The Light of Divali Is Life Itself
— Dr R Neerunjun Gopee
Dawn on Divali day, Wednesday 26 October, laid before our eyes a most beautiful earth show at Trou-0-Cerfs: in the distance the mountains were ringed with three band-like masses of white mist that seemed suspended one above the other, held by a nothingness; in the crater floated a similar translucent haze that rose to a little below its rim.
The air was absolutely still and we did the only thing that was natural under the circumstances: gaze in wonder as we continued our walk, and before our very eyes the mist began to dissipate after a while. No wind blew that morning and for the rest of the day, even in the evening there was but a whiff. That had been a collective wish, for often after similar beginnings in the past we have had rain and gusts of wind when the day would be drawing to a close, making the lighting of the earthenware diyas somewhat difficult.
The sight had been particularly appealing to me because a few days earlier I had been reading and re-reading Kalidasa’s Salutation to The Dawn:
Look to this day!
For it is life, the very life of life.
In its brief course
Lie all the verities and realities of your existence:
The bliss of growth,
The glory of action,
The splendor of achievement,
For yesterday is but a dream
And tomorrow is just a vision,
And today well lived makes every yesterday a dream of happiness
And every tomorrow a vision of hope.
Look well, therefore to this day!
Such is the salutation to the dawn.
We achieve by performing actions in such a way that their results lead to our inner growth. Hence growth as bliss, action as glory and achievement as splendour. Otherwise, like things inanimate or like animals, our growth would be limited to increase in size by accretion without, as in the case of the latter, any increase in emotional maturity. Sure, there are some animals that display signs of intelligence or empathy, but as was pointed out very seriously in an article in Scientific American a couple of years ago, so far no one has found a baboon that makes soufflé let alone write a recipe for it.
That is why we must well-live today, so that tomorrow we remember yesterday with happiness – but no nostalgia since every other day can be as happy: it all depends on us human beings, both individually and jointly – because there are many human beings who fail to and will not make the effort to understand the noble purpose of life and living, and would do everything to sour not only themselves but their surroundings and others. By doing actions in devious and inappropriate ways that result in outcomes that do not contribute to their inner growth. And therefore they become like animals for whom the only meaning of light is the pursuit of physical survival.
But we are people, and we have an inner light, which must be manifested as Elisabeth Kübler-Ross expressed so nicely: ‘People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in their true beauty is revealed only if there is light from within.’
We must discover for ourselves that there is a light within, not merely accept the statement. This can only take place when we rid the mind of its agitations caused by our pet likes and dislikes through a process of understanding of who we truly are, and when that knowledge dawns upon one, there is instantaneous bliss infinite.
The light of Divali, therefore, means much more than the flicker of the flame from the diyas or the twinkling of the electric bulbs. This has been explained by others who know better (I retain the ‘ Deepavali’ in the original text): ‘Deepavali teaches a sacred inner meaning to humanity. No other element in this world is as significant as light. It is light that shows us the way by dispelling darkness. It is because of light that man is able to attend to his daily duties.
‘The flame of a lamp has two significant qualities. One is to banish darkness; the other is a continuous upward movement. Even if a lamp is kept in a pit, the flame is directed upwards. The ancients have taught that the upward movement of the flame denotes the path to wisdom and the path to divinity. However, the external light can dispel only the external darkness, but not the darkness of ignorance in man.
‘There is a significance in lighting lamps. The flame of one lamp can light the whole array of lamps. That one lamp symbolizes the Paramjyoti (supreme effulgence). The others symbolize the Jeevan Jyotis (light in individual selves). Deepavali teaches this truth to the world.’
From another perspective, that of science, 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 (the nuclear bomb). By no means are we walking or ticking nuclear bombs! – but from a fundamental point of view we are creatures of light. Perhaps that is why all Near-Death Experiences include visioning tunnels of light towards which one is drawn.
Our ancestors who celebrated Divali did so in full knowledge of its significance for us, that we may guided by the light that shows the path which we must tread, and no other. Kalidasa be blessed for this wonderful praarthna to the Dawn, and which has come down to us. And then we realize, too, that the most precious things in life cannot be bought by man or made by hands: to see, to touch, to taste, to hear, to feel, to laugh, to love – the seven wonders of the world. Think them over, because all the other wonders will some day disappear either by the forces of nature or the destructive hands of man.
What a wonderful Divali it has been! Thanks to everybody for the equally wonderful messages that I kept receiving. Until next Divali, chalo chale hum…