by your side and relax your whole body.
- Begin to take deep breaths in and out through your nose, concentrating your mind on your breath.
- Keep your awareness focused on your breath throughout the meditation, you can also count your breaths if that helps you stay focused.
- When you are ready, slowly begin to move your body and wake yourself up out of the meditation.
By doing this simple practice for just 5 minutes every day, it has the potential to transform your life and bring you into a state of peace and equanimity.
Lessons from Hinduism on Coping with Coronavirus
Have Faith in God
One of the key lessons of Hinduism is that the world and everything within it is perfect exactly the way that it is now. Everything in this world contains the essence of God and because of this we should protect and respect all living beings. The world itself should be treated as God’s creation, it is as real as God himself, and it is all under the control of God.
So, although things may seem bad and out of control, remember that this is all part of God’s plan. Surrender control and have faith in God to guide us out of these times of darkness and uncertainty. By placing your full faith in God, it will relieve you of stress caused by fear of this virus.
Whomever God may be for you, practice putting your faith in that God, giving up control and accepting the uncertainty of the world. Even if devotion and surrender to God are not a part of your spiritual practice, you can also understand God as a higher power or the force of the universe and these same principles and practices will apply.
Practicing daily Seva will keep you centered on the path towards liberation and inner healing. According to the practices of Hinduism, one of the most purificatory practices of Seva is to perform selfless service to God through daily worship and offerings.
As written in the Bhagavad‑gītā As It Is:
“When there is an epidemic disease, an antiseptic vaccine protects a person from the attack of such an epidemic. Similarly, food offered to Lord Visnu and then taken by us makes us sufficiently resistant to material affection, and one who is accustomed to this practice is called a devotee of the Lord. Therefore, a person in Krsna consciousness, who eats only food offered to Krsna, can counteract all reactions of past material infections, which are impediments to the progress of self-realization.” (Ch.3, Text 14 Purport)
Eating food or prasad offered to God has a profoundly purifying internal effect for your body, mind, and soul. Even as you offer this food to God, it increases your devotional connection with a higher power and has a relaxing effect on your mind as well.
According to Hinduism, Seva also occurs through devotional service towards others. Remember that each person in this world contains the essence of God, so by helping those less fortunate it also is a form of offering to God. In these times of lockdown, there are thousands of people without food and shelter who are in need, so if you can try to offer them even some small assistance, this has the power to have a ripple effect throughout this world. It is our moral duty as human beings to help and support each other so that we can push through these dark times and come out stronger than ever before.
The Power of Kirtan
Another highly purifying and powerful form of Seva is to practice daily Kirtan and mantra chanting. Chanting the names of God will not only purify your mind, heart, and soul, but this energy of chanting has the potential to purify others as well. The core of Bhakti Yoga is to develop spontaneous and selfless love for God and practicing Kirtan can develop this love within you at a higher and higher level. Mantra chanting is a powerful form of meditation and can create a ripple of positive energy no matter what name of God that you chant.
If you haven’t practiced mantra meditation before, try these steps below to get your practice started:
- Go to a quiet place and sit on the ground or in a chair, you can also lay down if you’d prefer. Place your hands by your sides, close your eyes, and relax your body into any comfortable position.
- Begin to mentally repeat a mantra or short phrase. You can choose any mantra you prefer. If you cannot think of a mantra, you can also just repeat the mantra “AUM”.
- Continue to repeat this mantra mentally, you can also chant the mantra out loud if you’d prefer. Some people also use a string of beads, called a mala, to help count the repetition of each mantra.
- When you are ready to finish, gently open your eyes and wake up your body.
Build Spiritual Associations
As we move into isolation through the coronavirus lockdown, technology has allowed us to remain connected with others despite this. There are now many ways to increase association with other spiritual people to keep you centered on your spiritual path. Try joining spiritual WhatsApp groups, following the Facebook pages of other teachers or yoga masters, or creating a Skype/Zoom chanting or reading group. The gift of technology has allowed us to stay connected and associated spiritually with others while still protecting our physical health through social distancing.
Boost Your Immunity with Yoga and Ayurveda
One of the greatest gifts of Hinduism is the healing power of yoga and Ayurveda. As this disease spreads around the world, daily Hatha yoga practice can keep you physically healthy to boost your immunity and protect you from disease. To boost your immunity even further, try to take Ayurvedic remedies as well. Even the Indian government is recommending Ayurveda for assistive treatment of coronavirus and there are limited side-effects to this traditional medicinal practice. Of course, modern medicine should still be taken in combination with any herbal remedies and always consult with your doctor before taking any medication (even herbal medicines).
As coronavirus spreads around the world, the virus of fear and anxiety seems to be spreading along with it. But the good thing is, there is a great cure for the virus of fear: spirituality, love, mindfulness, and devotion.
The power of Hinduism, Buddhism, and spirituality to cope and heal the psychological impact of Coronavirus cannot be ignored. As we elevate our mental and spiritual energies higher through yogic practices, it not only purifies our own hearts and minds, but this purification has the potential to spread worldwide. Use this quarantine as an opportunity to move inwards and grow spiritually stronger and always remember that you are not alone in this. One day this will end, and we will come out of this on the other side stronger than ever before.