Blessings on Diwali
May this New Year Be Clean, Green & Serene
Dear Divine Souls,
I hope that — by God’s divine grace — this finds you all in the best of health and happiness at this sacred and auspicious time of Diwali, the Festival of Light.
Diwali is a holiday of joy; it is the time when we gather with loved ones, celebrating our family, our friends and the prosperity that the light of God has bestowed upon us. And yet, this precious time of Diwali offers us so much more than the lamps, parties and sweets we use to celebrate this occasion. The festival of Diwali offers us all a beautiful opportunity to pause, reflect and bring ourselves back into alignment, putting the divine at the centre of our lives. This makes Diwali our divine holy day.
There are three main aspects of Diwali that I would like us to take time to remember and contemplate as we prepare not only our homes, but our hearts, for this divine festival.
The first is the celebration of Light. Diwali is celebrated as the time at which Lord Ram returned to the city of Ayodhya after being exiled for fourteen years. The people of Ayodhya were overjoyed at the return of their Divine King and welcomed Him. They filled the streets of the city with brightly burning lamps. The lamps symbolized the joy at His homecoming and were a beautiful representation of acknowledging the return of the divine light in their lives.
The symbolism of this is truly beautiful. We do not merely celebrate Diwali as a historical remembrance or to enjoy the gaiety of lighting our own streets and homes. Rather, the true meaning of the lighting of the diyas (lamps) is to signify the return of God’s light in our life, allowing His light to burn away the veils of ignorance that diminish us in our daily lives. When we create a home that is shining in divine light, we create a home in which anger, pain and ingnorance cannot dwell; but instead love, unity, peace and abundance prosper.
And yet how do connect to this divine light within and let it truly shine in the world? We can see an answer in the Diwali Diya itself, which traditionally is made of a clay pot, oil and a wick. Let us use the following analogy of the diya to help us see how we can shine forth our own divine light. Let us think that the vessel of the clay pot represents us; the wick represents our ego and the oil represents our selfish desires. When you closely watch a lamp burning, you will see that the flame dances around the wick, which in turn becomes blackened and diminished as it is engulfed by the heat of the flame. If we keep watching, we will see that the flame burns away the oil in the lamp leaving the pot more clear and clean as it empties of oil. Similiarly, when we diminish our egos and allow our selfish desires to be burnt away in the flame of divine conciousness, we will shine our light brightly in the world and I promise you all, my dears, you will see the magic of it!
The second aspect of Diwali, is the significance of the return of Ram to Ayodhya after the 14 years in exile. When Ram returned to Ayodhya and took the throne of the city, it was the beginning of an age called “Ram Rajya” or the rule of Ram. Ram Rajya is referred to, not only in the Ramayana, but in innumerable other literary works, as an age of perfection. It was the age for which we are yearning to return to — a time of peace, balance, harmony, health and abundance for all. The age of Ram Rajya was one in which all people, let me repeat — all people — had sufficient resources, education, training, good health and were loved and cared for.
Ram did not simply wave a magic divine wand and make poverty, illness, illiteracy, malice and despair vanish. Rather, He called upon the citizens of Ayodhya to shine their own divine light and join hands in bringing about the new world order.
In the same way, if we are truly going to celebrate Diwali, we must be prepared to join our hands and create a world in which no one, sleeps hungry, lacks basic education or health care, or is the victim of violence. It is not enough to just light diyas and eat sweets on Diwali. In order to really celebrate we must vow and pledge that from the next morning we will WORK toward creating Ram Rajya here and now in the world. And how can you work to create Ram Rajya in the world? First, it is important to see that the same divine light that shines in you, shines in each and every aspect of all creation. We have been not only created by the Creator, but we have also been created of the Creator. This means to love your brothers and sisters, including all living creatures and aspects of nature as you would yourself. The same way you would not wish harm for yourself or those you love, let that same respect and love guide your actions towards people, situations and the environment so that your actions, prayers and intentions bring about peace, justice and the protection of dharma in the world. It can happen my dears, you are the ones that make Ram Rajya a reality in the world. Let us use this divine time of Diwali to use our hands, our hearts and minds to really help create heaven on earth today.
