On the Spirit of Chennai

It was a pleasant morning as I woke up today to a very quiet and peaceful ambience. The chirping birds from the hills nearby only added to the beauty. How easily we take it all for granted – the peace, the tranquility, a comfortable room with a view of surrounding hills etc.

Relaxing thus in a place which is far away from Chennai, I contemplated on what is being described in the media as the spirit and resilience of Chennai. All said and done, one needs a tranquil place to reflect on the basic nature of human beings.

I was trying to make sense of this expression – spirit of Chennai. What is this thing called spirit as distinct from the gross entities? Is it something unique to Chennaites? How does one come to know of it or feel it? How does one measure it? These and similar philosophical questions occupied my mind early in the morning.

One could explain away the whole thing as a normal response to any crisis in life.  Doesn’t an adverse situation in life bring out the best in any human being?

However, one can get a different insight into this if one considers some of the incredible things that Chennaiites are doing right now to mitigate the misery and suffering of their fellow humans. For instance, see how temples, mosques and churches have been thrown open for serving the homeless. See  how Muslims and Hindus are working together to make food in a highly religious ancient Parthasaradhy temple in Triplicane. What does it tell you? People see a value higher than that of religion in a selfless  activity. What is that value? Language fails to describe this in  precise terms and hence calls it the spirit of Chennaiites.. Spirituality knows no language or religion or caste. Spirituality transcends all apparent differences. Love, compassion, empathy – how can anyone explain or describe what they are? How can anyone prove one’s love, for instance? (by the way, lack of one’s ability to express love is one of the major causes of divorce in the west!). Love can only be expressed in action and action is on display in abundance in Chennai right now. Love and compassion are the basic attributes of Spirituality.

It is said whatever feeling cannot be verbalized or measured is the truth. Spontaneous action is the only expression for love and compassion, not arm chair philosophizing. For instance, when you see  someone caught in floods, you act spontaneously to rescue him. We have seen such amazing videos of how people acted spontaneously. A crisis brings out the spiritual ”you” which makes you forget all differences. Sadly, differences surface the moment normal life begins. This shows that the basic human nature is to love which is unfortunately masked by religion, caste and umpteen other divisive forces.

Talking of spontaneous action, that is what Bhagavadgita talks about in Karma yoga. It talks about Niyatam karma which is spontaneous action that one undertakes just because one happens to be at a certain place and  time. There is no choice of whether one has to act or not.

So, is a crisis needed for the humanity to get spiritual? How sad? In normal times, we behave as though each one of us is an isolated individual.

Published in: on December 6, 2015 at 7:41 pm  Comments (2)  
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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Sir: The army helping Chennaites is credited to having said that they have not seen so many volunteers as in Chennai. While I do appreciate the great work done by the Adminstarstion what has been noticed is lack of organisation to channelise the materials, food, clothes, medicines coming to Chennai from all other cities in TN or Karnataka or Kerala. Could not this been organised by the administration which would have made the work easier? Why we do not have Disaster Management ? Why we are always reactive and not proactive ?

    Colonel (Veteran) A Sridharan

    • You are right, sir. Lack of coordination is one problem. Another dirtier problem that came to light was politicians trying to use it as a PR opportunity. How sad!

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