Explore the true meaning of the festival of lights and teach your children the key values we get from Diwali, so that they grow up as well-rounded individuals
By V Saravana Kumar
Lord Rama won over evil with discipline, humility, tolerance, divinity and righteousness. Don’t we want to see a ‘Rama’ in our children? Let’s pay heed to the true meaning of Diwali and put into practice these divine qualities. There is no better time than the festival of lights to make a fresh start. Here’s a look at the key values from Diwali that can play a significant role in shaping the future of your child, if made a part of the daily lifestyle.
Diwali usually starts with the Brahmamuhurta (roughly one-and-a-half hours before sunrise) and that’s usually around 4:00 a.m. This early wake-up is considered to be the first step to a disciplined life and is symbolic of mental and spiritual awakening. It is believed that the sages who started this custom wanted it to become a norm of life. The wee hours of the morning are said to be the ideal time for improving productivity, acquiring knowledge, achieving ethical discipline, developing physical and mental health, and thereby attaining professional and personal success.
How to do it: If you are tired of trying to get your child to wake up early every morning, use this Diwali as an opportunity. Teach your child about the concept of Brahmamuhurta. For 30 days, starting this Diwali day, plan on waking up early as a family. It will be difficult in the first week, but if you keep the motivation level up, you can be sure to make a new beginning.
Diwali marks the victory of Lord Krishna over the evil demon Narakashura. This symbolises the victory of good over evil. Humans are made of three basic qualities – Satva, Rajas and Tamas. These qualities symbolise goodness, passion and destruction. Since none of these qualities can be totally eliminated from a person, there needs to be a perfect balance among them. The responsibility of parents lies in nurturing goodness in the hearts of their children.
How to do it: Encourage your child to do at least one good deed every day. It could relate to helping you in household chores, being obedient or always speaking the truth. Let him note down whatever he does. At the end of the month, he would be really astonished at the number of good deeds he has done.
Divinity is the source of happiness. According to Swami Vivekananda, “Each soul is potentially divine. The goal is to manifest the divinity within you.” Lighting earthen lamps is a symbolic representation of kindling the divinity within us by lighting the lamp of knowledge to drive away the darkness of ignorance. As Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa said, “A lamp cannot burn without oil; similarly, a man cannot live without God.” Use this Diwali to begin teaching your children the importance of divinity and trusting God.
How to do it: Read your child stories of divine grace from all religions. Take him to places of worship and teach him the importance of prayer. Try to have regular prayer sessions at home. Make him understand that trust in God is different from being superstitious.
Lord Rama is the perfect example of how important it is to be humble and gentle. That is why he was known as ‘Maryada Purushottam’ (Lord of Virtue). He was always seen as being the perfect son to his parents, ideal protector of Dharma and a living example of morality. Diwali is the perfect occasion to teach your children all these divine values.
How to do it: Ask your child to prepare a chart with humble and polite expressions like, ‘Excuse me’, ‘Please’ and ‘Sorry’, and display it on a wall. Every time your child makes a humble expression, let her stick a star on the chart. Just imagine how she would feel on seeing the chart covered with little stars by next year’s Diwali.
Diwali isn’t confined to Hinduism. Jains celebrate it as the day when Vardhamana Mahavira, the last Tirthankara or Teaching God, attained eternal Nirvana - spiritual liberation. Sikhs celebrate this day as Bandichor Diwas (Day of Liberation) to mark the release of Guru Hargobind from Gwalior prison where he had been a political prisoner. In Nepal, people celebrate the day as the anniversary of King Ashoka’s conversion to Buddhism. Diwali is, therefore, a great example of the brotherhood of religions.
How to do it: Teach your child the customs and traditions of different cultures across the world. During weekends, conduct a mini quiz to see how far she has understood these concepts. You can also involve children in the neighbourhood in this exercise.
Diwali is the time for family get-togethers. It signifies the importance of brotherhood and the joy of togetherness. It also gives an opportunity for children to seek the blessings of elders and to learn to respect them.
How to do it: Ask your child to write down the names of all his friends. You can also draw your family tree to help him identify his relatives. Now, that would be one long list! Encourage your child to look out for opportunities to meet these people at regular intervals.
The very purpose of celebrating festivals is to make people around us happy, for true happiness comes from little acts of kindness. Diwali is the time when we indulge in such generous acts.
How to do it: Use this Diwali to teach your child the art of giving. Take your child to orphanages and old age homes, and make that a regular event. Let your child see the happiness on the faces of those who receive the gifts. To sum it up, the duty of an individual is to understand Dharma (moral values), Artha (economic values), Kama (psychological values) and Moksha (spiritual values). These are also considered to be the basic objects of human pursuit. Parents should make sure that they understand this concept clearly and teach it to their children too.
(Inputs from Swami Nirmaleshananda from Ramakrishna Mission)
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V Saravana Kumar