How has been the year 2020?
I know, everyone would respond differently to this seemingly simple question. The major length and breadth of 2020 has been occupied by the most unexpected phenomenon : COVID 19. As I go out every morning or evening for the routine walk, I can see a shop or two closing every day and some other shop sprouting with fresh branding and fresh hope.
Well, this one observation sums up what the coronavirus has done; for many of us, it has completely shattered or at least slowed down what was going right whereas for some few, it has opened new doors.
As I do weekly mentoring calls with the participants of ‘Unlock Your Self the Kabir Way‘, a course on Kabir that I teach (this course was started as a result of COVID-19 in the first place!) I realise how the pandemic has positively as well as negatively affected so many of us. since the course is woven around the wisdom of Sant Kabir, often, the participants ask how would have Kabir responded to a pandemic like this.
We believe that many of the problems that we face today did not exist when Kabir lived. Loss of jobs due to artificial intelligence, addiction to cellphones, large number of people turning homeless due to a lockdown, forceful sterilisation of animals; these problems are in a way contemporary, born out of progress(?) of humanity and technology. Would Kabir’s wisdom be inadequate or incapable of solving these multi layered problems?
If we read the words of Sant Kabir, we realise that he has actually touched a large number of issues like untouchability, orthodoxy, religious hatred etc. in his couplets. But it would be a grave mistake to conclude that these problems is what defines the scope of the solution that Kabir has offered.
Kabir had a very integral approach towards problems. Rather, if we study Kabir’s work and dive within with that understanding, we will realise that the core problem is just one. The numerous problems that we face are just manifestations of the one core problem. And since there is just one problem, there is only one solution. What’s that one problem and what’s the one solution?
In one of his Nirguni Bhajans, Kabir says :
पांच पचीसों पकड़ मँगाउजी
एक ही डोर लगाऊंगा |
I will catch the five and twenty five with a single rope.
The word five could mean five senses. These five senses give birth to twenty five problems. If we keep the numbers aside, Kabir is simply highlighting the fact that all the problems that we face are actually born out of disturbances created by the five senses in our mind. As per Kabir, tackling each problem independently is not going to help. One needs to understand the plain simple fact – the problem is because of the ripples created in our mind by these five senses. For example, we get disturbed when we see something that we do not like or when we see cruelty around. We are disturbed when we hear something that is unpleasant to us. Whatever could be the problem, it creates ripples in our mind through our senses.
As per Sant Kabir’s wisdom, as long as the ripples exist in the mind, whatever the mind does to solve the problem, it will rather add to the problem. The first step, the very essential condition for a solution to come up is lack of these ripples.
That is why Kabir is talking about the one rope- that one rope is awareness. In order to act on a problem, we need a firm ground, a ground which is untouched by the problem. If there are ripples in the mind, the ripples will distort the way the problem is perceived and the response of the mind would also be distorted.
Once we understand this, it is very easy to understand why most of the solutions offered to the problems we face are skewed.
It is very easy to wrongly conclude that by awareness, Kabir means only being aware when you are solving the problem. That’s how generally all the commonly available solutions are. Have a flu? Take a pill and get rid of it. Have inequality? Pass a new legislation and get rid of it.
Interestingly, such solutions give birth to many more problems. The legislation, which is proposed as a solution gives birth to ten more problems – is it drafted fairly, will it be executed properly, will it cause innocent people to suffer?
We have arrived from one problem to infinite problems because of our own solutions. Had we followed Kabir’s approach – awareness, our problems would have been fewer and simpler to deal with.
So, the solution cannot be a ‘use and forget’ kind. When awareness becomes uninterrupted, we realise the most profound fact of the life :
घट घट में राम रमैय्या
In every body, the lord lives.
If we look at all the problems that exist – for humans, animals, environment etc. they are all born out of our belief that we are a separate entity from the rest of the world. This separateness gives rise to all the ripples in our mind. The ripples of insecurity lead to hoarding, the ripples of greed lead to extremely skewed distribution of wealth, ripples of dominance leading to use of this planet as a resource to be exploited.
If we had ingrained this solution of awareness, most of the problems that we are facing, including the coronavirus pandemic, would have not born in the first place. But that does not mean that the solution of awareness is ineffective against the crisis.
If we all look around, we are all panicked or challenged by the pandemic and the suffering it has caused. At the same time, we are doing very little to actually help someone or even ourselves. All our frustration is coming out in the most worthless manner it could – on social media.
If we listen to Kabir, be aware of the situation, observe how it has been playing with our minds, how it has further strengthened our sense of being ‘separate entity’ and with that understanding look at the problems being faced by us as well as people near us, we will be far better at dealing with this crisis!