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The post-Covid world

Dr. Alok Pandey


As the world reels under yet another ‘mass hysteria’ and panic, it is time to look within and reflect and ask ourselves which road are we have taken and where it will lead us as a civilisation, as a conscious and thinking humanity. As the dust begins to settle, it is time to take stock and re-orient ourselves by looking deeper into the causes and the effects, not only of the ‘pandemic’ but also of our response to it.

The poser and the wager

Another giant wave of destruction has passed over like a convulsion or a seizure that from time to time shakes the very foundations on which we hope to build our world. These spasms that seize mankind, whether in the form of great wars or epidemics, leave a trail of destruction behind as a cyclone leaves fallen trees and heaps of dust in its passing. Of course, eventually all this serves as a cleansing process, like the rains that lash out at every door, reminding us of the indispensable purification, of building a deeper foundation for our life that strives and struggles not just to live and survive, but to grow and conquer and discover the perfection it is meant to be.

The future of mankind depends upon whether it learns the lessons or not. Depending upon how we rebuild ourselves, we shall not only escape the disaster but also prevent it in the future or else invite more and more blows until humanity segregates into two clear types, — one that refuses to learn and grow and chooses to continue on its old familiar ways, and another, that heeds the warning of the thunder and the crash and uses the moment of ruin to rebuild itself in a better and beautiful way.

This is something yet to be seen. As of now, we can see the foundations on which we had built our present civilisation being exposed along with the rot that had set in them. The roots supporting our high-rise buildings and gigantic structures seem to be fear and greed, lust for power and a constant expansion of the circle of our ambition and the spirit of appropriation and wanton desire, directed largely towards selfish ends. When we look back at the end of this convulsion, when we take stock of the situation after the wave has passed and the present noise and cry for survival has sunk into a whisper and a murmur, we shall perhaps discover that it is not the virus that caused so much destruction as our response to it.

Faith versus fear

While we were too busy counting the dead and turning human beings and their bodies into figures and numbers there was something that was being quietly stolen from us. It is the typical strategy of the forces of the Night that they distract and divert our attention and thereby enter into our house of life with stealth under the cover of unconsciousness. While we were busy congratulating ourselves on the victories we are winning against a virus of old, proving the old adage once again that the fittest survive, something else was crying for survival without which humanity would be nothing but a lump of clay.

This most precious diamond jewel within our heart that was being stolen is faith. Hope and faith are the two things that can resurrect our humanity from scratch. On the other hand humanity, without these indispensable elements, is nothing else but a mere cunning animal and all the worse since it has added to its armaments of predatory ways the power of deception that the mind brings. The first and most important casualty therefore has been faith.

One could almost see the pandemic as a force that segregated humanity into two parts. One section of humanity seems to be so deeply rooted in fear, fear of survival, fear of loss, fear of failure, fear of disease, fear of death, that all its actions are largely driven by fear. Another section is rooted in faith and lives through life with a basic trust that all will be well, regardless of the appearances and the difficulties of the passage.

Now one may say that but fear is a protective instinct even as rage is another survival strategy. It may be so at the primitive early stages of evolution when the animal kind, completely submerged in the sea of unconsciousness, feels all others than itself as an alien to be either afraid of or preyed upon. It is perhaps this fear that extends itself in the form of certain religious and ideological groups that are always busy exterminating others since they feel perpetually threatened by the other. It is this fear that leads men to accumulate wealth beyond measure and engage in a cut-throat competition and an aggressive ambition. It is this fear that has gone into the edifices of our present civilisation that has been exposed through the pandemic.

Of course the reason for this fear, its great ally, is selfishness, the sense of being alone in this wide world, where each one must fend for oneself. Even a group life, where each seems to be helping others, may well be centred around fear. One could believe that modern science with its extreme materialistic view of life may have added to the magnitude of fear by constantly bombarding us with this idea that man is nothing more than a lump of clay and corpuscles formed through an unconscious random evolutionary process. Perhaps it does add to the fear but it is doubtful that this is the sole cause. Many religious and even spiritual groups behaved in much the same way as if they believed in the reality of death much more than the reality of Life Eternal, of God or an immortal soul within us. Perhaps like faith, fear is something deep within, waiting in some darkest abyss of our being for its moment.

