If there was ever a time we needed to reflect on our Karmas, it is now. If there was ever a time we needed to change our conduct, behaviourism, and lifestyle, it is now.
The Chinese virus has indeed shaken the world today. And that the present generation has never had an experience with a pandemic before. But history shows that Karma has its way of working. The world may have conveniently masked its greed as moral entitlement and continued its atrocities on Mother Nature, but Karma doesn't look the other way.
Take a moment here and understand the cause and effect of humankind's wrongdoings on nature. Be it the 1720 plague, the 1820 cholera or the 1918 Spanish Flu outbreak – pandemics have continued to teach the world a lesson: you reap what you sow.
And not just pandemics; disasters and tragedies beyond contagion have impacted the global society several times. For the world, it was World War II which was the biggest human tragedy that brought the entire world to a halt. Nearly 85 million people lost their lives to the Holocaust. For India, it was the Partition. The Mughal and the British rule indeed created a wretched India. But the biggest blow to India has been the 1947 division and the sectarian violence that followed. Estimates of those who died range from 2,00,000 to 20,00,000. And over 1,40,00,000 were displaced, making it one of the largest forced migrations of the 20th century.
Time and again, the world, including India, has seen major upheavals that changed its dynamics. Today, it is the Chinese virus outbreak that's transforming the world.
The world right now is paying for its Karma. And, all of us, including me, is blaming China. But we are forgetting that it's our collective Karma that we are paying for. We all have to reap what we sow. Although the virus originated in China, the suffering is worldwide. The entire humankind is paying for its sins. And the biggest of these sins is going against Mother Nature.
Lord Krishna explains in Chapter 3, verse 27 of the Bhagavad Gita:
प्रकृतेः क्रियमाणानि गुणैः कर्माणि सर्वशः।
अहङ्कारविमूढात्मा कर्ताहमिति मन्यते॥ ३-२७
In fact, all actions are being performed by the modes of Prakruti (Primordial Nature).
The fool, whose mind is deluded by egoism, thinks: "I am the doer."
Humans have been exploiting Mother Nature since time immemorial. The global habitat and biodiversity loss that we orchestrated craved for a much-needed pause. Consequently, the 'real doer' Mother Nature had to pull the strings. And that she did. She decided to get the well-deserved long break by putting the world into confinement.
It seems just about impossible to fathom the extent of this virus that has forced countries to release inmates on bail for controlling the spread. Still and all, the entire world is imprisoned now. Nobody is spared. For the Chinese virus doesn't differentiate on the basis of caste, creed, religion, social status or affluence level. We may have created these demarcations, but this deadly virus knows none of them. It transcends national boundaries as well, proving once again that Mother Nature is much more powerful than humans and the borders we have created.
This infinitesimal virus is nothing but a means to teach us that nobody is above nature – just like volcanoes, earthquakes and other natural calamities that represent nature's anger. The only difference is that this time, the rage has hit its peak. And nature once again teaches us that no matter who you are, what you do, you will not be spared of its wrath if the desecration of its ecosystems continues.
Chicken come home to roost
"He who gives permission, he who kills the animal, he who sells the slaughtered animal, he who cooks the animal, he who administers the distribution of the foodstuff, and at last he who eats such cooked animal food are all murderers, and all of them are liable to be punished by the laws of nature." Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 1.7.37
SARS, MERS, HIV, bird flu, Zika virus, Ebola and now the Covid-19 — all have one thing common. They are zoonotic diseases. These viruses originate in animals before reaching humans and resulting in outbreaks. So, when exotic wild animals are sold in wet markets to satiate the hunger of humans, such markets are bound to become virus Petri dishes.
One such incubator of human diseases, the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in China's Wuhan is apparently the source of Covid-19. Don't go by its name. The market, like several wet markets, used to sell much more than seafood. Racoons, deer, bats, snakes, porcupines, and dogs were slaughtered and sold across the country as food delicacies and for medicinal purposes, as they would say. In China's Guangdong Province, there is a saying that, "The Chinese eat everything with four legs, except tables, and everything that flies except aeroplanes." I didn't find it amusing. And I never will. It just irks me thinking about the indifference of us humans towards other animals.
Racoons, deer, bats, snakes, porcupines, and dogs were slaughtered in Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market and sold as food delicacies and for medicinal purposes, (Photo: AP)
And it's not just about China. Although Wuhan's wet market is said to be the source of the deadly Chinese virus, wet markets are common across Southeast Asia. These exotic delicacies have led to gruesome fatalities earlier as well, but humans seem to be living in oblivion. When you capture wild animals for food consumption and put them in close quarters with unsanitary practices, Mother Nature will avenge the mistreatment of the natural world, sooner or later.
Forget about China, all around the globe animals are slaughtered for food consumption, and India is no exception. Not just chicken and lamb, cattle slaughter, especially cow slaughter, is quite common in many parts of our country. Yes, anti-cow slaughter laws are prevalent in most Indian states. But unfortunately, Kerala, West Bengal, and states of Northeast India are not among them.
In the Vedas, Aditi, the mother of all the devtas, is often represented as a cow. Imagine the significance this animal holds for us. India is the land where the cow is associated with Lord Krishna. It is the land where the cow is worshipped. It is the land where the cow forms an indispensable part of rural livelihoods. Well, the irony is that the cow is still being murdered and sold in the very same land.
The race to be the supreme
We have long known that superpower rivalry has lured nations into possessing nuclear weapons. And that's not all; we have carved up the sea, polluted air and water to unimaginable extents, cleared trees and forests for many, many decades now — all in the name of industrial giantism and progress. So, today when the wealthiest of the nations have crashed down due to the Chinese virus, Karma is playing its role.
