Tag Archives: Buddha

Adopting Impermanence as a COVID Response

“All conditioned things are impermanent – when one sees this with wisdom, one turns away from suffering.”

-Gautama Buddha

In times of chaos and tribulation, it seems wise to refer to the teachings of those who sought to understand suffering. Impermanence is the word that comes to mind, yet humanity finds comfort in permanence. 

At the August 14th Ethnic Media Services briefing on the science behind COVID-19, doctors on the frontlines reaffirmed the motif I had been seeing – a contradictory society seeks change, yet is resistant to it.

This moment of truth in American history requires quick and consistent change. I wonder, can we rise up to the challenge?

Dr. Ashish Jha, Professor of Global Health at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and the Director of the Harvard Global Health Institute remarked “America may have the worst response of any country in the world, to this pandemic” and added that we were in the same position, if not worse condition than Brazil, Russia, and Turkey. Further, he stresses that success with outbreak control has nothing to do with imposing government structures, the culture of the country, or the wealth of a nation. 

Government: Russia’s authoritarian government is struggling with containment.

Culture: East Asian and European countries are dissimilar in their cultural practices but both have managed to lower their COVID rates. 

Wealth: Vietnam, a developing nation, until recently, had avoided COVID-related deaths.

“It’s tempting to look for explanations for why other countries are doing better”, cautions Dr. Jha. He logically builds to the conclusion that where we have failed is in deploying ONE action effectively across all states. That is all that is required. With one-third of the U.S. population on the brink of succumbing to the pandemic, one third already fully at risk, and one-third managing to keep the pandemic at bay, mismatched messaging is wreaking havoc. Without a coordinated response from strong federal leadership, the COVID death numbers will not plateau. 

The onus of information dissemination and access to resources lies heavily on those in positions of power but behavioral change can come from the top-down and the bottom-up. 

Impermanence. The ability to adopt thought that lasts for an undetermined period of time. 

No one wants to be in lockdown. No one wants to wear a mask outside. No one wants to continuously get tested.

Just one of these, fully implemented and enforced, could be the key to end suffering. 

Dr. Nirav Shah, Senior Scholar at Stanford University’s Clinical Excellence Research Center and an elected member of the National Academy of Medicine, informs his research from the positive COVID control he has seen in Asian countries where schools remain open. He notes, “Right now there is a false choice between lives and livelihood.” That choice drives contention and spreads misinformation.

What is needed to re-open safely?

Early warning systems, broad & efficient testing, effective quarantine/isolation, adequate treatment capacity, actionable data collection, and vaccines. 

He brings forth antigen testing as the cheaper, faster method to detect COVID. Cost-effective and almost instantaneous results, I am feeling more optimistic as he continues to speak.

Source: U-T reporter Jonathan Wosen

Early warning systems and actionable data collection rely on the immediate transfer of information to an online database to make it accessible. Temperature monitoring using a thermometer linked to the internet would increase the efficiency of detecting COVID hotspots and roll out timely mandates required to limit spread. Dr. Shah’s blend of technology and the pandemic is the obvious way to move forward. Daily reporting is the necessary next step.

Source: Covid Act Now

So why haven’t we already been using this technology?

“We really need to start to think about a fundamentally different approach that protects privacy and lets public health [professionals] do their job”, Dr. Shah frustratedly shakes his head.

He is moving fast and hits a wall with effective quarantine/isolation and vaccines. The U.S. has expended no energy to strategize or provided resources for isolation and most vaccines are a year out still. 

“We are not anywhere close to doing well”, ends Dr. Shah. 

It seems Dr. Shah and Dr. Jha come to similar conclusions – the United States has the resources and the intelligence to rewrite the course we have taken with regards to the pandemic.

A grim message but I leave with positive outcomes. Testing is changing and so is data collection. Mitigation and prevention of COVID is plausible.

Can we adapt? Can we change? Can we make space for impermanence in our lives to end suffering?


