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Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

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Diwali: Celebrating the Light of Wisdom

Posted: 11/04/10 10:22 PM ET

At this time of the year people around the world are getting ready to celebrate Diwali, the festival of lights. One of the biggest festivals of the East, Diwali symbolizes the victory of good over evil, light over darkness and knowledge over ignorance.

For an oil lamp to burn, the wick has to be partially immersed in the oil. If the wick is completely drowned in oil, it cannot bring light. Life is like the wick of the lamp, you have to be in the world and yet remain untouched by it. If you are drowned in the materialism of the world, you cannot bring joy and knowledge in your life. By being in the world, yet not drowning in the worldly aspect of it, we can be the light of joy and knowledge.

Diwali is the commemoration of the light of wisdom in our lives. Lamps are lit on this day not just to decorate homes, but also to communicate this profound truth of life. Light the lamp of wisdom and love in every heart and bring a radiant smile on every face.

Diwali is also called Deepavali, which literally means rows of lights. Life has many facets and stages to it and it is important that you throw light on each of them, for life to be fully expressed. The rows of lights remind you that every aspect of life needs your attention and the light of knowledge.

Every human being has some good qualities. And every lamp that you light is symbolic of this. Some people have forbearance, some have love, strength, generosity, while others have the ability to unite people. The latent values in you are like a lamp. Don't be satisfied with lighting just one lamp; light a thousand! You need to light many lights to dispel the darkness of ignorance. By lighting the lamp of wisdom in yourself and acquiring knowledge, you awaken all facets of your being. When they are lit and awakened, it is Diwali.

Another profound symbolism is in the firecrackers that are burnt on this day. In life, you often become like a firecracker, waiting to explode with your pent-up emotions, frustration and anger. When you keep suppressing your emotions, cravings and aversions, they are bound to reach a bursting point. Bursting crackers is a psychological exercise created by the ancient people to release bottled-up emotions. When you see an explosion outside, you feel similar sensations within you as well. Along with the explosion, there is so much light. When you let go of these emotions, serenity dawns.

There is also symbolism in the exchange of gifts and the distribution of sweets during Diwali. Sweets and gift exchanges symbolize the dispelling of the bitterness of the past, and renewal of friendship for the times to come.

Any celebration is incomplete without the spirit of service. Whatever we have received from the Divine, we should share it with others because it is in giving that we receive -- that is true celebration. Happiness and wisdom have to spread and it can happen when people come together in knowledge.

Diwali means to be in the present, so drop the regrets of the past and the worries of the future and live in the moment. It is a time to forget the bickering and negativities that have happened through the year. It is a time when you throw light on the wisdom you have gained and welcome a new beginning. When true wisdom dawns, it gives rise to celebration.

Celebration is the nature of the spirit. The ancient sages brought sacredness in every celebration, so that you don't lose the focus in the hustle-bustle of the activity. Observing rituals and religious practices (called Puja) is simply showing one's gratitude to the Divine. This brings depth to the celebration. The tradition is to put all the wealth you have earned in front of you and feel the abundance. When you feel lack, the lack grows but when you put your attention on abundance, then the abundance grows. In the Arthashastra, Chanakya says, "Dharmasya Moolam Arthah," which means, "prosperity is the root of righteousness."

For the one who does not have spiritual knowledge, Diwali comes only once a year, but for the wise, Diwali is every moment and every day. Wisdom is needed everywhere. Even if one member of the family is shrouded in darkness, we cannot be happy. We need to ignite the light of wisdom in every member of your family, extend it to every member of society and every person on the planet. When true wisdom dawns, it gives rise to celebration.

The Yajurveda says, "Tanme Manaha Shivasankalpam astu" -- let noble intentions flow from this mind of ours. This Diwali, celebrate with knowledge and take an intention to serve humanity. Light the lamp of love in your heart; the lamp of abundance in your home; the lamp of compassion to serve others; the lamp of Knowledge to dispel the darkness of ignorance; and the lamp of gratitude for the abundance that the Divine has bestowed on us.

 
 
 

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