The third aspect of Diwali I wish to share with you is worship of Maha Lakshmi, the Divine Feminine and the Goddess of Prosperity and Abundance. However, it is common for many to mistakenly perceive Maha Lakshmi as the Goddess of tangible wealth, to whom we pray when we want financial improvements in life, but true wealth is not the amount of assets we have accrued. True wealth is the light which shines forth from within us; it is our cup which runneth over with love, compassion, gratitude, service and peace. If we have these divine qualities in our lives, truly we will know the meaning of abundance in our lives.
Maha Lakshmi is the Divine Mother. Her energy is that of giving an nurturing, just like the Sun and Mother Ganga: giving without any hesitation, vacation or discrimination.
This beautiful and sacred Divine Feminine is unfortunately, what we as society, are destroying and allowing to be destroyed. Whether in the form of Mother Ganga, sister rivers, Mother Nature, Mother Earth or our human daughters, sisters and mothers – the Divine Feminine is manifest in them all and yet we openly disprerect and desecrate the manifestation of the divine female energy in the world.
As we worship Maha Lakshmi and perform puja to the Divine Feminine during Diwali, we must reflect and ask ourselves if we are, indeed, desecrating the very living, breathing feminine in our lives.
Tragically, every day, three billion litres of sewage and chemicals contaminate the Mother Ganga alone. Every year, millions of trees are cut down in India alone, leaving behind lifeless topsoil that cascades down from mountainsides during the monsoons, destroying villages and lives in its wake. We may not actually pour the chemicals in the rivers ourselves, but we must become fully aware of each of the products we purchase and ask ourselves what chain are we creating that links us to the toxin being poured in the river or the poor pay or conditions in the factory making the clothes and goods we buy. Our own culture teaches us to pray for and to our atmosphere, our rivers, our mountains and our plants, let us remember that our actions, direct or indirect, should not be simultaneously destroying that which we claim to hold sacred.
In India and other countries around the world, nearly one in three women are victims of domestic violence and cases of rape and other atrocities are high. In India, sixty-eight percent of women are abused in some way. Even when they are not being hit, many of our mothers and sisters are still prone to abuse. Women and children are fearful every night when they must forage outdoors for a place in which to heed the call of nature, simply because they do not have toilets. Nearly twenty-five percent of India’s daughters will drop out of school, mainly for the lack of toilets, adding to an unseen toll of poverty, desperation and pain.
In destroying the creation, or permitting the creation to be destroyed, we are in fact, destroying the handiwork of the Creator and turning our backs on Maha Lakshmi.
For this festival of lights, let us instead resolve to be the light ourselves. Instead of asking Maha Lakshmi for the bounty of financial wealth, let us instead ask how we may restore that bounty for the world through the preservation of nature and the upliftment of our brothers and sisters in need. In planting a tree, we are planting the grace of Maha Lakshmi. In cleaning our rivers, we are cleaning Her glorious form. In stopping any instances of violence against women and girls, we are protecting Her. By controlling our shopping habits, consuming less and restricting our desires we protect our finite resources from being plunderered from the earth, a process that causing innumerable damage and pollution.
In giving a toilet to a household or a school, we are similarly bringing forth the light; making our world cleaner, and safeguarding the innocent from needless suffering. One single burning candle can light innumerable other candles.
On this Diwali, let us not only light the oil lamps but let us become the lamps which bring light to ourselves and to others. Instead of throwing fireworks into the sky, causing air and noise pollution; let us become the fireworks, illuminating this world through the goodness of our deeds and the selflessness of our actions.
It begins with one tree, one toilet, or even picking up one piece of litter from the road or the bank of a river. It continues with the switching off of one light, the protecting of one girl, one woman, or one resource. From here begins a chain of light that can propel us forth into a new era. My dear brothers and sisters, let us together make the resolution and launch a new era of light in which all may bask. Hope and light are in your hands on this Diwali day.
If we can take a pledge on this Diwali Day to truly be the light and help bring in an era of Ram Rajya, then the lights of our lamps will continue to burn not only for a few hours but on and on throughout the year and for years to come. The whole world will be blessed with the light you shine.
May God bless you all.
With much love and blessings to you all and all your loved ones,
In the service of God and humanity,
Swami Chidanand Saraswati