Divali: The Truth of Light All
Covid-19 is showing that the world is in a permanent need of healing, of forgiving and being forgiven. Let the lights of Divali, which is celebrated worldwide, carry this message far and wide
By Dr R Neerunjun Gopee
All festivals and celebrations that touch us very deeply have in one way or another got to do with light in all its various forms of manifestation, towards which we contribute too. There is an absolute dimension of light, its brightness which is an expression of the dance of energy that is its source, most visibly to us as the sun. Without the sun there simply would not be anything: no existence as we know it. And the sun is itself part of and identical in essence with the initial cosmic source, known in astronomy as the ‘Big Bang’.
There is the relative or manifested dimension of light, as it transforms into shapes and colours, some of it natural, for example the rainbow or the aurora borealis in the northern hemisphere. But we also create artificial representations such as when we play with sparklers, light up earthenware lamps or candles, ignite firecrackers that create patterns in space, or use electronics to generate kaleidoscopic displays (on the dance floor, etc) among so many other inventions.
As we gradually matured as human beings, we sought not only to survive by exploiting whatever was available in our surroundings, but also began a larger quest of trying to understand the world and our place in it. We found out that our planet Earth was one of several others circling around our star the sun in a solar system, and that there are innumerable galaxies made of solar systems too – all together comprising a larger entity called the universe or cosmos.
The ancient Indian sages or rishis came to view the cosmos as possessing an intrinsic cosmic order, what in Hinduism is known as Rta (Sanskrit: rtam ‘that which is properly joined; order, rule; truth’). It is the principle of natural order which regulates and coordinates the operation of the universe and everything within it. This cosmic order is in turn made up of a physical order, which is explored by science, and a moral order. The latter is the domain of philosophers who approach it with an open mind, men of religion whose minds are constrained, and spiritual people who go beyond the mind in their search for the deeper truth that underlies existence.
The latter’s pursuit is to understand and explain the origin of the world (the universe, existence) and of where man fits in. They seek insights about his origin and essential nature, his evolution, his mind, the basis of his actions, his relationship with others at individual and collective levels, his relationship with plants, animals and inanimate or non-living objects, and more importantly his larger purpose and goal as part of the cosmos.
We already know from the science perspective that all that exists, both living and non-living, finally resolves into atoms which are themselves but energy, and when released in its purest and visible form that energy is light – of the sun, of the nuclear bomb. By no means are we walking or ticking nuclear bombs! – but from a fundamental point of view we can see that physically we emanate from light.
But how does light become life – life that thinks, imagines, dreams, plans, enjoys, undergoes pleasure and pain, that gets drawn into the cycle of birth and death? What is it that energises light, as it were. This is where our rishis come in, because their enquiry by means of sadhana or spiritual discipline revealed to them that all of existence (living and non-living) is but an emanation of a One and Only Reality (sat) whose essential nature is bliss unlimited or ananda and self-aware consciousness or chit: satchitananda – a cosmic Divine Light which can be apprehended by all who are prepared to follow the sadhana as the Inner Light which is embodied within us.
People who take to this path live a more disciplined and balanced life in which material things are relegated to their only role place of fulfilling needs, i.e. there is no excessive yearning for or attachment to worldly objects.
Beyond everything else, this is what the lights of Divali are meant to convey. The diyas lit along rows or avalis are illustrations and symbols of that Divine Light. Spiritually, the rows of lights are meant to create awareness about the Light within, the eternal, infinite atman which is beyond the transient physical body and mind. In the material world the celebration symbolizes the victory of dharma or righteousness over adharma or unrighteousness, as well as the Light of Higher Knowledge dispelling the darkness of ignorance, which masks one’s true nature, the atman. With this awakening comes the awareness of the oneness of all things in the universe, arousing compassion towards all and a feeling of all-pervasive bliss or ananda. Hence the sharing of sweets and gifts and forgiving rifts and wrongs done in the year gone by.
It has required an unrelenting pandemic to make us realise our interconnectedness! This has been an overarching theme in the discourse of all involved in battling this devastating malady, from world leaders to scientists, to environmentalists, to economists and businesses that depend on the global order to survive. ‘We are all one!’, ‘We are all in it together!’ – have been heard umpteen times over the past ten months since the pandemic is with us. And yet, even as this reality was repeatedly emphasized, there was a narrowing down to various kinds of nationalisms that were surfacing – about vaccines, medicines and other supplies among others.
And just as the Light reveals itself as the Truth of all in due course, so do lower truths of the material world become revealed however we may try to conceal them. We see this over and over again across the world, when shady dealings and transactions especially those involving the high and mighty burst upon the national scene and shake the foundations of a country.
Covid-19 is showing that the world is in a permanent need of healing, of forgiving and being forgiven. Let the lights of Divali, which is celebrated worldwide, carry this message far and wide, so that we can begin to aspire to a better tomorrow – one of hope, of freedom from fear, one where compassion will prevail as an expression of that Oneness that we have been proclaiming – and which, unbeknown to us, is at the very root of who we are, as the rishis have taught. The world would certainly be a happier and more peaceful place if as human beings we lived by this Truth.
Divali abhinanandan to all.
* Published in print edition on 13 November 2020
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