In the South African context, Diwali has come and gone like the morning dew. The play-out of traditions and rituals brought much jubilation and inspiration to many homes. The festivities had unleashed much love and compassion in the community with sharing and charitable drives ensuring that the Diwali cheer is spread magnanimously within all corners of society. If one was to step aside from all the revelry for a moment and take a bird’s-eye-view, we will see that we are finding great difficulty in internalising the central messages and themes of these external expressions of divinity. Swami Vimokshananda pointed out so succinctly and eruditely in His blog that amidst all the good that is going on, side by side there is also an increase in unrighteousness. Therefore these festivals help us to bring some sanity to the mind and guide us to develop a just community.
If I were to venture into the arena of real estate development especially during these highly competitive times, it would prudent to outlay an invincible strategy and concept. Consider an estate where the trees were bearing flowers and fruits regularly without injury from pests and insects... the clouds were raining in time and the winds were delightful to the touch… the community will consist of various classes of society all performing their own duties in peace and bereft of greed and all endowed with excellent character… a place free from illness and misery and grief, no widows to lament or danger from wild animals. There will be huge lakes teeming with fish and fauna housing exotic singing birds and the estate completely devoid of thieves and robberies… no one feeling worthless and where everyone felt safe. Can you believe that such an estate can exist in this world, an ideal society without crime and war, full of auspiciousness, peace, justice and equality to all? I am certain beyond any doubt that my estate will be sold out within minutes of being launched. But as you reign in your horses of imagination, don’t dismiss the above as a fairy tale. The description above was taken from the Ramayana describing the period of Lord Rama’s rule of Ayodhya.
I never for once believed that Deepavali was about an event but was about an ideal that would help shape and guide humanity. Hindu Dharma is about creating conducive environments and mind-sets to derive joy and peace in all that we do. In the midst of searching for this message, my thoughts reflected upon a service delivery protest that swept through the town of Tongaat last week. It was about 5am when the tranquillity of dawn was disrupted by loud chanting and singing by hundreds of protestors that took the streets to demand better living conditions and safe electricity. This mass action was sparked by the death of 3 young dwellers from an informal settlement. They were electrocuted when one of them stepped upon the naked wires used to bring illegal electricity to the settlement. The other two were subsequently electrocuted when they went to save their friend. The aftermath of the deluge was an eyesore with the destruction and mayhem to private and municipal property leaving much of the town stranded without power and access due to blocked roads.
A strike in contrast to the burning tree trunks and tyres at various junctions was the beautifully organised and decorated altar of the Chatsworth sub-centre of the Ramakrishna Centre of South Africa where rows of neatly arranged lamps had a halcyon effect on the troubled mind. By the grace of Sri Ramakrishna… on the eve of Diwali I was invited to address the congregation and recipients of grocery hampers about the significance of Diwali. My heart welled with joy to see the unselfish and silent manner with which the devotees of the Centre served those who were in need of assistance. Deepavali is derived from two words: deepa and avali. Deepa means light and avali means row. This artful arrangement of lights signifies an equal, just and prosperous society to me. I draw this conclusion from the penetrating insight of Swami Vivekananda when He said that “there is no liberation for the self until every soul is liberated”. Many people work tirelessly and make many sacrifices to live comfortably and enjoy many of the luxuries that life has to offer. The problem is that the structure of a society does not allow one to sit back and enjoy his rewards alone. The case presented above clearly indicated how an entire town suffered the consequences of a group who felt marginalised and neglected.
Therefore it stands to reason that the wise counsel of our dharma to engage in activities of seva or karma yoga, inevitably benefits those who undertake this great work. The brilliance of a row of lamps is the collective illumination of all lamps burning with radiance and vigour. Therefore when one invests his time and resources in uplifting another person in the society, he is investing in creating a model and noble society. Rama Rajya is possible when we can reflect and internalise this message of sharing and caring. Using our lamp to ignite the lamp of others will eventually lead to an array of lamps. This will develop a prosperous and just society that is underpinned on great values and free from the darkness of ignorance.
Diwali should not be an annual event in our lives but must become that instrument to guide us to social cohesion and nation building to ensure that our liberation is not post mortem but can be experienced and enjoyed right here in the now. Today many of our Murugan devotees have also begun their Skanda Shasti observance. May this also be internalised to help your spiritual evolution.
From Darkness to light
From death to immortality
With love always