Let lights shine for the country on the occasion of Diwali. Purer souls know that their duty is to help others keep the light within alive on a daily basis
May we emphasize a few points before the celebration of Diwali festival in two weeks’ time. There is no intention to level negative criticism just for the sake of it or offend anyone by underlining a few elements which are worth mentioning. A relevant message needs to make its way into the minds of both organizers of festivities and the public.
Meetings with Hindus of younger generation to discuss matters concerning religion and festivals show a growing concern for rethinking the perception of festivals and the need to focus on meanings rather than appearances and forms in the plaisir island the country has become. First and foremost, religious festivals should be celebrated for what they genuinely stand for and organizers should not mix up politics and religion. Whether the successful organization goes to the credit of some people who are close to such and such political parties, and therefore, enhances the image of MPs or ministers in the villages or towns is totally superficial and irrelevant.
Lengthy media coverage of religious festivals in general has just worsened the phenomenon of unhealthy mix of politics and religion over decades. Organizers are keen on rubbing shoulders with MPs and ministers and being seen on the screen of the MBC, and maybe, obtain favours later while politicians hope to reap some image-building benefits by mingling with the crowd of revellers and devotees and delivering stupid discourses on daemons and multiple Rawans in the Opposition, and subsequently, showcasing themselves as heroes. And why not incarnation of Lord Ram while they are at it? Futile and cheap. It appears that even young adults flash their political affiliation in group discussions on culture and religion.
The proper teachers
Let everyone mind their own business. The politicians’ job is to run the affairs of the country and create appropriate conditions for economic and social development. Leave Hinduism to swamis, Hindu philosophers and gurus. In fact, there is an urgent need for more swamis in the villages and towns. Just imagine the immense benefit and overall spiritual elevation of Hindus across the country if they have the opportunity to listen regularly to swamis of the intellectual calibre and spiritual aura of Shri Avdhoot Baba Shivanand. Or philosophers and mystics like Sadhguru in their midst. We mean the direct physical presence in their midst. ‘Culture’ programme in Hindi on the MBC can invite philosophers and thinkers.
Roshan Hassamal is doing a splendid job on the MBC generally, and his interview of an ISKON swami from the Netherlands was a most welcome initiative. Some time back at ISKON in Triolet, the organizer of chanting sessions, a devotee of higher status, apparently, kept asking people to go on chanting Hare Rama Hare Krishna and even rebuked them for slowing the rhythm. The main event was the arrival of American acharyas of ISKON, who played music and in all humility focused on one philosophical teachings of the Bhagavad Gita and invited the audience to ask questions. The intervention seemed to awaken the audience.
In between, pundits who conduct ceremonies need to boost self-confidence to avoid boasting about their own worth in a competitive spirit with other ‘sabha’ or ‘samaj’ leaders. As things stand, the country is plagued with male inflated egos. However, there is remarkable improvement in the way pundits explain the rites and prayers during ceremonies.
What is now needed is that children understand the mantras in Sanskrit from early childhood so as to avoid translation into Creole and other languages.
Shifting the focus
Since presidents of different associations are in close contact with the public, it would be wiser for them to focus on substance than form, on the meaning of light within each human being, and the importance of dealing with evil forces. New dresses, colours, lights and music are part of Hindu festivals, we all agree. But what is the relevance of staging fashion shows? Many young ladies happen to behave and walk around self-consciously, and tend to be superficial in their outlook, language and appearance. No need to encourage fashion shows and promote self-conscious arrogant posturing. Diwali is neither a competition to strut around in lengas and show off. The point is that society in general tends to give more importance to appearances, material acquisition, stupid competition in ownership of things, etc.
Let religious festivals be an opportunity to seize the essence of true joy, happiness and raise consciousness on the identity of the Self and the purpose of our existence on earth. This is not what we see around. Conversations with Mauritians of all hues display a pathetic inclination for self-praise, competition in acquisition of wealth, boasting about relatives’ and children’s job promotion and performance. In fact, there is no conversation. They just want a public to listen to their drivelling. Quite sickening and boring.
So religious festivals cannot just boil down to mechanical performance of a few mantras and superficial merry-making. They should be opportunities to raise consciousness on substance, meaning and spiritual upliftment. As regards Diwali, the meaning of Light should not be limited to repetitive statements drawled out in monotonous Creole on television on the victory of Good over Evil.
Ecological awareness and sound practices
There should also be awareness on environment-friendly celebration. Cutting down on firecrackers is one solution. Not only do they create unnecessary noise, pollute the air and scare away pet animals, they are a drain of your money to other countries, some of which are highly polluted and not really friendly towards Hindus and Indian culture. As it happened in India last year, Hindus should develop higher political, economic and cultural consciousness, and not spend money blindly on occasions related to religion and in everyday spending. Where does your money go? – is a relevant question in a context of conflicting adverse forces at work in society generally. Unless you are living in La La Land, naively believing in a world peopled with innocent souls, which is far from reflecting reality. Ramayana is a perfect example of constant fight against evil, hostile and destructive forces.
There is awareness that electricity breakdown and water cuts during festivals are not accidental. In 2016, in one area in Pointe aux Canonniers, there were several power cuts during the week of Diwali and total black-out on Diwali day. There was no rational explanation for it. Then, electricity supply came back after Diwali. Too high voltage of supply broke down a few fridges, which entailed purchase of new fridges. They were criminal acts of sabotage by malevolent elements. Such things used to happen in the past, everyone knows. Water cuts for no reason take place in some places on Sundays. Hotlines are ineffective to offer credible explanations. Associations should take such criminal acts seriously, and also warn pilgrims of potential criminal acts during Shivaratree festival. By the same token, pilgrims had better be advised to make shoulder-wide light kanwars which they can easily carry, and avoid a carnivalesque display of huge kanwars.
Now the key argument raised in discussions is the role played by the leading teams of various associations, Federations and other Sabhas. These associations are widely perceived as the private property of the leading teams of presidents, secretaries, treasurers just as elected politicians behave as if the country belonged to them. Needless to add that high positions held in religious associations are perceived to be a gateway to obtaining favours for themselves and relatives. Worse still, political affiliation impacts on the role given to new members. All these gimmicks have nothing to do with the essence of religion.
New blood instils energy, spurs motivation and boosts the energy of huge organizations. So room should be made to newcomers and enthusiastic younger members. Leading teams of the above-mentioned associations know fully well that inflated egos are an obstacle to spiritual development, and male members have a long way to go to shed their delusional self-importance. Associations cannot be kept locked up. Change is a major factor in the universe. The Nataraj dancing the cosmic dance is a perfect illustration of creation, preservation and destruction. Society at large is faced with devastating scourges of drugs, violence and anti-social behaviour.
There are other ways to develop a meaningful existence and impart a sense of purpose in life. Forward-looking members of the community who are enthusiastic about the future and like-minded citizens should come together and ultimately create new associations and run them differently to reach out to one and all with a view to focus on spiritual development. Promotion of Sanskrit is a key factor to get imbibed with the knowledge of sacred scriptures. Spiritual enslavement occurs when one fails to promote righteousness ingrained in Dharmic culture. So younger members need encouragement to give shape to their vision.
Let lights shine for the country on the occasion of Diwali. Purer souls know that their duty is to help others keep the light within alive on a daily basis.
* Published in print edition on 26 October 2018