Yes, fear may have had its utility at a certain stage of evolution when life was struggling to be born amidst an immense and appalling world of which it knew nothing. The question is, is this all that is expected of us and are we nothing more than mere enlarged copies of an animal life driven by fear and anger? Or is fear the sole truth of our being or is there something much more intrinsic and fundamental to us that emerges through the process of evolution?

At least a section of humanity, however small and cutting across lines of religious and other divides, emerged as the torchbearers of faith. Of course, the faith spoken of here is not a mental belief in a system of thought or religion, though even that is better than fear. It is something more intrinsic that has emerged with the earliest dawns of humanity and has led us through the ages. This faith is not even our belief in God, though ultimately it is directed towards the Creator in whom it finds the fullest justification. It is rather this intrinsic faith that we carry somewhere deep within us, that we carry within us all that is needed to heal, that our very cells can overthrow every disease through ways and processes, though still not fully known to us, but if we awaken faith in them, a faith in self-healing, a faith in life rather than a faith in death.

After all, healing through whatever means, does take support of the faith within us as a recent observation showed that even fake drugs helped heal. What else is the placebo effect but a recognition that faith is a power and it can cure. Modern medicine, born of a mixed parentage where science and commerce meet in a strange wedlock, admits faith in its placebo trails, but discards it in practice asking us to rely more and more on a complicated armamentarium of chemicals extracted from the plant and vegetal kingdom while forgetting that we too have within us healing capacities and powers that are switched on by faith and switched off by fear and dependence on external aid.

What we forget is that while modern medicine is a few hundred years old, mankind has survived countless challenges through a million years at least without all this complicated pharmacopeia. Thanks to the constant fear generated through various media, political and medical agencies what suffered as a casualty was faith. Thus a virus with about one percent mortality (given that the number of cases was surely much more and the number of deaths often over-reported by clubbing many things together if the test for the virus turned positive) was projected as the deadliest that only vaccines and drugs could eliminate. Of course we know who would have benefited most from this strategy of fear? Who else but the great ally of fear, falsehood and greed?

The two gospels

Behind every event there is a play of forces that often enter into conflict with each other. It is this play with all its clash and strife, wrestle and embrace that brings out all the manifold varied possibilities and fathers the universe. But behind the forces, there stand ideas that have been released into the world as rays from the sun. Each idea has its place in the total truth of things, yet each has a term and office. That is why absolute Truth cannot be discovered in the realm of ideas alone, let alone in the play of thoughts. To find the last reconciling Truth one has to leap beyond thought and idea into the parent Sun of Truth from where they have emerged. This reconciliation however is the last step that humanity must take by placing each thing in its own place. But until we can do that, we have to understand the idea-force operating behind things, behind attitudes and approaches, behind systems and beliefs, even behind reason and its trust in certain instruments of knowledge.

When we come to this clash of ideas, we see that there have always been two types of humanity wandering upon this earth. One type believed in the gospel of matter as the main if not the sole reality. Here one looks upon the body as having an independent reality. It is as if it exists with no reference to anything else in the cosmos except the mechanical interconnectedness to material nature and biological organisms. This hard-core materialistic view of life either denies the Spirit completely or else regards it as something cut off from the world in its sign-less purity.

There is also an in-between approach that tries to take a practical stand, allocating to the realm of the Spirit a place either of a belief-system, a fiction, or imagination of the mind and yet even that serves a useful purpose to solace man. Or else, it accepts the intervention of some divine Power in life in moments of extreme crisis but not in the running of the everyday affairs of the world. That is left exclusively to the various branches of knowledge that the human mind has discovered. Our Science is one such field. Thus we exclude or leave out the Divine in our everyday understanding and management of the world for which we have been given a human mind and assign Him a nice comfortable place in heaven or seat Him on some pedestal with His main responsibility for the afterlife.

