In celebration of this joyous Diwali occasion, one can see beautifully lit oil lamps and candles glowing in the darkness of night throughout India and wherever Indians have settled in the world. We line our homes, our rooms, our offices and our streets with brightly shining diyas.
However, on this day we must not only light beautiful lamps in our homes and offices, but we must light the lamp in our hearts.
The Divine Light Within
Within each of us shines the Divine Light. The Divine Presence is not only everywhere outside of us, it is also within us. In the Bhagavad Gita, Bhagawan Krishna reminds us, over and over, that He resides within our very hearts. When we light the lamp within it is not creating light. No, that Divine Light is already there, always there, the very core of who we are. No matter how dark or how long the night, that Divine Light is present. That Divine Light is inextricable from the Truth of our own existence.
However, in the darkness of ignorance, in the darkness of our own egos, in the darkness of our attachment to external things, in the darkness of our petty jealousies, competitions, complaints and comparisons, we block that Light from our awareness. We identify ourselves with that which is dark rather than with that which is Light. We start to think that the illusion is real. We start to believe our own stories, to believe our own illusions which have been constructed only by our own egos. Thus, we lose sight of the Light and we live in darkness.
Today we have a plague of darkness, a plague of ignorance, a plague of illusions. Each of us is living within our own constructed selfish reality which supports our own egos, our own illusions, our own desires, our own attachments. It is this darkness that leads to crime, war and violence on every level from the individual to the international. If I am able to truly see the Divine Light within then it eclipses everything else with its brightness, its truth and its divinity. That light, then, shows me not only my own divine Truth but the divine Truth of all of existence. When that inner lamp is lit, we are able to see the true nature of ourselves and then of others.
In the temple, we light the diya to better behold the Divine. In much of India, electricity is a relatively recent phenomenon and there are still many areas without it. After sundown, the only way to pray in a temple is to light a lamp. With the light of the diya we can behold the image of the Divine. In the same way, when we light the inner diya we can behold the Divine within. So we must be sure to light not only the lamp outside which gives us darshan of the image of God in our temple, but we must make sure that we light the lamp which gives us darshan of the Divine within ourselves.
A New Year – A New You:
At this divine time of Diwali there is a great emphasis on newness. We start a new checkbook. We clean out our homes and offices to make them feel “new”. We celebrate the “new” year. The Divine Light of these sacred diyas of Diwali should burn through the darkness of that which is old, that which is stale, and that which is thwarting our progress, clearing the way for new birth. Like a naturally occurring forest fire turns the old, dry branches and brush into fertile soil for new growth, similarly, the Divine Fire of the Diwali diyas should blaze through us, burning away that which is old and permitting the birth of new thoughts, new visions, new ideas and ideals. When we allow ourselves to be truly renewed in this way day by day, then we become truly forever young.
The Light of Service
Just as the divine light burns within our own being, the divine light burns in every being. One of the most beautiful tenets of Indian culture says that God dwells within all –He dwells within me and He dwells within you. In this way, everyone and everything – whether it be another human being, an animal or Mother Nature – is connected to that same Divine Source. When one is able to see this Divine Light in all, God is seen everywhere, and wherever one sees God, one must try to serve Him. The same light which we light in our lamp in the temple or during Diwali is the same light which shines within all, and thus to light the true lamp of Diwali is to see and serve that light in all.
The message of the light of service can be seen in the lamp itself. The diya always burns for others, with no selfish motivation and no expectation. The sole purpose of an oil lamp’s existence is to bring light to others. They burn FOR others, with every minute, every moment of their lives and every ounce of their existence.
These lamps are meant as symbols as to how we must live our lives. By lighting the lamp within our own hearts, what is the darkness which must be dispelled that keeps us from burning for others? It is the darkness within us, the darkness of ignorance, of selfishness, of duality. It is the illusion which teaches that there is an “us” and a “them”, an “I” and a “you.”
Indian culture says otherwise. Indian culture says we are one. Indian culture says that as our brothers and sisters suffer in darkness, as our animals are abused and their habitats destroyed, as Mother Earth’s air, water and land becomes poisoned and polluted, so we too are suffering, although we may not be aware of it. It is, therefore, our divine duty to help dispel this darkness, to help alleviate this suffering.
The light from the divine diya at Diwali show us that we are not separate. We are one. That same Divine I worship in the temple resides within my very being, and that same Divine that resides within me also resides within you, and within every creature with whom we share this universe. Just as I perform puja and prayers to the image of the Divine in the temple, so I must extend the same reverence and same care to the divine within all beings upon our planet.
At this beautiful time of time of Diwali when we will line our homes, our offices and our streets with rows and rows of brightly burning diyas, let us ask ourselves whether our lives are filled with light. Let us ask ourselves if we are truly burning for others, seeing that same Divine light which exists within ourselves in others and in our Earth, serving God by serving others. We must ask ourselves how we bring light and life to others.
On this holy day of Diwali, I pray that you will take this opportunity to examine your own lives and take a pledge to fill your lives – every word, every thought and every action — with light, thereby bringing light and life to others.
May the light of love and devotion shine brightly in your hearts.
May the light of understanding shine in your minds.
May the light of harmony glow in your home.
May the light of service shine forth ceaselessly from your hands.
May your presence light the lamps of love wherever you go.
May your smile, your words and your actions be as sweet as the sweets of this festive season.
May Maha Laxmi bring you the true wealth of health, happiness, peace and prosperity upon you and all your loved ones.
With love and blessings to you all,
In the service of God and humanity,
Swami Chidanand Saraswati