News Americas, BRONX, NY, Tues. Nov. 10, 2015: Harking back to Diwali during childhood days in Guyana, one recalls a celebration that was about fostering community, camaraderie and caring relationships.
These interactions were intertwined into the celebration of the messages and the lessons, of which the overriding one was the triumph of good over evil, as symbolized by Rama’s destruction of Ravan.
For us, reflecting beyond this was never entertained, as the beauty of life was its simplicity and genuineness. Many moons later, here in New York City, I have come to the place where I now know that the story of Rama is mythology with a message and that good does not always triumph over evil even when God’s name is invoked by the most devout.
After all such triumph has to be located within karmic confines, but that is an issue for another time. Please note also that every religion comprises three components – rituals, mythology and philosophy, also referred to as metaphysics. So yes mythology does have a place but it must be recognized for what it is and not become the central tenet of the religion.
In effect, the defining message of Deepavali cannot be the triumph of good over evil, especially given that the story itself is fictional, and not historical. But yes, aiming for good is always the better alternative because it leaves you guiltless, it enhances your aura and it does wonders for your karma.
And when good does triumph, the snowball effect positively impacts others. In the same manner, seeking light is always a sublime aspiration, whether it is knowledge dispelling ignorance; morality (ethical values such as integrity, truthfulness, honesty) positively impacting one’s behavior; or humanness (compassion, generosity, kindness, mercy, helpfulness) suffusing one’s ethos.
However, Deepavali is about imbibing and spreading light; in fact the symbol of light holds deep significance for Hindus in particular but humanity in general, and its role in overcoming darkness is manifold – education over ignorance, good over evil, caring compassion over heartlessness, forgiveness over the desire for revenge, understanding and empathy over judgementalism, the embrace of atomic oneness over the sewing of discord and divisions, a helping hand over a crablike mentality, suffusing joy over negativism and pessimism.
This defining message of Diwali has been emphasized by many. For example, the Sage of Kanchi, Chandrasekharendra Saraswathi stated: “The significance of Deepavali is the removal of darkness and ignorance from the mind and filling it with goodness.”
And Satguru Bodhinatha Veylanswam explained, “The inner significance of Diwali is that it is a joyful celebration of our spiritual qualities dominating our basic instincts, intellect and ego. Light is a universal symbol of spirituality. Thus bringing more light into our homes and therefore our lives symbolizes each of us becoming a more spiritual person.”
So how does one let light in? How does one emerge into the light? Actually, merely celebrating Diwali does not get one there; the acquisition and display of light is a continual and ongoing process. It begins with small acts such as helping an elderly or physically challenged person across the road or street; giving up one’s seat in public transportation to an elderly person or a pregnant woman; offering encouragement and/or bringing a smile to someone who’s feeling down or listening with empathy to others as they unburden. With time and the shaping of characters, the searcher progresses to the point where sharing is caring imbues the spirit and giving of oneself toward the empowerment of others and the upliftment of society. In effect, walking the talk of seeking light must become second nature.
Thus my wish to my Hindu brothers and sisters everywhere, is that as the 1920 Harry Dixon Loes children’s gospel song says: ‘This little light of mine, I’m gonna make it shine.’ Indeed may this Diwali be one of ever encircling light in an ever-expanding world of brotherhood and humanity.
And may the flames of your light become embers illuminating the path towards a life of seva with its attendant soulful satisfaction, serenity and harmony.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Annan Boodram is founder of The Caribbean Voice and is ardently putting the spotlight on suicide in Guyana. For more join the conversationatwww.facebook.com/groups/suicideepidemic/ or CHECK out the group’s YouTube page.