This of course is only one view of God and Creation. In the ancient Indian view of things, Creation is an extension of the Creator. It is an objectification of the Divine and therefore cannot be ever separated from Him. The Divine is too much at the heart of everything to be ignored. His Will and Intelligence has gone into creation and flows into everything. The mind is only His tool and itself a creation of this vast Divine Intelligence whose operations fascinate and baffle us. They fascinate us, since we carry within us some spark of this Intelligence and hence are naturally drawn towards it. As we understand the mystery of creation, we also grow in our Intelligence until it begins to draw closer to its Source. Yet it baffles us because the mind with its limits is a finite power and cannot completely understand the infinite. The only way for it to know all the mysteries of creation is to become one with the Creator, a unique possibility bequeathed to man. The process through which we can reclaim our Divine Inheritance is called Yoga.

Thus we have two world-views of life, one born of the fire and vision and power of yoga while the other is born of our limited understanding by the mind and the senses. But just as the sense and mind-born understanding can be verified so also the yogic vision and action can be verified.

In fact the yogic vision is much more easily subject to verification since, unlike the mind, born scientific forms of knowledge, whose laboratories and research are accessible only to a few, the yogic research is accessible to all who are ready and willing to make their mind and body itself the laboratory of the Creator.

Is it not already so? Is not our mind and body the product of a long and complex evolutionary process that we think is random because we are unaware of the Hands and the Heart that has undertaken this tremendous adventure of creation. According to this view, matter and all else that has evolved and still is evolving serves the purpose of taking matter itself further and further in its journey until it is ready to manifest the seed of the Divine within. This gospel shows us one way to deal with the present crisis and all others. The fact that humanity has largely followed this way quite intuitively and survived through millions of years is itself a sign of its validity. Some form of yoga has always existed upon earth and in its heydays life was much longer, robust and healthy. If we are to accept the accounts of the seers, it was not uncommon for human beings even in the previous age of bronze (Dvāparayuga) to live a hundred years.

During the Mahābhārata war, Arjuna, the great hero of the battle was 70 years and Krishna, the divine charioteer was 108, while Bheesma the Mighty was 170 years. We may in our scientific arrogance rubbish this as a piece of fiction, but the tale of longevity is written everywhere and in every piece of history of the former ages of mankind. The picture that science presents, trying to convince us otherwise, is quite misleading. Present modern science, which claims to have increased the lifespan of mankind, is hardly a few hundred years old.

But mankind has existed and survived and evolved through millennia. Records of ancient Greeks and Romans clearly speak of old age when people crossed 70 and some who actually crossed a hundred. What has increased, if at all, is not lifespan but life-expectancy which is quite a different thing. Lifespan is what is given to an average man. It is largely a genetically programmed thing. It is like a baseline on which we can build or reduce. Lifespan is a statistical figure, the law of the average in terms of numbers. Of course some would say that modern medicine is nearly 2,500 years old with Hippocrates as the leading physician. But we know that the methods he used and even much later have been largely outdated and would be considered primitive today. So was it the medical knowledge of those days or the faith they invested in it, the all-weather medicine called faith or the placebo effect that helped people?

On the other hand, we can take Dhanvantari as the father of ancient Indian medicine. Though considered by some as a mythical figure who emerged during the churning of the ocean, Dhanvantari is supposed to have incarnated as the son of King Dhanwa, and learnt Ayurveda from the great sage Bharadwaja. That is way before Hippocrates. The point however is not who is greater but the approaches the two different fathers of medicine in two different contexts adopted. We know that Hippocrates initiated the science of modern medicine through body- types and a study of the sick and the diseased. This process has continued till now. Most of modern medicine and its theories are based on a study of the sick.

