All Hindu festivals have only one theme and that is to lift the human being
from his present state of ignorance into the state of enlightenment which is his birthright. Most people including Hindus don’t realise this truth because very often this truth is buried under a heap of rituals and superstitions which have gathered and smothered it over the period of thousands of years.
Deepavali actually means a row of lights and thus Diwali as its commonly known, is one of those festivals which openly blares out this truth since light is always a synonym for enlightenment. However due to the love of the Hindus for fabricating stories, this truth has again been hidden in a wealth of Puranic
stories which in themselves are no doubt most interesting but which tend to
deteriorate from the main purpose of the festival which is to point out to the
human being that his sole purpose in having taken on a human body is to make sure that he returns to the source from which he has come. Like the source of a river which is very often hidden in bushes and brambles, making it almost impossible for the seeker to find it, so also the source of our Being is hidden by the wealth of wonderful things that covers it. Moreover our senses are outer- oriented so we find it well nigh impossible to direct our attention inwards and discover the interesting fact that the source of our being lies within ourselves.
The brambles and bushes we have to remove is the amount of nonsense which
we have accumulated, the various ideas and theories about our origin and
about our creator as well as all the information which is constantly buffeting us from the outside world. Once this is removed the effulgence of that creator
will burst out in all glory from inside us. This is the basic message of this festival of lights called Diwali.
The creator is known as the Brahman in Hinduism and That is the light of all
lights, beyond the darkness of ignorance. It is His light that illumines the entire universe and enables us to behold the glory of His own creation. He is nothing but our own inner self. The Bhagavad Gita says:
“The sun does not shine there, nor the moon, nor stars or fire.”
What does this mean? Just as the light of a small candle pales into
insignificance before the light of the sun, so also all the lights of this universe
cannot be compared to even to a spark of the effulgence of the creator. That
effulgence is ever burning within us. All we have to do is to remove the
darkness of many births passed in ignorance and allow that light to shine in all its glory. He is ever enshrined in our hearts but the brambles and bushes of our abysmal ignorance cover Him. If that light was not within us, no amount of external lights would allow us to see this world of multiple phenomena which is actually a shroud which covers the face of the creator. Diwali is the festival of lights in which we are told to remove this ignorance by lighting the lamp of wisdom within us. This festival is celebrated on the night of the new moon. The new moon signifies the darkness of ignorance in which all of us are enshrouded.
Many stories are taken from our Puranas in order to bring home this truth
graphically into our minds. The day before the new moon is the fourteenth day of the moon known as chaturdasi. This is known as Naraka Chaturdasi. It was on this day that Lord Krishna killed the demon called Naraka and released the sixteen thousand one hundred princesses that had been incarcerated by him and returned with them to his own city of Dwaraka. There he was welcomed by the citizens with rows and rows of lights and hence we also welcome the return of the Lord with rows and rows of lights. The whole story has an esoteric significance which has been described above.
Krishna is the portrait of the enlightened human who kills the demon called Naraka. The word naraka means hell and Krishna kills the hell of misery we have created for ourselves within our minds due to our lack of understanding of our true nature. He frees the spirits of positivity which have been shut up within the prison of our ignorant mind and marries them (allows them to unite with him). The enlightened being will destroy the hell of ignorance in his mind which in turn throws open the door to many positive qualities which have been jailed inside. These qualities are accepted by the enlightened being who returns to his own home within himself, which has now been lit up with all positive qualities. We light thousands of lamps trying to remove the darkness of the night outside but our hearts are still choked with the darkness of intolerance, fear and hatred. In fact this darkness has covered the whole world defying all attempts by right minded people to remove the veil and allow the clear light of reason to shine through.
The same theme is repeated in the Ramayana. Rama kills the demon Ravana
and returns to his own city of Ayodhya on the night of the new moon. The
citizens await his return and welcome him with thousands of little lights. Here
Ravana is the epitome of the unbridled ego which has to be vanquished by the
Rama, the man of enlightenment. Rama rescues his beloved wife Sita who is
the epitome of all positive traits like purity, spirituality and unadulterated love. Again and again the theme of the ignorant mortal who is covered with abysmal nescience is repeated in the hope that one day the light of clear reason will prevail and humanity will realise that the solution to all his problems can be found in his own heart. The divine Self is ever residing in our hearts and ever ready to give us all help if we turn to Him. Since He has given us a certain amount of intelligence, He allows us to make our own choices until the day dawns then we realise that we are truly incapable of making the right choices and then we turn to Him out of our own free will. At that time He will come running to our aid like Krishna did to help the princesses who had been jailed for many years. He offered to send them back to their own kingdoms but they said that even their parents would not accept them and certainly no suitor would want to marry a woman who had been living with a demon like Naraka. They begged him to marry them and this is what he did.
May this Diwali allow each one of us to cast off the shackles of ignorance with
which we have been tied for lifetimes, free us from the choking chains of the
demonic ego of Naraka and allow us to attain union with Krishna, the
Purushottama, the Supreme Person, who alone can engulf us in the glorious
light of eternal freedom which is ever existing in our hearts.
Hari Aum Tat Sat