||Sri Ramakrishna Sharanam||
Aum Namo Narayanaya
The possibility of a conspiracy orchestrated by weather gods against our community could not be ruled out as thousands probably gazed out into the sky bearing witness to the seething river of storm clouds that devoured the placid heavens busy laying the sun to rest. The poignant countenance on many a face in the stadium where the Tongaat Diwali celebration was about to be marred by heavy rain for a third year in succession soon turned horrid as the skies presented a symphony of rain, thunder and lightning as if deliberately trying to upstage our fireworks display. Undeterred though, taking the name of Krishna during the Hawan - the show continued with hundreds culminating under the arena marquees, like taking refuge under the Govardhan Mountain held by Krishna during a storm.
The scenario came across to me as a question posed by the heavens on behalf of the Great Lord: “Oh foolish man what are you celebrating? Being ruled and controlled by the dark forces, how can you celebrate this festival of light?"
When will I worship Lord Sadasiva (eternally auspicious) with equal vision towards the people and an emperor; and a blade of grass
and lotus-like eye, towards both friends and enemies; towards the valuable gem and some lump of dirt; towards a snake and a garland?
Before you challenge your brain to ascertain from which great sage the above prayer emanated, let me dispel your curiosity to tell you the above verse comes from the Shiva Tandava Stotram - from the mouth of King Ravana. He whose life's breath was released from the body by the Supreme Lord on account of His wicked ways is the author of this Stotram which is said to be a very powerful prayer to invoke the grace of Lord Shiva.
A mysterious character helplessly drowning in the sea of paradox, yet finds resonance in so many peoples' lives. Having knowledge of so many value systems and techniques to live a good life, so many spend their lives ravaging for moments of peace and happiness. Sri Ramakrishna explains this in a wonderful way when He says in the Gospel: “The almanac may forecast twenty measures of rain; but you don't get a drop by squeezing its pages." Simply expressing the idea that book knowledge alone is of no use in life if we are unable to utilise it practically.
The dilemma of Ravana explains itself with the approaching Skanda Shasti festival which begins on Diwali day itself. Even though man out of his own ignorance may try to divide himself along various lines through his practices and beliefs - the Lord through His leelas demonstrates the onenesss of the world like how many rivers converge into a single ocean.
Although poles apart in respect of origin, both Skanda Shasti and Diwali converge along the same lessons of righteousness over evil and light over darkness and further extend into similarities with respect to the celebrations namely: new clothes, fireworks, lamps and festive food.
The slaying of the demon Soorapadman by Lord Muruga is the central component or root of the festival of Skanda Shasti. It is believed that the demon who had captured the son of Indra started to wreck havoc in the heavans. It was then that they enlisted the assistance of Senapathi (Lord Muruga) - commander of the heavenly armies to destroy this enemy.
It is recorded that the battle ensued for 6 days. Finally the demon assumed the form of a tree, and detecting this form of mastery in illusion, Lord Muruga launched his 'vel' which then split the demon into two resulting in the demon becoming a peacock and rooster. Lord Muruga then assigned the peacock as his 'vahanam' (vehicle) and the rooster as the symbol of His flag that is raised at all his functions and temples.
Within each and everyone one of us there are deep seated tendencies or 'vasanas' which have the ability to influence you in your life. Irrespective of the amount of scripture you have read or the amount of prayers you conduct - if you do not have the strength to diffuse these tendencies, you can easily be over-powered. Hence Swami Vivekananda repeatedly for the purposes of highlighting its importance thundered: "Strength is life, weakness is death".
If we break the name of the demon Soorapadman up: 'soora' in Tamil refers to being covered. The divine qualities and strength as emphasised by Swamiji is covered by base qualities like ego, greed, etc. The 'vel' as utilised by Lord Muruga represents the sharp-pointed intellect which functions through discrimination. By practising the faculty of discrimination at every juncture we will be sounding the death knell on the base influences.
With the splitting of the demon, two animals emerged. The peacock represents ego and pride and the rooster represents the alert mind. By taking the peacock as His vehicle, the Lord asks us to bring our ego and pride under control, and by placing the rooster on His flag flying high, He asks us to be alert and raise our intellect to the highest levels by exercising discrimination. Thus we shall be victorious in our pursuits in life.
It is no wonder that the heavans are angry with us... every scripture from Bhagavat Gita to Gospel has been relaying the same message from time immemorial, yet we pay not a heed to them. We continue to perpetuate misery and blame God.
Like the wick in the lamp represents the mind, and the oil representative of the world bewitching maya; do not remain complacent soaking in the world of bondage. Pray sincerely to God (whoever He may be to you) for His grace to light your life, so that His divine blessings will destroy all the fetters that bond you to the world. Let us pray that we must experience the divine rather than just reading about the divine.
I wish all a prosperous and joyous Diwali and all observing Skanda Shasti a rewarding and peaceful observance.
May we all have the opportunity to translate our wonderful teachings into practice is my sincere prayer!
With love and prayers always