When kids ask parents why we celebrate the festival of lights (also called Deepavali or Diwali), usually, we hear some mythological story, in which an important event took place on this day and hence the day is celebrated as a remembrance of that event. For example, the story of Lord Krishna slaying the demon Narakasura and freeing 16,000 captive ladies from the demon. There are several stories which relate to this day of festival. The response we may see from (our 21st century) kids to such answers: “Okay…”, “Whatever…” 🙂 Their response says the kids are not convinced by these stories and they still wonder: Why the festival is celebrated in such big scale and with so many lights? Why are these rituals created? What was the original purpose?
Buddha’s last three words: appo deepo bhava.
Buddha’s last three words, just before his departure from the Earth, are significant. He says to his disciples, “appo deepo bhava,” which means “Be the light unto oneself or Realize the light within and make yourself capable of spreading it around.” He means cleanse body and mind. Make them strong and confident. Remove negativities. Then we become a lamp, the light within us shines through as Compassion and spreads around us like a flower spreading its fragrance without any conditions. In the last 5000 years of human history, many such solitary lamps have spread their light to millions and have shown their power.
To name a few: Krishna, Moses, Buddha, Mahavira, Jesus, Shankara, Ramanuja, Madhwa, Sufi-Shaiva-Vaishnava Saints, Nanak, Meera, St. Theresa of Avila, St. Francis of Assisi, Newton, Florence Nightingale, Abraham Lincoln, Einstein, Mother Theresa, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., and Nelson Mandela. Each of them has single-handedly changed the course of the history, showered compassion and influenced and transformed millions by lighting their hearts.
Ancient Sages createdthese rituals for the purpose of reminding us that every lit lamp is powerful.
Ancient Sages created these rituals for the purpose of reminding us that every lit lamp is powerful. In fact, this is the very purpose of those mythological stories related to this festival. Deepavali is not festival of just one huge bright light rather it is the festival of every single light and many such lights shining simultaneously. When mom and dad are preparing for the festival, they prepare the rows of lamps, then light one lamp and use it to light all the other lamps. Kids watch this with awe. When all the lamps are lit, it looks gorgeous and the young & old are all filled with joy. We can relate the power of one lamp lighting many others to any of the above historical figures:
One Krishna lighting the hearts of Indus Valley people, one Jesus lighting the hearts of the people in the land of Judea, one Florence Nightingale lighting the hearts of the soldiers wounded on the battlefield.
When we become light unto ourselves, we can influence, transform and kindle our kids, our friends & family and our community. Each one of us is powerful. To remember this, to show our individual and collective powers, Sages created the rituals of Deepavali.
Joyfully celebrate with all our Hearts…
We should continue celebrating this beautiful festival…not just — as a blind ritual because tradition says so, as a show-off, or as a societal thing because everyone else is doing. Rather joyfully celebrate with all our Hearts to —
- Understand & live the deeper purpose and original intent of the celebrations
- Create a transformation within ourselves so that we can light the lives of our next generation
- Express gratitude to our ancestors for preserving and handing over such a beautiful tradition
- Preserve and pass it on…
Festival of lights is the time when we literally see the word Deepavali/Diwali (Rows of Lights) come true on the streets, shops, malls, neighborhoods and within the homes. This is the season of lights, fire crackers, joy, smiles, worshipping, launch of anything new, gifts, family, friends, community and the best of all – exotic foods: deep fried and butter/ghee laden, sweet-salty-astringent-lemony-tangy-hot, sticky and sugar syrup soaked, snacks and multi-course dining. 🙂
When you see lights during the holiday season, just remember that every single light is powerful and recall Buddha’s last three words.
Wish You All A Very Happy Diwali! May The Divine Bless Us All!!