तदेतत्त्रयँ शिक्षेद् दमं दानं दयामिति
Learn three cardinal virtues – self-restraint, charity and compassion for all life.
— Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, V.ii.3
The Coronavirus pandemic has opened a Pandora’s box, leading the world to a hitherto unprecedented crisis. We see an atmosphere of agony, anger and anguish around the globe.
With the pandemic challenging the existing societal and political order, our Dharmic view of the world, precisely speaking, the Integral Human Philosophy that touches all aspects of human life has come in the spotlight.
So far, with the blessings of our great ancestors, the great Rishis whom this holy land belongs, Bharat has successfully resisted the deadly virus and its spread with our strong will and collective effort under the strong national leadership.
The world sees a flicker of hope in the soul of Bharat. We have seen how the cookie crumbled, the way a nucleic acid molecule in a protein coat bursts the bubble of many developed countries and toppled the tall claims of global superpowers, turning the world into an extended graveyard with a death toll of 1.5 lakh!
The recent episodes of tragedies bring home to us the catastrophes in the aftermath of the World War, especially the WW I, which followed pandemics like influenza. The Influenza Pandemic of 1918 claimed the lives of around 20 and 40 million people, a death toll higher than that of the ‘Great War’. In the aftermath of the WW I, when the world was thrown into the darkness, famous British poet T S Eliot wrote his masterpiece ‘The Waste Land’, one of the greatest poems in 20th century. The Waste Land captures the life in a war-torn world and metaphorically describes the post-World War milieu.
There are some striking similarities between the depiction of the post WWI world in the Wasteland and the present Corona crisis, especially the way the world approached and responded to these crises. The poem, which starts with the most famous lines “April is the Cruellest Month...” spreads over five parts. Ever since the 1920s, we are passing through another cruellest April, which goes down in history as the month of mass burials.
Illustrating the ‘life ghastly in its emptiness and sterility’, the first part is titled “The Burial of the Dead”. With nihilism as the central theme, the poem divulges existential crisis and dearth of spirituality of the West, throwing scariest questions: “That corpse you planted last year in your garden, Has it begun to sprout? Will it bloom this year?”
Da, Da, Da!
Brimming with dark imageries, drawing abundantly from Dante’s inferno, the poem depicts the West as a wasteland deprived of soul. The poet’s search for peace and solace, eventually leads him to the perennial Hindu wisdom. In the fifth chapter, titled ‘What the Thunder Said’, the search for soul ends with Shanti Mantra when the Thunder in Upanishads.
“Ganga was sunken, and the limp leaves
Waited for rain, while the black clouds
Gathered far distant, over Himavant.
The jungle crouched, humped in silence.
Then spoke the thunder...”
As a panacea for the crisis, before the Shanti mantra, Eliot had quoted a very significant Upanishad mantra, from Brihadaranyaka Upanishad. “Datta, Dayadhvam, Damyata”, an eternal message of Upanishad to the humankind, “Datta, Dayadhvam, Damyata” mean “be charitable, be compassionate, be self-controlled”! The poet offered this great mantra to the world, as the words to live by in the post-war world.
Had the post-World War world practised the Hindu way, ‘Datta, Dayadhvam, Damyata’, we would not have suffered a tragedy again exactly after a hundred years. If we practised self-restraint and selflessness, the fundamental principles of Hindutva, at the micro-level and macro-level, the world would have been a better place to live than being driven by imperialist-capitalist interests. Drifting away from this cardinal principle of co-existence and universal peace, the world again embraced the Semitic values, which fuel the mindless competition and exploitation. The insatiable human greed, ever-increasing consumer greed and imperialistic interests of the countries like the US and China have in fact again pushed the world on the brink.
Now humanity is at the crossroads again. It is the time for us to reboot ourselves, reclaim the spirit of the Hindu wisdom and shape a world view accordingly. Besides taking a retrospective look at the past, let us think about a new world premised on “Datta, Dayadhvam and Damyata”, the quintessential message of Hindutva for the humankind i.e. Integral Human Philosophy. In fact, the key to observing the lockdown, dutifully and meaningfully, also rests in this great Upanishad message that was reinvented and retold by T S Eliot, “Datta- charity, Dayadhvam- compassion, and more importantly Damyata, 'Self-Restraint'. Om Shanti Shanti Shanti (To be continued...)