We are in the midst of a pandemic, with cities, nay entire countries, shutting down. While some live in areas that have been affected by the novel coronavirus and declared ‘Red Zone’, others live in fear of what could happen next. For most, the uncertainty surrounding this pandemic is the hardest to handle… What if a member of the family tests positive? Is it just a common cold, a strep throat or has the virus finally invaded my dear one’s immune system? When will this lockdown end? When will we be able to go back to work? Will we still have a job? Will our business survive? Will we be able to recover our financial and other losses? What if there is a significant drop in our regular income? These are just some of the questions people ask themselves almost every day.
The Fear Factor: No one is immune to fear – the basic survival instinct in all animals and humans. As we evolved, those who feared the right dangers, survived to pass on their genes, and in doing so, the trait of fear and the response to it, were selected as beneficial to the human race.
During any crisis, fear is a natural reaction. However, when we decide that we will confront our fear with right knowledge and understanding, it transcends into courage. Every valiant soldier knows that courage is not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it; the brave also feel fear, but they surmount it.
Fear Management: The uncertainty of not knowing how exactly we could be impacted or whether things will get even worse – this fear of the unknown, fans out into panic and paranoia. Is there a solution? Perhaps there is! Blocking our mind from the constant negative news and information could be a good starting point. Of course, it’s important to keep oneself informed, but verify the source of your information, so you don’t fall in the ‘fake news’ trap. Will drinking a cocktail of hot water mixed with citric acid, sea salt and baking soda keep the virus away? In all probability, it would give one a bad stomach and further lower one’s immunity!
But, remedies with ‘guaranteed success’ on social media are taken way too seriously by those unfamiliar with ‘fake news’. Also, does it make sense for someone who is neither a researcher, a government officer or a healthcare professional, to track the statistics every single day? This is not a cricket or football match to keep track of the score! Leave the figures for the policy makers to deal with. As a lay person, focus on taking care of your own self.
Fear Of Losing: Nothing lasts forever. Everyone and everything that we hold on to so tightly and dearly comes with an expiry date – wealth, position, relationships or happiness. They say, “Death is the only certainty in life”. We all have to go – sooner or later. However, we draw comfort from the fact that when the sun seems to set in one part of the hemisphere, it rises in another. Death too is like the setting sun. Between birth and death, there is a bridge of time and we all need to cross it. The choice we have is to cross it fearfully or courageously; Joyfully or with despondency; positively and purposefully or negatively, without purpose.
The tragedy of life is not death, but what we let die inside of us while we live. Every single day is a good day to live and we can choose to live each day fully, productively, happily and positively. Also, any day is a good day to die but we cannot choose which day to die. When the time comes, our soul will make the transition along with the sum total of our thoughts, words and deeds. It matters not how we make the transition from this world. What matters is how we live while we are still alive.
The Blame Game: Whenever something good happens we seldom question why we had such a stroke of good luck. But, when something not-so-good happens, we question why and try to find someone or something to blame it on. Even the agnostic finds it easier to label the pandemic as an act of God! But honestly, let us stop viewing this pandemic as ‘Nature’s Anger’ or ‘God’s Punishment’. Agatha Christie rightly wrote in her book, ‘The Moving Finger’ – “There is too much tendency to attribute to God the evils that man does of his own free will. God doesn’t really need to punish us. We’re so busy punishing ourselves.”
Fear Of The Hereafter: Many devout Parsis are not worried about dying. They are more worried about dying of Covid-19 and the prospects of getting cremated as per prevailing state enforced health and safety directives. Those with a hotline with divinity seem to be scaring the living daylights out of gullible, devout Parsis. One gullible Parsi was told, “If you die and get cremated, it will be a great sin and not only will your soul suffer in limbo (or go to hell), but your near and dear ones will suffer too!”
Some defenders of the Faith even talk in terms of defying the law and throwing public health and safety norms to the wind, in order to ensure that the soul of the deceased does not suffer the above-mentioned consequences! Also, those in regular touch with the transit authorities in the other world, insist that the mortal remains of a ‘Covid Confirmed Case’ or a ‘Covid Suspected Case’ must be consigned to the Towers of Silence, else the soul would be denied a visa to heaven! Of course, no thought is given with regard to how the mortal remains will be ritually handled and by whom and at what risk and consequence. They seem more concerned about a perceived threat in the afterlife to the soul of the dead, than the real threat to the life of the living, starting with our pall bearers, our priests and those residing in and around Doongerwadi.
Also, have these spiritually evolved entities personally visited heaven or hell and returned to give an accurate account of the afterlife? In our opinion, heaven and hell are states of consciousness that we experience in this life or the afterlife, depending on how we live our life when alive. The ancient eco-friendly system of dokmenashini is a method for the disposal of our mortal remains and not a space launch pad for the soul to heaven! Before the ultra-orthodox go for my jugular, let me clarify that I am not against the system of dokmenashini and nor am I a proponent of an alternate system for the disposal of the dead. But, yes, I am against falsehood and false propaganda based on ignorance and lack of understanding.
Pray, which scripture says that the soul of a person not consigned to the dokhma will hang in limbo? Which scripture specifically states that the soul of one who is buried or cremated will suffer in hell? Yes, the Vendidad does say that Ahura Mazda and Mother Earth are both displeased when we bury dead matter. But the sentiment expressed in the Vendidad is with regard to the ecological impact of burying dead matter and polluting the earth. Where is the scriptural reference to the soul hanging in limbo or going to hell if not consigned to the dokma? In fact, the Vendidad gives many other circumstances under which Ahura Mazda and Mother Earth end up displeased. But we selectively ignore these verses.
Indeed, an offence greater than burying or cremating the dead is the offence of burying or cremating the truth and propagating falsehood. What adds salt to injury is playing with the emotions and sentiments of the credulous and devout who are already anxious and fearful.
- To be afraid is human. But as a human we can face fear with courage. Courage comes from knowledge and knowing the Truth. Fear comes out of ignorance and falsehood.
- Do not fear death or the afterlife. If one has lived one’s life well, one need not fear the afterlife.
- It would be best to lay the mortal remains of a Parsi Zoroastrian in a Dokhma. However, if it is a ‘Covid Confirmed’ or ‘Covid Suspected’ case, the municipal corporation will not issue the required clearance to consign the dead body to the towers of silence.
- Those upset with the State Directive on COVID-19 health and safety advisory are welcome to lobby with the government or seek redress in a court of law. However, trustees cannot put to risk the lives of the living for the sake of the dead!
- Parsis do not bury or cremate their dead because these systems have detrimental impact on the environment. However, there no scriptural evidence to prove that burial or cremation has any detrimental impact on the soul of the dead or the living.
Always remember, truth may be stretched, but cannot be broken, and always gets above falsehood, as does oil above water. The only way to combat fear is with knowledge of facts and using one’s innate wisdom to know truth from falsehood!