RTE Radio Broadcast Text
Dear Sisters and Brothers, Namaste. This is our traditional Hindu greeting accompanied by a gesture of joined palms and a slight bow of the head. The meaning of the word conveys the intention that the Divine Essence that Religion calls God is in you and that I offer my reverent salutations to That.
This gesture has now been widely adopted and recommended by world leaders as an alternative to shaking hands. Not only is it a respectful and hygienic way of acknowledging the other, but It also gives us a real connection to the most profound aspect of the human person and evokes the very human soul, the kingdom of heaven within – the image and likeness of the One who pervades and controls all things from within. In this way and with this simple symbol, we cannot help feel compassion for the physical and psychological aspects of every man, woman and child and then the adoration of the ever free and ever pure Divinity within.
In these unsettling, difficult and unprecedented times, it is natural to feel panic, fear and despondency, but let us remember that the past has shown us three things – the great adaptability that we possess, the rallying spirit of community and the ephemeral nature of events that come and go and this too shall pass.The Covid19 virus will eventually go and my hope is that it leaves in its wake a great lesson for us all. The efforts of modern science combined with our own self-discipline and above all good humour and strength in the face of adversity will see us through.
Every crisis in history has its lessons for us to follow, but we cannot necessarily see it now. All over the world we can observe how people are shocked, concerned and in many cases suddenly bereaved. Our Irish Government has been pragmatic and caring and I have seen how the whole of Irish Society has adapted and accepted the challenge. These characteristics exhibit the highest and noblest attributes of man and they can be found in the very life of St Patrick. These are spiritual virtues that spontaneously radiate loving kindness, generosity and selflessness; they serve to bring us closer to our home - our spiritual destiny, our enduring eternity.
Let us offer heartfelt admiration for the strong and loving ones who, without any concern for their own welfare work day and night with no murmur or complaint for the common good. The simple “Namaste” of the Hindus, Buddhists and Jains summons as it were the very noblest in us and if there is only but this lesson, that we are more than grabbing, selfish war-mongers, it will indeed be a great thing.
In May 1898, during the terrible plague epidemic in Calcutta, Swami Vivekananda wrote a manifesto, a part of which was:
1. Please do not panic due to unfounded fear. Depend upon God and calmly try to find the best means to solve the problem. 2. Always keep the house and its premises, the rooms, clothes, bed, drain, etc., clean. 3. Do not eat stale, spoiled food; take fresh and nutritious food instead. A weak body is more susceptible to disease. 4. Always keep the mind cheerful. Everyone will die once. Cowards suffer the pangs of death again and again, solely due to the fear in their own minds. 5. Do not pay any heed to rumours.
Panic is a kind of gut feeling and leaves us bewildered and frightened. Everyone has their personal view of a God, but this Entity becomes effective when we feel It intimately as a warm and joyous Presence that lives in us and we in It. Real faith is the certainty that we are looked after and loved unconditionally. Just as a child is truly dependent on the mother, so we can be sure that we are being effortlessly carried. Successful people confidently know that Nature that presents difficulties such as this will also supply the solutions; that in quiet creative moments, these solutions are Divinely freely given to us.
Even in 1898, there was practical wisdom in adhering to basic hygiene. A body fed with good, easily digestible food where the microbiota are nurtured as it were will give us the combative strength of an efficient immune system. I see everywhere people exercising, walking and running in fresh air and in so doing gaining and maintaining health. In Hinduism, we see the body as the Divine earth vehicle of the Lord that, along with the mind is our pilgrimage transport. Our goal in Hinduism is complete freedom from pain and suffering for ourselves and others, here and hereafter. We do not for a moment believe that death is the end, but we have to make sure that our life is not a wasted opportunity either.
The Vedanta Philosophy of Hinduism sees that what we call our peaks and valleys of our waking life is, on close examination what Shakespeare referred to as “all the world’s a stage and we are but players”. The most practical way to play our part is with a cheerful mind. In the circumstances we find ourselves in, we have to preserve this disposition by not becoming slaves to loose talk and unnecessary rumours. It is easy to drag our spirits down with doomsday scenarios from an unknown future.
“Let us be strong, let us be thoughtful, let us be compassionate, let us be helpful, let us be patient and above all let us be intimately connected to our God.”