“Will I die too?” was the question Prince Siddhartha had asked when he saw for the first time that someone had died.  We may not have asked the question, but we all know the answer.  Yes, we will all die.  We are clueless though about when and how it might grip us.  Yet, one thing is crystal clear.  It is highly likely that only those people who are with us during the lockdown will be around when the light slowly dims and the heat gradually wanes.

While many may have valid reasons (such as livelihood being at stake) to want the lockdown to be lifted sooner, I am guessing that most others are restless for all the wrong reasons.  While some may be eager and impatient about playing games and sports, others may be just looking to wine and dine in restaurants. For some, the very thought of being under lockdown may be the irritant while for others, it may be an exciting adventure which they had to postpone. And often, such restlessness and impatience lead to disharmony and violence if we are not careful and caring.  Recently, there was a report that domestic violence has increased during the lockdown, which must not actually happen.

Is it the time for violence?  Folks, look at the faces around you.  When everyone else has left after showing some empathy and sympathy, these are the ones who will be by your side – cleaning, cooking, feeding, and praying for you.  They are the ones your eyes will be searching when your tongue cannot articulate their names as the soul has started to evaporate.  How can anyone become violent with these people!  If we came back sick and injured from our games and sports, they are the ones who would be caring for you.  If we returned home drunk and senseless, they would be our arms and limbs.  How can anyone become violent with the very people who will be praying and working hard even after one’s death so our afterlife is better!

Our minds are restless.  That is why it is called monkey-mind.  Fortunately, just like a thief does not stand a chance to steal anything if someone is watching him, our mind too will not be able to show its monkey nature if we are watching it.  It is our own mind and we can pacify it and direct it towards where we want it to go.  I do not believe we must be experts like Rinpoches, and hermits who may have spent years in the far away mountain caves in solitude mastering the art of taming the mind.  In fact, the lockdown is a kind of such solitudes and the way to right-tune our minds is as simple as understanding and intentionally noting the purpose of this lockdown, and deliberately rejoicing the presence of people around we call family.  We may also want to unequivocally recognize that these people who are with us have nothing to do with the lockdown that we should penalize with our petulance and inattention at best, and violence and hurt at worst.

There was a BBS report on January 9 that unlike during the first lockdown, about 70 percent of the calls received by the National Mental Health Response Team was related to anxiety, depression, and other psychiatric issues.  Luckily, most of those calls were from the isolation and quarantine centres.  Anyway, the point is, although I may be a universe away from speculating and understanding the gravity of problems these people might be facing, there is one thing I can say which is that there is no better professional to care for you than yourself.  The person receiving your call can only listen to your problems and sympathize (maybe), or the most the person can do is regurgitate some literature.  However, if you look inside yourselves, you have an unarguably genuine motivation to care for yourselves, do well and live meaningfully.  Also, you should invoke your inner wisdom that has ripened over time which is sufficient to guide you towards the right direction.  Sometimes, it’s good to harvest this dimension of ego.

If one can relate and understand, it may be as simple as ‘seeing the rushing river’ as His Eminence Mingyur Rinpoche would say.  “If you can see the river, it means you are not in the river” and hence, we can even enjoy the beauty of the river.  It is worst if we are in the river as its hard currents can sweep us along with it.  So, let’s try and understand this extraordinary time and the nation’s predicament by consciously observing and aligning ourselves accordingly at the least, and by contributing constructively wherever we can which is definitely a far-reaching extra mile.  Let’s not give in to the temporary emotions, but navigate effectively using the sail of hope and optimism.

The lockdown is also quite enlightening in many ways.  We are able to survive on bare minimum and have understood how simple it is to feed ourselves.  It is absolutely unnecessary to consume a lot, many varieties at every meal, or lavish in restaurants.  If anyone thinks this is unbearable, well, at least we can start empathizing with those who may be living off basics, necessary for survival and the plight to make ends meet, even on more favourable days.   And I bet that many people may have surprised themselves looking at the number of clothes they own and realized how few they would actually need.  The number that’s already sitting in the wardrobe is sufficient to last a lifetime and no more shopping is required.  A little bit of disappointment upon realizing how vain and misguided we have been would be a deeply meaningful outcome of the lockdown.

So, all these in my understanding make this lockdown a death rehearsal.  As I mentioned above, the people that are around us are the ones who will be at our bedside as we lie paralysed waiting for the breath to still.  So, let’s treat them kindly which we might only imagine at our ultimate hours or helplessly regret all the wrong things done unto them.  The mind that is calm or restless now will be the same mind then, either ready to embrace the inevitable or quietly weep in a futile challenge. Only difference is that when it is finally over, we will remember everything we did or did not do during the lockdown unlike when we are reborn, where we may not remember anything.  I think it’s highly plausible that if we can remain composed now and plan well for the post-lockdown life, it will help us maintain the same composure at death, and at least try aiming for a good place just like the old carpenter who as he was dying started readying to build a palace for Lord Amitabha in Sukhavati upon being told so by her daughter and immediately taking rebirth there – Living is Dying.   So, why not we make this lockdown a meaningful experience!

Contributed by 

Namgay Wangchuk, 

BoB Thimphu