For example, during this current pandemic, everyone seems to be focused on the virus, by studying those who have developed the illness. But the large population that has remained asymptomatic has been left aside taking it all for granted. But it may be interesting to note why and how some (or rather most) have been able to avoid the illness?

Āyurveda, on the other hand, took the approach to discover ways and means through which man can remain healthy, delay ageing, stay full of vigour and natural vitality, avoid diseases and even remain young much longer. The western science-based modern approach thereby led to a multiplication of drugs and diseases and hospitals with a focus on cure. A lot of money and other interests naturally got involved, leading to a steady decline in the natural health of the human being even though his average life-expectancy supported by modern pharmacopeia may have increased, though of this too there is little evidence except from the time of the Black Plague downwards.

But this has come with a heavy cost. This disease-oriented approach has focused us almost exclusively on the sick part while missing out on the totality of the person who is sick. It has led to a one-sided exclusivist approach to healing, as if we were children solving piecemeal without looking at the larger picture of the cosmic puzzle. Even children intuitively understand that they must have at least the feel of the total picture before they go about putting the pieces in place. We seem to have forgotten even this basic lesson of the most elementary puzzle solving strategy we learn as children.

We are just too busy looking at the virus, the immediate cause and managing the immediate effects while forgetting the man himself who has fallen sick. The ancient Wisdom knew that man is not just a body alone, lesser still an organ or a piece of organically developed flesh and meat. Man is much more and he carries within him powerful resources that can aid his healing processes. But they work best if we have lived a certain kind of lifestyle. When few medicines are available, man naturally turns towards a healthier lifestyle but when we live in the illusion of a ready over-the-counter cure then we become negligent about developing natural means of health and healing, which we seem to have lost due to an over dependence upon pharmacopeia.

The true solution is no more in this or that. We have entered a curve and cannot return to the natural simplicity of an earlier humanity. Yet we can try to harmoniously combine the two approaches in this age of synthesis dawning upon man. It is only when we join these two sides of the puzzle, an understanding of the state of health that yoga envisages, promises and has proven since millennia and, the state of illness that modern science provides, at least at the most material level, that we shall draw closer to the answer and the true solution.

Claims, counterclaims and the departed

Another thing that took a big toll during this pandemic is our humanity. The isolation advised as a way of life has surely taken a big toll upon the flow of life as its current passes through the different elements of creation tying all into a single ocean with multiple waves. We often hear people saying that it is a wonderful opportunity to connect with family and spend time together or even that this time could be used for going within and turn towards higher pursuits. The truth of the matter is that the turning towards higher things or going within does not happen so easily and certainly not if one is forced to stay indoors due to fear and panic and in a state of utter confusion all around. Force shutting them inside means that the tremendous energy that people exchange, the growth that takes place by engaging in meaningful work, is no more available.

Staying indoors also prevents us from coming in contact with the sun and the breeze and all the varied colours and joys of life that help us grow. Of course it is best if we can use this time to turn inwards, — without a doubt, but it has been seen in actual practice that those who are inwardly inclined to turn within will do so even while engaged in all their works whereas those who are not so inclined will not do it even in the most conducive environments. While it is always good to find a balance between work and rest and outer activities and engagement with our own inner selves, this extreme condition imposed upon people is unlikely to help in that direction. If anything it is likely to make them glued to the TV or the Internet with all the worst tendencies, which had been checked due to being busy with work, emerging from the hidden parts within us. Boredom, inertia, tamas is greatly conducive to the emergence of all kinds of forces from our subconscient regions.

This is not the only issue of forced indoor staying. It also means that our faith and will is slowly taken over by the state and even hope and the ability to think rationally are being drowned in a surge of numbers and figures impinging on us all the time and from every side. Once in a while, one feels the breath of fresh air when there is an out-of-the-box thinking, wherein one sees that most are recovering and perhaps the percentage of recovery is much greater given that every death is being attributed to Covid, as if all other illnesses have lost their ability to become agents of death.

