Ever since the emergence of Covid 19 as a global pandemic it seems like I have been inundated with opposing views. Is it “just a flu”? Is it a massive conspiracy? Has it been over hyped in order to control people or to generate profit for the major drug companies? Are there really that many people dying? At first I found it hard to know what to believe.
All media has an agenda. I looked into a social media post that claimed to be a headline from a reputable newspaper that in an outbreak of the “Delta” strain 3/4s or the people infected were fully vaccinated. There was no article with the headline, but there was a story about the event, and yes, in a town that was pretty much fully vaccinated a holiday weekend massive influx of people and partying led to a “super spreader” scenario. Three quarters of those who later tested positive were fully vaccinated, but the article goes on to show that there were very few hospitalisations and no deaths. The conclusion was that the vaccine was very effective in averting what would have been a disaster in a less vaccinated city.
I was surprised how easy it was to show that this post was “misinformation”. Yet people re-posted it without checking and so it spreads. I think that it doesn’t matter if you get your information from mainstream media or from social media, you are being manipulated. So again I ask myself, what to believe.
I get help here from Patanjali. In the Yoga Sutras he gives us 3 methods of attaining pramāna, right knowledge. These are, pratyaksa, anumāna and āgamāh. That is, from direct experience, logical inference, or testimony from reliable sources. In Aotearoa/NZ we have had very little direct experience of Covid. I have had none, so I can’t draw from personal experience. Logical inference or the “where there is smoke there is always fire” is also difficult to apply. To me there seem to be no certainties with this virus. You may get it and suffer very mild or no symptoms. You may die. Or anywhere in between. You may get vaccinated and be protected. You may not. There is no certainty which means that the temptation is to fall back on my own prejudices.
Instead I decided to listen to the testimony of people that I know and trust. My doctor (yes, I trust him. I wouldn’t go and see him if I didn’t). People I know who are involved in the medical system. People who I know who have returned from abroad and had direct experience of the virus. People with family abroad who are receiving direct information about the virus and have been directly effected. All are intelligent people who are never slow to express their dissatisfaction with the “system” if they feel it is wrong. All of them urged me to take this pandemic seriously and to get myself and my family vaccinated.
Patanjali helps me in another crucial way as well. I had this feeling that my body is somehow sacred or divine and should not be tainted by the vaccine. The Sutras tell me that the sacred and divine in me are completely separate from my body and indeed, from my mind. This is the veil of avidyā or ignorance that we all suffer from. I am not this body or this mind. These are just a vehicle or tool to use to discover my true, divine nature. The body and mind are there to show unwavering devotion to the divine and love and compassion to all. This is the path of Yoga. This is the ultimate Truth that I won’t discover by reading books or in the media or by joining a cult. I need to do the work, and for me Yoga is that work. I will always try to choose love and trust over hatred and suspicion. Always choose hope over despair. You can call me naive or deluded even, but this is what brings me to happiness.
Given all this I asked myself, “why this reluctance to take the vaccine”? After all, I take a leap of faith every time I eat something. Even those organic apples in the brown paper bag from the local organic shop require me to trust that the grower and shop owner are being honest. Just because something comes wrapped in a syringe does that mean it is bad for me? My mind wants to make a big thing out of this but it is in fact a small thing. For the yogi vaccine or no vaccine, it doesn’t matter. But for other people it is a matter of life or death and for many others a matter of their livelihoods. I did not give away sovereignty over my body when I chose to take the vaccine. It cost me nothing other than the time it took. I chose vaccination because I think it is the best thing I can do for my family, for my community and for my business.
I remember that when I was young I was full of external demons. I railed against authority, the police, the system, blaming them all for my own dissatisfaction with life. When I decided that actually I probably should address my internal demons before blaming the external ones, yoga came in to my life. Now I understand that those external demons are all manifestations of my internal ones and I don’t seek to blame anyone. The work continues, and Yoga is that work.