The Indian ethos is centred on the twin concepts of BHAGYA and KARMA. PURUSHARTHA, which denotes an ‘object of human pursuit,’ is KARMA. It is a key concept in Hinduism, and refers to the four proper goals or aims of a human life. The four PURUSHARTHA are DHARMA (righteousness, moral values), ARTHA (prosperity, economic values), KAMA (pleasure, love, psychological values) and MOKSHA (liberation, spiritual values). Since Hinduism believes in cyclical life, BHAGYA, which is understood as fate, luck, destiny or fortune can naively be understood as KARMA of past or previous life. KARMA of this life will be the BHAGYA of next life.
Thus, we inherit our past actions and we act to improve upon what we inherited. We inherit circumstances; we improve them for the next generation.
Spread of COVID-19, like wildfire, across the world showed how connected the world has become, and yet how people feel more alone than ever.
Given the considerable uncertainty about when the COVID-19 pandemic will end, how and when a vaccine will be deployed to the public, when we will travel across the world to see family and friends, and how each of our bodies will react to this virus, people are coping with a myriad of emotions and mind-sets and with unpredictability. Depression, anger, denial, aggression or silence, people have oscillated between these reactions to constant stress and anxiety.
An unfortunate coping reaction dominating the people in the west has been to become apathetic towards the struggles of others with numbness substituting for empathy. In contrast, more people in India have shown a renewed purpose, hope, and sense of community. Scientists and Corona-warriors have responded with dedication to developing vaccines, treatments and appropriate care and guidance. Ordinary citizens have taken on roles in their communities running welfare groups.
Expectedly, people are split over whether they think more about the collective health of society, or prioritise individual interests. Perhaps the most difficult part is how to take the open wounds and inequalities that COVID-19 has exposed. Where does one’s responsibility to others begin and end? What is selfishness in the context of a pandemic?
It is to be seen as to whom among the politicians will forego their turn to get a vaccine and offer it to someone else. The pandemic will show who each of us really is.
(First published – 19 Nov 2020)
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