There is a wonderful, simple and instructive anecdote from the life of Namacharya Haridas Thakur. Haridas Thakur was staying in a small village called Phuliya in Bengal and chanting the Holy Names of Krishna, throughout the day and night. Chanting the Holy Names was his food, his sustenance, his everything. The local magistrate of that place (Kazi) knowing that Haridas had been born in a Muslim household, and now was showing such a taste for chanting the Holy Names of Krishna, began to fear that he might convert others to Vaishnavism. He took his complaint to the governor (Nawab), suggesting that Haridas be punished as soon as possible. The governor ordered his officers to place Haridas under arrest. The other prisoners already knew Haridas’s glories and thought that the sight and blessings of such a great spiritual personality would surely bring them merit to insure their early release from jail. But, when Haridas saw them, he blessed them saying, "May you always remain like this." In other words, he blessed them with the blessing, "May you always remain in lockdown". The prisoners were naturally unhappy to hear such a statement, but then Haridas explained his strange blessing (paraphrased):
"I don’t mean to say that you should remain prisoners. Very soon, by the mercy of Lord Krishna you all will be freed from this jail but, my worry is that as soon you are free, you may not chant Hare Krishna in a desperate mood like you are chanting now and you may forget to take seek shelter of devotees and beg for their mercy in a desperate and humble mood like you are seeking now. While in jail, you could forget the entanglements of material life and simply concentrate on chanting the Holy Name but once you are out, you may captivated by the temptations of Maya. My blessing is that, the intensity with which you are performing Bhakti now in lockdown may continue always."
During this lockdown phase due to the Corona virus, devotees all over the world have intensified their devotional practices. Those who couldn't chant 16 rounds are now able to chant 16 rounds. Many devotees are chanting 24 or 32 rounds. Many devotees have increased their quota of reading Bhagvat-gita or Srimad-bhagvatam and have taken a vow to complete a fixed number of pages per day. Most importantly, this situation of crisis is making everyone take shelter of Krishna, His devotees and the process of Bhakti with a lot of desperation and helplessness. This situation is making us all humble and realize that we are endlessly lost and hopeless without the grace factor. But the worry is that, once this phase is over, we may once again become relaxed and laxed in our practices of Bhakti; we may once again become arrogant and boastful that we are great and that we are not dependent on the grace of the devotees. That is the worry. That is the reason why Kunti Maharani very intelligently prays to the Lord in the pages of Srimad-bhagvatam for more and more miseries so that, her desperation for Krishna doesn't reduce an inch.
vipadaḥ santu tāḥ śaśvat
tatra tatra jagad-guro
bhavato darśanaṁ yat syād
"I wish that all those calamities would happen again and again so that we could see You again and again, for seeing You means that we will no longer see repeated births and deaths." - Srimad-bhagvatam 1.8.25
We may not have the courage to pray like Kunti Maharani but we can do well if we remember that being in this world is being in a lockdown and being encaged in this material body is another lockdown. The lockdown due to the Corona pandemic is a lockdown within a lockdown, within a lockdown. Thus, let this blessing of Haridas Thakur be always upon us and thus let us chant the Holy Names of Krishna and beg for the mercy of His devotees in a desperate mood for, only the mercy of the Lord and His devotees can free us from all our lockdowns, once in for all.