Ruminations on Festival of Lights

Indians are in a festive mood celebrating Diwali, the festival of lights symbolising victory of good over evil. It is fascinating that in every religion, light symbolizes good and darkness signifies evil. But without darkness can goodness prevail in humanity? In my view, the darkest hours of our life sensitizes us to our deepest subconscious needs, desires, strengths, weaknesses and negative traits. We even notice the external environment entirely differently. For instance, switch off all the lights in your apartment. In five minutes, you will start noticing the smallest of sounds within and outside the apartment. Darkness heightens all our senses. Then why don’t we celebrate darkness or the darkest period of our life?

During Diwali, Hindu’s celebrate victory of Lord Ram typifying goodness, and defeat of Ravan, the embodiment of evil. However, if you read the fine print of Hindu mythology, Ravan wasn’t evil. As per one version of the mythology, Ravan and his brother Kumbhkaran were Lord Vishnu’s gatekeepers. Lord Ram was Lord Vishnu’s avatar. The story goes that Sanatha Kumara monks cursed Ravan and Kumbhkaran, when the two brothers mistakenly refused entry to the monks thinking they were children. As punishment, they had a choice between being born seven times as normal mortals and devotees of Lord Vishnu or three times as powerful people but enemies of Lord Vishnu. They chose the latter, to be back with Lord Vishnu at the earliest. If one relies on this story, then the difference between good and evil disappears. I end up asking the same question to myself – do we simplify distinctions between good and evil, to feel good about ourselves?

Alternatively, as on Diwali we welcome Goddess Lakshmi, (Goddess of Wealth), do we celebrate to get material possessions? From childhood, society has trained us to celebrate success and shun failure. Though, no one has succeeded without experiencing a huge amount of failure. Even Thomas Edison, the inventor of light bulbs failed repeatedly. Had he not gained strength and insight from his over 10,000 failed attempts, he would have never succeeded. Do we have a clear understanding of what is failure? Or do we just rely on stereotypical image that money, power, material possessions, trophies etc. signify a win and everything else is failure.

Hence, we pray to our respective Gods not to fail us. In my view, God has mapped a path for each human being for progressive growth of their souls. Each obstacle in life is for the spirit and soul to flourish. Thus, accept with serenity all the negatives in life – death, sickness, breakdown of relationships etc.. Why not look upon them as an opportunity to learn more about ourselves. We can take a leaf from Arthur Ashe’s, the first African American grand slam winner. On contacting HIV from blood transfusion he said – ‘If I were to say, ‘God, why me?’ about the bad things, then I should have said, ‘God, why me?’ about the good things that happened in my life.”

We celebrate Diwali on Amawasya, a pitch-dark night without a moon. In a way, we celebrate nature’s darkest period.  I have shared my musings on the subject with you. Now I am going to celebrate Diwali with all of you.

3 comments on “Ruminations on Festival of Lights

  1. Sonia,

    Your articles are endlessly inspiring and interesting , I must say. This one indeed add another one to your excellent contribution. Wish you a very Happy Deepawali !

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