Who knows if, by a blind and indiscriminate use of vaccination, we are not inadvertently pushing the virus towards frequent mutations, turning what may become a wave of epidemic, passing away into a prolonged something? Add to it the economic fall-out, especially for the weaker sections, that is likely to snowball into various social pathologies in times to come.

What is interesting is that political parties across dividing lines are almost unanimously together in the strategies being adopted. The way waves after waves are being anticipated, narratives being built and vaccination being almost enforced as part of the biggest human trial is something unprecedented in history. One wonders whether the prophesies being made of the category of people who will be affected and the deadly nature of the wave is a scientific inference or a narrative to push the vaccine to its utmost limits.

One wonders if vaccines are the final answer to all present and future epidemics and infections or we need to focus on finding ways and means to develop our natural immunity that can subsequently act against a host of illnesses. The answer is obvious but the direction of research is not in the direction of the obvious but the very opposite. Quite naturally, boosting our own immune system means taking the sting out of many illnesses that have an immunological basis. It would also mean huge losses to the vaccine and drug manufacturers, though great gain and empowerment for the common man.

Two areas however need special mention. First is education. Schools have been shut for too long. The classes are being done online and it all sounds good and safe. What is being forgotten is that schools are not only spaces for learning physics, chemistry, mathematics, biology and so on but places where even more importantly we learn how to groom ourselves and our personality into a noble and upright human being. In schools, children learn to share, make friends, play sports and games that help tremendously in developing their psychological personality. They receive influences from teachers that help provide them new world-views. By mixing with friends, they discover some aspect of themselves apart from the qualities of generosity and wideness and plasticity.

The other sector that is affected is farewell to the dead. Many cremations are taking place without the presence of the loved ones (who are also afraid or quarantined) as if we were ‘disposing’ of dead bodies, which is as good as a log of wood. This is not surprising though given that an extreme materialistic viewpoint has led us to believe that all is but matter and our body itself is an unconscious mechanical device, a machine like any other machine and if it has gone beyond repair then its parts can be used if possible or else destroyed like any other machine. Certainly the body has to be cremated but what needs to be understood is that this cremation needs to take into account not just beliefs and rituals but a whole occult understanding of the dimensions after death. It is only a yogi who can substitute this view which is so far at least beyond the probe of mainstream science.

Though there is clear evidence that life and existence do not cease with the cessation of the breath and heartbeat, there is a period when the inhabiting soul stays connected with its body and the earth through other sheaths, yet we make a sharp distinction between the living and the dead as if there is no twilight state in between.

Sphinx and the question of questions

The pandemic has brought us face to face with the fragility of the human race and the inability of reason to find clear-cut answers. The answers of today are no longer valid tomorrow. Each solution creates other problems. Most of all, it raises an important question about who or what we are in terms of our humanity. A bundle of chemicals dependent upon other chemicals for our existence, a living being who has not yet learnt the true laws of living, a psychological being that sits helpless in the brain yet unable to have any control over our biology, or else, a spiritual being that is the master of all the other domains of our being?

This is the core issue of all our life. For if we are nothing but a lump of clay then what is all this noise about? Who then survives and what purpose does such a survival serve? If we are only a lump of clay or an organic molecule in which life has somehow sprung up through a series of random events and accidents then what are we really trying to save, an illusory momentary self? But if we are something greater; if there is within us, something that endures the rub and change of time and even death, if there is something in us, as the spiritual traditions say, of which the body and mind are instruments then let us first find out that.

Each death is at one level a reminder of the impermanence of life. But also it is a goad for the search of the secret immortality of which we carry an intuitive sense. This is the question that mankind must answer first, since depending upon the answer we shall take the line of further evolution. This pandemic, like every other collective challenge that mankind has faced, is loaded with this question. The simplest of questions that man has ever asked and yet one whose answer changes everything in our life including our science and art and commerce and administration and politics and all the values we uphold. This is the path that opens before those who are ready to take it.

