Embracing the Inner Light: On Diwali
“O man! Wake up from the slumber of ignorance.
Realize the constant and eternal light of the Soul, which neither rises nor sets, through meditation and deep inquiry.
May you all attain full inner illumination!
May the supreme light of lights enlighten your understanding!
May you all attain the inexhaustible spiritual wealth of the Self!
May you all prosper gloriously on the material as well as spiritual planes!”
This week marks the five-day holiday Diwali – the Festival of Lights – with today being the most significant of the five. Celebrated primarily by Hindus, the focus of the holiday is the victory of the inner light (Atman) over spiritual darkness, good over evil, hope over despair, and knowledge over ignorance. Over the course of the five days, various tales of gods defeating evil (like when Lord Krishna slayed the demon Narakasura or saved the people of Vrindavan from Indra’s rainy wrath) are also remembered and celebrated.
While these five days focus heavily on family and gift-giving, the greatest importance is placed on the spiritual significance of eradicating darkness, dispelling ignorance, and seeking righteousness and enlightenment. Devotees ask not only for financial prosperity, but also for spiritual wealth.
One of the most prominent aspects of Diwali is the use of diyas (oil lamps). Participants light and place these lamps (as well as candles and other decorative lights) all around their homes, so that every room is illuminated. This is partly to invite in Lakshmi, the Goddess of Wealth and Prosperity, in the hopes that she will bless them for the coming year, and also serves to represent turning inward to light the lamps of knowledge and truth within us and the self-inquiry and self-improvement that comes from seeking the good and right path.
Unlike conservative interpretations of Christianity, in Hinduism humanity isn’t seen as inherently cursed or sinful and in need of saving, but instead as innately good and capable of cultivating compassion, loving-kindness, resisting evil, and reaching enlightenment.
It is recognized that humanity can be guilty of things like hatred, jealousy, greed, lust, anger, and so forth, and it is said that the diyas represent the clearing of those traits from the soul (and the home), for as the oil (which represents these negative traits) is used up and disappears it leaves the soul (represented by the wick) clear as the inner self becomes enlightened.
Of course, this is but a representation. Enlightenment is a path which requires practice, patience, and perseverance. It isn’t attained overnight or simply granted to anyone.
I have written before about how at the Oracle Institute we focus on activism and on bettering the world around us (see my blog “No Monks on Mountaintops: The Message of Dharma Day”), but we also believe in working towards personal soul growth and seeking enlightenment. Rather than choosing between spiritual growth and sacred activism, we believe that neither should be neglected and both should be made priorities in one’s life. Our Spirituality School, Temple, and Press serve to aid in the pursuit of both these aims.
So, let us focus this week on extinguishing any darkness within us and embracing our inner light. You can symbolize this by lighting a candle and meditating on your innate brilliance, goodness, and wholeness and/or by reciting the following Vedic chant/prayer (which is very similar to a mantra we use here at Oracle):
"Lead us from untruth to truth
From darkness to light
From death to immortality
Om Peace Peace Peace"
And so mote it be.