Srishti Prabha is the Assistant Editor at India Currents and has worked in low income/affordable housing as an advocate for children, women, and people of color. She is passionate about diversifying spaces, preserving culture, and removing barriers to equity.

Mercy, Oh Microbes!

Tigers killed the prehistoric animals, man killed the tigers, and now microbes kill the man. This sequence has been a part of our planet. Our mortal enemy is historically shrinking in size but the destruction caused by IT is getting progressively more devastating because of our lifestyle. A sweeping annihilation of human beings was neither unprecedented nor entirely unexpected.

I remember the words of our Previous Dean at Emory Medical School, who joined us from the National Institute of Health some years ago, that our most threatening enemy is going to be microbes because they have been on this planet far earlier than us and we can never compete with their rate of reproduction.

The only advantage of their vicious visit this time is the lessons they are leaving behind. I do not want to enter the details of the devitalizing vital statistics of this pandemic. Everyone knows them beyond our choice. They will be talked and written about for decades to come.

Some Lessons To Be Learnt: The tragic toll of life that the pandemic has taken will not go entirely in vain if we draw some harsh but needful lessons therefrom.

Lesson 1 – Microbial World

We are surrounded by and inhabited by a microbial world. We have to recognize the good ones from the bad ones. Giving them names such as “evil”, “monsters”, etc. makes no difference to them. They are totally blind to gender, nationality, race, age, and any such outer epithets. We saw how this pandemic eclipsed many royal members, politicians, and physicians. They have no respect for Churches or other religious places either. Many churches were their starting places. They besiege and kill indiscriminately. To keep such Bacteria at bay with the help of scientists is our only available recourse.

Lesson 2 – Indian History and Mythology

I find our Indian History and Mythology to be very instructive in this regard because we have survived many diverse disasters and catastrophes. When we find our disassociation from society so unbearable, remember that Lord Buddha, Shankaracharya, Lord Swaminarayana, Shree Rama, Pandavas have had all their share in living a secluded life. If we are talking about deaths of human beings en masse, we have witnessed many grim tragedies of smallpox, cholera, plague that frequented our country. AIDS still lingers in our memory.

If we are talking about the sudden loss of wealth, India has seen it perhaps more than any other country. I specifically think of Rana Pratap who lost everything he had and was in an exile when his wealthy businessman Bhamasha offered all his wealth and rejuvenated his spirits. I mention this particular episode to remind us that we should follow such an example to support the rebuilding of our adopted country. I believe this is a splendid opportunity for us to pay back our dues to this country by helping restore our sagging economy.

Lesson 3 – Social Distancing

I stand corrected if I am wrong, but we needed to reaffirm our familial cohesiveness. Let us evaluate how we handled our continued togetherness while in seclusion. How cohesive, supportive, and mutually fulfilling were we as a family. 

Let us create a scoreboard of self-assessment. Did the familiarity breed conflict or care? I was so happy to see children playing and couples freely walking on the street…People talked to each other while walking. I rarely saw this before. Maybe we need to restructure our life to promote togetherness.

Lesson 4 – PTSD

 Watch out for PTSD Post Traumatic  Stress Disorder. During and after this excruciating experience, our deeply felt exhaustion is bound to come on the surface.

Many of us would be compelled to recognize the loss of lives and jobs that we sustained. Wounds often bleed later after the trauma is inflicted. Depression, suicidal thoughts, addictive tendencies, a lingering fear may push us to a state of psychosis. We may need to nurse each other with kindness and compassion to promote our combined healing. No social distancing at that time!

