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Diwali is a time for fun, festivity, fireworks and feasts. It is also a time to understand the meaning of real prosperity that 'brings light to our lives and a sparkle to our eyes'.
Diwali is one of the most festive and beautiful times of the year. It is a time filled with light and love - a time when Indians all over the world rejoice. However, it is also a holiday that is widely misunderstood and misrepresented. We need to understand what Diwali really means, why we celebrate it and why we worship Goddess Lakshmi on this day.
The day of Diwali is associated with many historical events, the most important being the return of Bhagwan Rama to Ayodhya, after his defeat of Ravana in Lanka. There are several beautiful lessons and meanings to be taken from this 'divine holiday'.
Both Rama and Ravana were kings; both were learned in the scriptures; both were charismatic; both were beautiful. What made Rama a God and Ravana a demon? One difference is crucial: Ego! While Bhagwan Rama's heart overflowed with divinity, love, generosity, humility and duty, Ravana's heart was filled with avarice, hatred and egoism.
Ravana was a great Vedic scholar. It was not ignorance, laziness or ugliness that led him to aggression. He was powerful, dynamic and beautiful. His own ego, arrogance and slavery to sensual desires led to his aggression and downfall. His insatiable desires made him crave more power, money, and pleasures to fulfil his every whim. Ravana was ruled by kama and artha.
On the other hand, Bhagwan Rama was always humble, dharmic, pure and pious. Also, he was a master of his senses, not their slave. He teaches the world to choose dharma over artha and to choose moksha over kama.
This Diwali, let us not only celebrate the joyous return of Lord Rama to Ayodhya and the vanquishing of evil by good, but let us also ask ourselves if Lord Rama has come in to our own hearts. Have the forces of good, righteousness and humility conquered the evil forces of desire, arrogance and ego within us? Are we choosing dharma over artha and moksha over kama in our own lives?
Each year we adorn our homes with brightly lit earthen lamps. The earthen lamps we light on Diwali should not merely be outside on our shelves. We must remember to not only light the lamp in our mandir and our home, but also in our hearts. We must light the lamps of truth, piety, purity, divinity and peace in our lives. Let's make sure that the light of dharma, humility and divinity are burning within our hearts.
On Diwali, many people begin a new cheque book and put last year's accounts to rest. But what about our own balance sheets? When was the last time we assessed our minuses and plusses, our strengths and weaknesses, our good deeds and selfish deeds?
A good businessman always checks his balance sheet: how much he has spent and how much he has earned. In the same way, we must assess the balance sheets of our lives. Look at the year that went by. How many people did we hurt? How many did we heal? How many times did we lose our temper? How many times did we give more than we received? Let us truly examine ourselves as carefully as we examine our account books. Then, just as we give our old cheque books and the first cheque of our new one to God, let us turn everything over to him, putting our strengths, our weaknesses, our wins and our losses at his holy feet. And then, let us start afresh, as a new book, unadulterated by old grudges and bitterness.
Diwali is a time during which friends and families exchange gifts as symbols of their love and affection. The tradition started when the people of Ayodhya were so ecstatic on the return of their divine king that they lit earthen lamps and exchanged gifts with each other. The first gifts were given to mark the return of Bhagwan Rama - the return of truth, integrity and divinity.
Today, unfortunately we seem to forget the reason for exchanging gifts. Rather than heralding the presence of God in our lives, the gifts have become simply a way to fill our drawers, closets and homes with unnecessary possessions!
We have forgotten to rejoice at God's presence; we remember only the gifts. Also, as we fall deeper and deeper into the bottomless pit of material desires, we start to think that a 'gift' is something which comes in a box with fancy wrapping paper around it. We buy our children possessions, deceiving ourselves that we have somehow fulfilled our parental duties to them. However, our duty is to give our children a strong foundation of love, values, truth, culture, tradition and spirituality on which they can build their lives. Our duty is first to bring God back into our homes and our lives. Then, and only then, should we exchange gifts celebrating his presence.
Let us take a vow that, in addition to giving material gifts to our children, we fill our homes with God, love, spirituality, culture and dharma, thereby giving our children the true, everlasting gifts of Diwali.
One of the most important aspects of Diwali is the worship of Maha Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity. We pray to her for prosperity; we ask her to lavish us with her blessings. However, what sort of prosperity are we praying for? All too often, we infer wealth to mean money, possessions and material pleasures. This is NOT true wealth; this is not what makes us prosperous. There is almost no correlation between the amount of money we earn, the number of possessions we buy, and our sense of inner bliss and prosperity.
On Diwali, we must pray to Maha Lakshmi to bestow real prosperity upon us, the prosperity that brings light to our lives and a sparkle to our eyes. We must pray for an abundance of faith, not money; for success in our spiritual lives, not a promotion at work; for the love of God, not the love of the beautiful girl (or boy) in our science class.
About the author:
Written by H H Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswati on 05 November 2018.
(In special arrangement with Parmarth Niketan, Rishikesh)
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