Fear Corona Fear
Pandemic creates Panic
The current pandemic COVID-19 caught the attention of the entire world which is unprecedented since World War I and II. It is discussed everywhere and all the time – social media, television news, newspapers etc.. There are even apprehensions that the world is going to end. Let us see and evaluate through the light of logic and wisdom whether the situation is really serious or we have made it serious.
COVID-19 – a matter of caution or comotion
We come across several events in our life that are potentially dangerous. With proper preparedness, risk reduction measures, past experience it is possible to avert such dangers. In case of COVID-19, we are well prepared to face it – the mechanism of how it spreads, symptoms, how to detect it is known. We have well-equipped medical facilities for treating the infected. Social distancing measures are proactively implemented to contain it. The world has seen so many epidemics from bubonic plague to SARS (most of which are far deadly than COVID-19) and these are eradicated from the face of the globe. Therefore we can logically and safely conclude that chances of COVID-19 becoming disastrous is moderate both at an individual as well as community level. Therefore it is a must for every individual to exercise appropriate caution to prevent oneself from this infection. Then why is there such a commotion about this moderate threat – the singular answer is FEAR.
Why fear fear ? – T.E.A.R
Fear if unchecked can potentially bring us to the verge of tears or make others shed tears for us. Fear is a very intense emotion that everyone of us experience in day-to-day life. Everyone of us is pleasure seeking. We naturally tend to derive happiness from the things we come across or people we encounter. Equally intense is the natural tendency to avoid pain so that our happiness is not interrupted. When we are placed in a position where we can’t avoid pain, we become fearful. Fear is constructive. It is good to have a healthy fear of being immoral, unethical, fear of displeasing our near and dear etc.. A healthy fear is called as caution.
Fear when it becomes disproportionate is often destructive. Let us see what a disproportionate fear can do to us –
Time wasting – Fear robs us of our greatest fortune – time. A moment of time wasted cannot be brought back even with the wealth of entire world. During lockdown there is lot of time available which can be utilized constructively. A lot of it is unnecessarily spent in too much discussion about COVID-19, statistics in different countries, chatting on social media about it. Time is spent on things that are not relevant and spending time on such discussions will not make any tangible difference neither for us nor for those who are actually affected by COVID-19.
Ever expanding – It is the nature of our mind that whichever emotion it focusses upon, that emotion intensifies. Contemplation leads to Intensification. This is corroborated by an ancient wisdom text Bhagavad Gita[2.62]. As discussed above fear is a very intense emotion. To the extent a particular emotion is intense, to that extent it is difficult to subdue with the help of discrimination. This happens all the more quickly when one is not actively engaged i.e. during leisure. When we have free time, our mind works over time. It is important to know about the safety guidelines that one needs to take to safeguard against COVID-19. If one spends too much time on exploring about COVID-19 which is very tempting, one may end up becoming more fearful.
Affects focus – Focus is a key factor for achieving efficiency and fulfilment in any activity we do. Lack of focus often leads to mistakes. For eg – Accidents. Something done without focus and interest does not give fulfilment to either the beneficiary of the activity or the doer.[Bhagavad Gita 2.41] Fear affects focus. For example – everyone has to go through examination of some kind some time in life. If a student has healthy fear, he will be cautious to study proactively for the exam carefully avoiding distractions etc.. If a student is excessively fearful, his performance will be affected.
Robs you of good health – Our mental state affects our physical health greatly. Disproportionate fear is known to cause serious and sometimes long term cardiac and neurological problems. Danielle Hamm from Rethink Mental Illness(a mental health charity in England) says that during this pandemic, a lot of people are lacking motivation and some are experiencing an increase in suicidal thoughts, or a deterioration in their health to the point they require urgent intervention to manage paranoid delusions or psychosis. It can even lead to death. For instance, majority of the snakes are not venomous. But a great number of snake bites lead to death. The reason is overwhelming fear. Snakes are often portrayed as symbols of death in the human society The good news is fortunately unlike COVID-19, there is a complete, universal solution for controlling fear. Thanks to the ancient wisdom texts like Bhagavad Gita.
Fear – a choice or compulsion ? – P.A.C.E
Fear is a choice not a compulsion. We need to pace forward to face our fears and starve them out of our mind. Fear can be controlled with reason, positive focus and hope. When one is fearful one frantically endeavors to alleviate the fear. But fear has to be dealt with patience. If we starve it, its intensity reduces. The more one forgets fear, fear forgets him. Some of the key practices to control fear are –
Preparedness – Prevention is better than cure. It is important to put our best efforts to prevent the potential danger that may strike. Failing to plan is planning to fail. In case of COVID-19, one need to strictly adhere to the guidelines prescribed by local health authorities. We should try our best and need not worry about the rest. If we are prepared well, it becomes easier to subdue fear with logic and reason. Distraction can be subdued by discrimination. Bhagavad Gita[3.43] It is healthier to have a positive attitude – “Let me try my best to avoid or minimize the danger” than to have a negative attitude – “I should not be fearful”. Life is not a bed of roses. Problems come and go. We need to equip ourselves with tolerance. Bhagavad Gita[2.14]
Avoid gossip –If we come in touch with people who are fearful our fear intensifies. Therefore one needs to consciously avoid such negative vibrations. It is very much needed in this Age of Information Explosion driven by internet and social media. In a fearful situation like COVID-19, the afflicted people seek consolation, hope by approaching the media. Unfortunately the current media – television, podcasters, print media etc.. often try to increase their viewership by promoting content that may further stimulate fear.
Creative Engagement – Fear is worrying about things which are not in our control. Worry is like a rocking chair that takes you no where. In any situation, the right question to be asked – “What can I do now at this moment ?” In a fearful situation, one need to find out an interesting and purposeful engagement in which one is naturally interested. For eg – music, art, gardening etc. that is fulfilling. Then it becomes relatively easy to avoid distraction of fear. Negative distraction can be counteracted by positive engagement. Bhagavad Gita[2.61]. The engagements should calm our mind and not agitate it further. Mantra meditation is a very effective technique to calm down the mind raging with fear.
Enlighten yourself – We ascribe different sets of values to different people/objects we come across. To the extent we value something to that extent we will be fearful of losing it. If we observe the world around, we find that all the things in this world have a beginning and an end i.e. they are temporary. If everything we know and we value is temporary, then are we doomed to be haunted by fear always ? No. In reality we are eternal spiritual beings covered by a subtle covering consisting of mind, intelligence and ego and a gross covering consisting of physical body. Bhagavad Gita[2.42] To understand it more simply gross body is like hardware, subtle body is like software and the spiritual being soul is like user. Even if the computer gets damaged, the user remains intact. Similarly the physical body is temporary and perishes at the end of life, nevertheless the soul continues to exist.[Bhagavad Gita 2.16] For example, during dreams in the night, the physical body is completely inactive, the mind shows various images and the observer is the soul. Hence soul exists independent of body.
To the extent one values the things that are temporary, to that extent one will be affected by fear. To the extent one imbibes the understanding of his spiritual existence and acts with that understanding, to that extent one will be permanently freed from fear. The spiritual understanding can be cultivated by regularly studying wisdom texts like Bhagavad Gita and applying the principles in our life. For example let us consider a small kid playing in the garden. If he falls in the mud, spoils his clothes and the clothes get torn, he will be definitely upset but he is completely confident that his father loves him and will give him a new pair of clothes. But if he has lost the relationship with his father, he will be greatly horrified. Clothes are relatively temporary but relationship with father is lasting. If we can win over fear, no problem can win us over.