Lesson 5 – Nature

Let us also have a critical look at ourselves. There is a precise and piquant Indian saying that when one points one finger at others, three fingers are automatically pointing at him. We have violated the fundamental Laws of Nature over the last several years. From the time of Rigveda on, we have stressed the five elements of Nature, which deserve to be respected as our basic constituents – water, wind, fire, earth, and sky. These should be maintained in harmony to retain our planetary homeostasis. We have thoughtlessly violated the respectful restraint that we should have exercised over them. This is not a superstition but an obvious proof of our violation of the Laws of Nature. There is a rising Global outcry to revert our course and trace our steps back from this grievous misdemeanor. We are OFFLINE now but need to be ONLINE to secure our future. Recognize our faults and repair them. 

Our slumber has been long enough. Let the dawn break.

Bhagirath Majmudar, M.D. is an Emeritus Professor of Pathology and Gynecology-Obstetrics at Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia. Additionally, he is a poet, playwright, Sanskrit scholar, philosopher, and a priest who has conducted about 400 Weddings, mainly Interfaith.

Hyderabadi Splendor!

Hyderabad, the capital of Andhra Pradesh, epitomizes the perfect blend of diversity, both in culture as well as age, seamlessly integrating the ancient with the modern.

I decided to devote a few days of my summer vacation in 2013 to exploring this historic city, which is known for its magnificent forts and palaces, gardens and lakes, and of course the delectable Hyderabadi biryani, shimmering pearls and colorful glass bangles.

The beautiful Charminar Monument in Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh
The beautiful Charminar Monument in Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh

I began my trip with a visit to Charminar in the old city area. The most identifiable monument in Hyderabad, the Charminar is a majestic structure built in the year 1591 CE by Mohammed Quli Qutb Shah. An imposing edifice of four ornately decorated minarets and four grand arches facing onto different streets, the Charminar exudes the grandeur of Indo Islamic architecture. It has a profusion of balconies and balustrades, with a mosque on the fourth floor of the structure.

The exquisite exterior of the Chowmahalla Palace in Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh
The exquisite exterior of the Chowmahalla Palace in Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh

There is an interesting anecdote associated with the construction of this grand monument. It is widely believed that Mohammad Quli Qutb Shah promised to build a mosque at the center of the city where he prayed, on the eradication of a plague that had been ravaging his city.  Thus, the Charminar was built to celebrate the end of the dreaded plague.

Gazing at the tall imposing monument made me feel as if I was looking at a signature icon of the city somewhat like the  The Gateway of India is to the commercial capital, Mumbai.

Adjoining the Charminar area is the popular market called the Laad Bazaar, where I found rows and rows of shops selling lacquer and glass bangles studded with many hued dazzling stones. I entered one of the stores to take a closer look and the salesman filled my wrists with the dazzle of multi-colored bangles! It was, indeed, very difficult to choose and buy one or two pairs of bangles out of the many lovely designs and colors available.

Close to the Charminar is the Chowmahallah Palace, which was our next experience of Nizami grandeur. I was awestruck at the sheer brilliance of the architecture and the lavishness of its appointments. The Chowmahallah Palace was once the throne of the Asaf Jahi kings and was believed to have been inspired by the Shah’s Palace in Tehran, Iran.

The Chowmahallah, which literally means four palaces, was originally spread over an area of fortyfive acres (of which only twelve acres remain), consists of the Afzal Mahal, Mahtab Mahal, Tahniyat Mahal and the Aftab Mahal. Though the palace’s construction was originally started by Salabat Jung in 1750, it was completed in 1869 through the efforts of Nizam Afzar ud Dawla Bahadur. The Chowmahalla palace has two courtyards—the northern and the southern. The southern courtyard is the oldest part and has four palaces in it. The Khilawat Mubarak contains the royal throne with the richly decorated chandeliers and architecture complementing the grandeur.

The colorful Laad Bazaar in Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh
The colorful Laad Bazaar in Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh

At the time of Indian independence, the Nizam of Hyderabad was said to be the richest person in the world. On September 17, 1948, the Nizams lost Hyderabad to  the Indian union. At present, Princess Esra, the last Nizam Mukarram Jah’s wife, is overseeing the renovation of the Chowmahalla along with the government.