There was a time where almost every Asian dreamt of having an American passport. For most of us, America means world power, progress, affluence, and much more. But not any longer. The country has the highest caseload, with over 7,35,000 confirmed infections and has also lost over 39,000 lives to the virus. While America will come out of the crisis for sure, the human loss and Wall Street collapse will certainly leave the country devastated for years to come.
America's 'War on Terror' has been on for more than 18 years now. (Photo: Reuters)
I remember how after the 9/11 terrorist attacks that killed almost 3,000 people, the US started initiatives to combat terrorism. The country's 'War on Terror' which includes the Afghanistan War and the War in Iraq, has been on for more than 18 years now. Since 2001, the US has spent a whopping US$ 6.4 trillion on wars in the Middle East and Asia. After the 9/11 attacks, the USA also underwent an overhaul in airport security with multiple checks and screenings. While the country did prepare to combat human terror, it never prepared itself to combat bioterror. It is nothing but America's inanity and the apathetic attitude of most of the Americans that led to the nation's distressing state.
I can understand that India is a developing country. We have many weaknesses. And the biggest of them is our political system. It makes sense why a nation like India, with few resources and the second largest population in the world, couldn't prepare for a pandemic. But what about countries like the USA? Even European countries couldn't prepare for it. Italy, for example, has the world's second-best healthcare system. Still, the country doesn't have enough hospital beds, and its healthcare came to a near-halt. The overloaded hospitals, scarce medication, ventilators and personal protective equipment hint at the world's carelessness towards public health threats.
India's legacy may help it combat the Chinese virus
At the height of this world-shattering pandemic, many nations found themselves struggling with a catastrophic loss of human life and burgeoning economic depression. While most of these nations have given precedence to the economy over human lives, India is different. India chose its citizens' lives over the economy.
Before the Chinese virus hit the world, the US economy was booming. It is the largest economy in the world after all and has not lost its status since 1871. In terms of nominal GDP, the US economy was US$ 21.44 trillion in 2019. India, on the other hand, had the nominal GDP of US$ 2.94 trillion in 2019. The world's second-most populous country and one of the poorest nations, India, chose lockdown to save lives, not the economy. That's what our heritage is. We might not be the mightiest. But we certainly are more humane and considerate than the wealthiest and the strongest of the nations out there.
Apart from evacuating Indian nationals, India has also evacuated and repatriated thousands of foreign nationals so far. (Photo: ANI)
Even in these struggling times, India is living by the ideology of 'Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam' which means the whole world is one single family. Apart from evacuating Indian nationals, India has also evacuated and repatriated thousands of foreign nationals so far. Not to miss the fact that India is in the process to supply Hydroxychloroquine and other aids to over 55 countries including the USA, Brazil, Bahrain, Germany and Spain. So, when it comes to the world's Karmic account, it is safe to say that India has always done good Karmas. We have never started a war, nor have invaded anyone. We have never bullied another nation, nor have denied help to any. Perhaps, that's the reason why India is doing far better than most of the countries when it comes to combating the Chinese virus.
It's all about your Karma, after all. What goes around, comes around. Isn't it?
The universe is calling for peaceful coexistence
Imagine someone intrudes into your home, messes it up and replaces all your cherished belongings with theirs. Now imagine them flourishing and slowly eroding your personal space and threatening your existence. This is what we humans have been doing to nature. In our quest to develop, thrive and succeed, we have drastically eroded wild spaces and natural environments. We came to a point where there was no looking back. Stopping nations from conquering nature to win the race of superpower seemed impossible. Until nature decided to put its foot down.
Lately, you must have seen social media buzzing with the pictures of emboldened animals frolicking through cities. These are the same cities that were once marked by humans as their territory.
OUT FOR A STROLL: A coyote took advantage of coronavirus restrictions in San Francisco, roaming freely while the public remained mostly indoors, as authorities advised people not to feed or approach them. https://t.co/6EBG5bSEgn pic.twitter.com/Cs7DqdF00E— ABC News (@ABC) April 17, 2020
Cities are under #quarantine, and streets are empty. In #Paris, wild pigs are walking the boulevards, while goats roam in the streets of #Wales.#COVID#AlexNaJalas #CoronaHarega pic.twitter.com/a72GXY05fz— C. Obsiye | عبيد اوبسيه (@soolizia) April 9, 2020
It seems like wildlife is reclaiming its legitimate space. Not just this, across the globe, pollution belts are shrinking and air quality is improving. Even in a heavily polluted country like India, the sky is finally clear as nature is healing itself. And the river biodiversity is reviving too. The water quality of the Ganga and Yamuna rivers in India has improved radically ever since the country has been living under lockdown. Both these rivers have been fighting pollution for decades now. In fact, the government's 'Namami Gange Programme', with a budget outlay of Rs 20,000 crore to clean the national river couldn't achieve as much success as nature has done on its own during the lockdown.
The Chinese virus has made one thing pretty clear: no one is above the power of the universe. The world had caused so much disbalance in natural ecosystems that we didn't leave any chance for it to turn the corner. But not anymore. Nature is bouncing back. And we must recede.
As Lord Krishna says in Chapter 5, Verse 22 of Bhagavad Gita,
ये हि संस्पर्शजा भोगा दु:खयोनय एव ते |
आद्यन्तवन्त: कौन्तेय न तेषु रमते बुध: || 22||
The pleasures that arise from contact with the sense objects, though appearing as enjoyable to worldly-minded people, are verily a source of misery. O son of Kunti, such pleasures have a beginning and an end, and so the wise do not delight in them.
The pleasures that we seek by destroying nature for our enjoyment have an end. The Chinese virus is nature's warning shot. A wake-up call for us to not delight in this vice. But are we paying heed?