Those who take it and answer the question, posed by the Sphinx and turning their face towards the sun, stop believing in the reality of death knowing that the Self in us never dies will move to one side. For them are victory and eternal good and the journey towards the sun. On the other hand, those cocooned in fear, in the shell of the ego, afraid of death are indeed taken by the Sphinx who embodies death and eternity at the same time. Depending upon what we see does she reveal herself to each one of us.

Let us close with these revealing lines from Sri Aurobindo’s prophetic poem, ‘A Vision of Science’:

“I dreamed that in myself the world I saw,
Wherein three Angels strove for mastery.
Law was one, clear vision and denial cold,
Yet in her limits strong, presumptuous, bold;
The second with enthusiasm bright,
Flame in her heart but round her brows the night,
Faded as this advanced. She could not bear
That searching gaze, nor the strong chilling air
These thoughts created, nourishing our parts
Of mind, but petrifying human hearts.
Science was one, the other gave her name,
Religion. But a third behind them came,
Veiled, vague, remote, and had as yet no right
Upon the world, but lived in her own light.
Wide were the victories of the Angel proud
Who conquered now and in her praise were loud
The nations. Few even yet to the other clove,—
And some were souls of night and some were souls of love.
But this was confident and throned. Her heralds ranged
Claiming that night was dead and all things changed;
For all things opened, all seemed clear, seemed bright —
Save the vast ranges that they left in night.
However, the light they shed upon the earth
Was great indeed, a firm and mighty birth.
A century’s progress lived before my eyes.
Delivered from amazement and surprise,
Man’s spirit measuring his worlds around
The laws of sight divined and laws of sound.
Light was not hidden from her searching gaze,
Nor matter could deny its myriad maze
To the cold enquiry; for the far came near,
The small loomed large, the intricate grew clear….
So moved that spirit trampling; then it laid
Its hand at last upon itself, how this was made
Wondering, and sought to class and sought to trace
Mind by its forms, the wearer by the dress.
Then the other arose and met that spirit robust,
Who laboured; she now grew a shade who must
Fade wholly away, yet to her fellow cried,
‘I pass, for thou hast laboured well and wide.
Thou thinkest term and end for thee are not;
But though thy pride is great, thou hast forgot
The Sphinx that waits for man beside the way.
All questions thou mayst answer, but one day
Her question shall await thee. That reply,
As all we must; for they who cannot, die.
She slays them and their mangled bodies lie
Upon the highways of eternity.
Therefore, if thou wouldst live, know first this thing,
Who thou art in this dungeon labouring.’
And Science confidently, ‘Nothing am I but earth,
Tissue and nerve and from the seed a birth,
A mould, a plasm, a gas, a little that is much.
In these grey cells that quiver to each touch
The secret lies of man; they are the thing called I.
Matter insists and matter makes reply.
Shakespeare was this; this force in Jesus yearned
And conquered by the cross; this only learned
The secret of the suns that blaze afar;
This was Napoleon’s giant mind of war.’

I heard and marvelled in myself to see
The infinite deny infinity.
Yet the weird paradox seemed justified;
Even mysticism shrank out-mystified.
But the third Angel came and touched my eyes;
I saw the mornings of the future rise,
I heard the voices of an age unborn
That comes behind us and our pallid morn,
And from the heart of an approaching light
One said to man, ‘Know thyself infinite,
Who shalt do mightier miracles than these,
Infinite, moving mid infinities.’
Then from our hills the ancient answer pealed,
‘For Thou, O Splendour, art myself concealed,
And the grey cell contains me not, the star
I outmeasure and am older than the elements are.
Whether on earth or far beyond the sun,
I, stumbling, clouded, am the Eternal One (1).’”


1. Sri Aurobindo. Birth Centenary Library, Volume 5. Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust; 1972, pp. 42-44.

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Mass hysteria


Counting the dead









Ancient Greeks


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Sri Aurobindo