The fine intricate carvings on the walls of the palaces; the huge ornate chandeliers hanging from the ceiling and the royal throne of the king give a perfect glimpse of royal Nizami setting of a bygone era. The Chowmahallah Palace also houses different items of daily use owned by the Nizams. Ornate items of furniture, exquisite cutlery, pieces of royal clothing, lethal weapons and much more can be found on the upper floors of the palace.

The dreamy Ramoji Film City in Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh
The dreamy Ramoji Film City in Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh

Lingering at the Chowmahallah, we didn’t realize the passage of time. It was past two in the afternoon when we left. To set our hunger pangs at rest, we hailed an auto and arrived at Paradise Food Court; which is well known for its special Hyderabadi biryani.

Hyderabadi biryani is made from a superior quality basmati rice and is flavored with a number of spices and condiments. While cooking, the edges of the vessel are sealed with dough to keep the aroma intact. Hyderabadi biryani has a spicy, tangy taste which lingers on the palate for long afterwards!  After the sumptuous biryani, it was my turn to tuck into the delectable double ka meetha. This dessert is a tasty bread and milk pudding topped with dry fruits and is a must for anyone with a sweet tooth.

A visit to Hyderabad would be incomplete without shopping for pearl jewellery. Today Hyderabad is the world leader in the pearl trade and pearls of different hues and designs can be found here. I headed to the showroom of Mangatrai Pearls and Jewellery at Basheerbagh. The extensive collection of pearl earrings, pendants, bracelets, necklaces and finger rings tested my resolve.

Satisfied with the pearls I finally bought,  I hired an auto and whizzed off towards Hussain Sagar Lake along Necklace Road. This lake was excavated in 1562 by Hussain Shah Wali during the rule of Ibrahin Quli Qutb Shah.  This lake offers facilities for water sports like boating and paddling among others. At the center of the lake stands a majestically built monolithic structure of Gautam Buddha, which is 18 metres (~60 feet) tall. It was carved out of a single white granite stone weighing 496 tons and was erected in the year 1992.

 

A night time image of the impressive Buddha Statue at Lumbini Park in Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh
A night time image of the impressive Buddha Statue at Lumbini Park in Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh

I strolled through Lumbini Park and bought tickets for a boat ride to the Buddha statue. As our boat steered towards the huge statue, a mild cool breeze touched our faces. On reaching the statue and the enclosed garden, I marveled at the serene atmosphere prevailing there.

A visit to South India must accommodate the delicious food of the south. Though usually taken for breakfast, I had  a masala dosa for dinner and topped it with a tall glass of lassi at Chutney’s a vegetarian restaurant

I had heard so much about Ramoji Film City that I could not resist verifying it. A drive of one and a half hours from Hyderabad, Ramoji Film City has been acknowledged by the Guinness World Records as the largest film studio complex in the world.  A wonderland to the eyes, the film city left me mesmerised. The Mughal gardens, the Japanese gardens and the Hawa Mahal are all here at Ramoji. A movie makers paradise, it has everything from the settings for every scene of a film to the technical support required to make it happen. Our friendly guide, Halder, informed us that scenes of the recently released blockbuster Chennai Express were shot here. Ramoji Film City also has a number of restaurants, shopping centres, hotels and rides. Different cultural programs, which include an opening and closing ceremony, stunt shows, and dances are performed live throughout the day at several theatres and at the central court. There was also a session dedicated to the art of film making, which showed how sound mixing and video editing is done in films.

The world class environs, the magical world of films and the many fascinating sights and rides of Ramoji lure thousands of people to this wonderland of cinema.

Even as I left Hyderabad, the sights, smells and sounds of this Nawabi city lingered on my senses. Hyderabad was an unforgettable blend of history with modernity.

Arundhati Nath is a freelance writer from Guwahati, Assam. She has written for publications like Child, Crystal Quest, Pulse and Sterling World. She can be reached at natharundhati@gmail.com.