Are you ready for the Diwali spirit?
Diwali or Deepavali (commonly known as ‘row of lights’) has a lot of spirit in it. Our celebrations of this yearly Diwali festival could have more meaning and bite to it, if we know its true spirit and significance, as explained by wise and learned souls. Otherwise our Diwali and the greetings could be just an annual ritual. The wise say that the real significance of Diwali is intrinsic and hidden in the very symbolic worship, rituals and traditions that we follow in our homes.
Its common knowledge that the festival of lights is a celebration of wisdom as it dispels the darkness of our ignorance. Ignorance of what? What is the real darkness, which must be dispelled? According to the Gurus of India, it’s the ignorance of the ultimate truth of life. Darkness is considered evil because it represents ignorance.
Historically, we know that this festival of illumination was the celebration of Lord Ram’s homecoming to Ayodhya (the land of no-conflict – a-yuddha) after killing Ravana. The spirit of Diwali, in the clarion call of the famous Advaita teacher Swami Shivanand of Rishikesh, is:
“O Ram! The light of lights, the self-luminous inner light of the Self is ever shining steadily in the chamber of your heart. Sit quietly. Close your eyes. Withdraw the senses. Fix the mind on this supreme light and enjoy the real Deepavali, by attaining illumination of the soul…Many Deepavali festivals have come and gone. Yet the hearts of the vast majority are as dark as the night of the new moon. The house is lit with lamps, but the heart is full of the darkness of ignorance. O man! Wake up from the slumber of ignorance. Realise the constant and eternal light of the Soul which neither rises nor sets, through meditation and deep enquiry”.
Diwali is also to celebrate the victorious return of Lord Krishna, after killing Narakaasura – the asura from narak (hell). Asura means ‘malicious people who are given to egoism, power, haughtiness, lust, anger and diabolically fallen – in other words physiologically a man but temperamentally an animal’, as defined in the Holy Geeta.
The origin of Diwali in the Sikh community was since the illumination of the town of Amritsar commemorating the return of their sixth Guru – Guru Har Gobind Ji (1595-1644). People illuminated lamps in the way to Shri Harmandhir Sahib (Golden Temple) to honor and welcome their beloved Guru. For the Jain community, the Diwali day is when their famous Thirthankar Vardhman Mahaveer attained enlightenment (Nirvana).
The origin of Diwali historically clearly points out to the celebration of ‘enlightened’ divine souls not just Lakshmi Puja. However it is the day we harvest the results of our hard work blessed with the wealth by Mother Lakshmi. In our worship, we pray to her with gratitude and ask the gracious Mother to shower her blessings in abundance for the coming year.
Like any other Hindu or Indian festival, Diwali comes with its clear set of messages for making our lives ‘abundant’. Diwali is a religious day and associated with abundance as we invoke and worship Lakshmi ~ the Goddess of prosperity. It’s incorrect and ignorant to think one worships ‘money’ on Diwali. However the spiritual and wellness Guru Deepak Chopra confirms this with some clarification when he says,
“While many people spend their lives pursuing Lakshmi – money, fancy homes, luxury cars, and other symbols of wealth – true abundance isn’t about getting your ego’s wish list met in a timely manner; it’s knowing that who you really are is pure consciousness, pure potentiality. Money, achievements, accolades – all of these are byproducts of life’s true gift: the unfolding of your inner divinity”.
On Diwali day, we worship Goddess Lakshmi as the Goddess of abundance in the true sense. But why do we want abundance when we know that in the end we will not take it all with us. The answer is in the word ‘Abundance’ itself. Abundance is derived from the Latin word ‘Abundantia’ coming from the root word ‘undare’, which means “rising in waves’ signifying that we flow in the experience of life rising in waves of infinite abundant energy of the universe. Abundance is not just more money and good fortune as we generally understand Goddess Lakshmi to be, but also means abundance in way of friendships and relationships, wisdom, inspired expression, good health, caring interactions, zeal, confidence, peace of mind etc.
The following anecdote gives the essence of abundance. A man leaves his remote village and travels the world. After many years, he returns home. The villagers gather around him and enquired if life in the world was good. He replied, “Same as this place. It is perfect for those who know how to live fully.”
Hindu Gurus have always deciphered and brought to the fore meaningful life-lessons that are inherent in our festivals. Since we light lamps in Diwali, here’s one such meaning of Diwali in the tradition of Vedantic teachings:
‘Fill the Heart with the oil of Love. Place in it the wick of single-pointed mind. Light it with the Knowledge of Truth and remove the darkness of Ignorance around you. Just as one lamp can light many lamps; let each of us kindle this Light in many hearts.’
Happy Deepavali to you and your families.
May the spirit of Diwali bring your way, bright sparkles of contentment that stay with you through the days ahead.