“As a ripe fruit has no other fear than to fall, so a man who is born has no other fear than death.” (Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, 105.17)
यथा फलानां पक्वानां नान्यत्र पतनाद्भयम्।
एवं नरस्य जातस्य नान्यत्र मरणाद्भयम्।।
yathā phalānāṃ pakvānāṃ nānyatra patanādbhayam।
evaṃ narasya jātasya nānyatra maraṇādbhayam।।
“The entire world is under lockdown at the moment, it seems. There is nothing on television to watch but the news, and that only makes people depressed. It’s not like we can go on a trip to visit friends and family. We are literally stuck in this terrifying situation.
“Is there any help offered from shastra of the Vedic tradition? Are there lessons we can take from the Ramayana, for example, that apply to this severe health emergency? People are looking for hope in these desperate times.”
There is certainly much assistance offered by the Vedas to deal with material miseries and distresses. We have to endure this temporary existence, after all. Better to live it peacefully and in good health. What is the alternative? Despair, chaos, and paralysis through fear? Stay locked in your room for six months at a time?
Take the temporary situations and use them to further understand the Almighty. This is kind of a reverse situation. Rather than taking from God and using for our benefit, we are accepting whatever life hands to us and transitioning to the spiritual realm.
As an example, there is a verse in the Ramayana which reveals man’s greatest fear. The comparison is to the mature fruit hanging from the tree. Its destiny is to fall. There is nothing else left for it to do. Nothing can be done to change this reality of life.
In a similar way, the mature human being has no other fear than death. This is at the heart of the health emergency. Who wants to be forced to exit the body prematurely, and through a debilitating illness, at that? We acknowledge the inevitable nature of death, but no one wants a daily reminder of the grim reality.
Yet the teaching from Shri Rama is entirely accurate. The context is a discussion on doing the right thing. It is much easier to place short-term comfort on a higher priority than the long-term interest.
I am so concerned over the spread of a deadly disease, but I fail to realize that death was guaranteed as soon as birth took place. Nothing can remove this fixed factor of a temporary existence. Vyadhi is one of the four miseries, accompanying birth, old age and death.
This time of crisis helps to remind me of Shri Rama and the detachment shown in that Raghu dynasty for the benefit of others. Rama risked life and limb to uphold the principles of righteousness. The people of Ayodhya welcomed Him home with lamps as a way to appreciate God for who He is, not for what He can do for others.
The condition of fear can serve as impetus for approaching the Divine, who is actually with us in the heart, through the expansion of Supersoul. The emergency situation, the forced isolation, can be beneficial in chanting the holy names in the proper mood of humility and service: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
What of this emergency to make,
Any lessons from Ramayana to take?
Rama the fate of fruit explaining,
How only one thing left remaining.
That guaranteed to fall,
In man the fear of death to call.
Better shelter finding today,
Through sacred chanting way.