Varieties of Kusang
Gunatitanand Swami, in his talks, describes three forms of kusang – variations of a problem that have the same harmful impact. Much like mutant or variant forms of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
The first is external kusang: the company of overtly decadent people and indulgence in material pleasures without restriction.
The second is internal kusang: one’s inner demons, base natures, that deflect one from spirituality.
The third is kusang within satsang: this refers to the negative, discouraging talks that stifle one’s spiritual progress despite being immersed in satsang. People who indulge in such talks can be likened to asymptomatic spreaders. That is, just like some who are infected with SARS-CoV-2 do not show obvious symptoms and can spread the disease, these ‘satsangis’ outwardly show no signs, but inwardly are a source of kusang. One must learn to recognize such people and steer clear from them.
To further the analogy, there many be superspreaders – some who are infected with the coronavirus are more contagious and spread the disease to a larger number of people. Similarly, some forms of kusang are highly transmissible and are easily contracted. They readily affect people and harm them spiritually.
During this pandemic, some people have wilfully ignored the health and safety guidelines issued by government and medical authorities, endangering both themselves and others, in the false belief that they will not be infected or affected by the virus. However, subsequently, they and others fall ill, often with dire consequences.
Spiritually also, overconfidence that kusang will not cause one harm is misplaced. Shriji Maharaj states in Vachanamrut Gadhada I 18, “None have been able to indulge in pleasures of the senses and yet remain uninfluenced by them; none will be able to do so in the future; nor is there anyone like that presently. Even one who has endeavoured for countless millions of years is incapable of remaining uninfluenced amidst temptations. Therefore, if you behave as I have described, you will benefit.”
One may feel that engaging in kusang is not harmful and leaves no lasting effects. But remember even those who have seemingly fully recovered from the virus have suffered sudden fatal outcomes that have baffled even the best doctors. Similarly, the virus of kusang festers in the mind and can suddenly unleash lethal attacks in the form of thoughts and actions that lead to spiritual demise.
To reinforce this point, in Vachanamrut Vartal 20, Shriji Maharaj says, “Even if one has such understanding [like King Janak], one should under no circumstances associate with any type of evil influence. This is a universal principle.”
So, just as even those in robust health are strongly advised, encouraged and often forced (through lockdowns) to adhere to health and safety measures, even those who may be spiritually advanced should steer clear of kusang.
The pandemic spurred an outpouring of help for those more severely affected by the strict measures. Frontline workers and other essential workers took great personal risk to shoulder the task of helping the ill and needy. At the same time, volunteers served vulnerable people to fulfil their essential needs. People rallied to help each other and minimize the suffering.
Similarly, frontline spiritual workers willingly undertake many responsibilities to help and facilitate the spiritual growth of others. They frequently volunteer their time, energy and other resources for the benefit of others.
However, even the best planning can only yield productive outcomes when the society acts as a collective in pursuit of controlling the pandemic. Since, only then can swift responses be implemented to counter changing circumstances.
In the same way, the most effective way to counter kusang is to be a part of the society of satsang. This will enable rapid and effective responses to challenging situations.
From Ridiculous to Reasonable
Some ridiculed the measures enforced by government and medical authorities. However, drastic circumstances call for drastic measures and even extreme or draconion steps. Warning against resisting and wilful complacency in implementing these protective measures, Erin Bromage, associate professor of Biology at University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, writes, “Actions that look ridiculous today will look most reasonable in three weeks.”
Sometimes, people also ridicule others’ practice and observance of spiritual disciplines and codes; they consider them to be over the top, unnecessary and futile. However, when such ‘ridiculous’ practices are sustained in one’s life, the negative effects of kusang are avoided and one reaps the benefit of longterm experience of inner peace and happiness, contentment, and the blessings of God and guru.
In hindsight, one realizes, that foregoing the material pleasures in the short term leads to greater, more lasting and beneficial outcomes and experiences. Ultimately, the adherence to spiritual discipline is justified.
The lesson: it is better to appear ridiculous in the short term than to leave oneself vulnerable to dangerous consequences later.
Ignorance is not Bliss
It has been said that every disaster movie begins with the government ignoring the scientists, leading to disastrous outcomes. Despite warnings and guidance from experienced professionals, inappropriate decisions and actions take place to the detriment of all.
In spiritual terms, the shastras and the living guru are the scientists. They have highlighted the pitfalls of kusang and how to protect oneself from them. Yet people do not heed their warnings and refuse to follow their advice, only to suffer avoidable pain and misery.
Now, one year on, in March 2021, the future looks brighter with the prospect of vaccines bringing an end to the pandemic. Though the vaccines do not provide 100% protection against infection, they are very effective in preventing serious illness and death. So, taking a vaccine at the earliest opportunity is the wise course of action.
Vaccines and other measures will dilute the effect of SARS-COV-2 over time, but we still need to remain wary of a possible resurgence. Continued protection against the virus will still be required through vaccine boosters and other preventive actions.
As for kusang, it is an ever-present threat. It continues to present in ever-changing and increasingly potent forms. We cannot let down our guard and must sincerely implement the protective measures to prevent infection. Only daily practice of satsang as guided by Bhagwan Swaminarayan and our Gunatit gurus can innoculate us against becoming infected by kusang.