The story of Lord Ram returning to Ayodhya after vanquishing the mighty Ravan, the premise for Diwali, has been told, enacted and used as a metaphor for the eternal battle between good and evil to generations of children in our country. The tales in the Ramayana go way beyond just a means to instill ethical, cultural and social values and love for God. They are a window to the workings of the psyche, a metaphorical description of the mechanics of consciousness and a window to the underlying play of cosmic forces that are present at every level of creation.
In the Chandogya Upanishad, Prapaathaka (appendix) 8, Khanda 1, third verse, it is stated that the Universe lies in the ether of the Heart, that it is the dominion of Brahm (Being, the source of all existence in Vedic terminology). As within, so is without. How do we comprehend a verse of such profundity, what does it have to do with the festival of lights and how does it relate to fulfillment in daily life?
As we have read during physics lectures when we were in school, when we start breaking down anything from an ant to a galaxy into smaller and smaller parts, we reach a sub-physical, molecular, atomic and then sub-atomic level, then going further to the nucleus, electrons, protons and neutrons and further still on to sub-atomic particles. We realize that 99% of an atom itself is empty space.
If we study the very fundamental nature of even these sub atomic particles we come to the conclusion that they are merely vibratory patterns in space and time, but that this is still not the last limit. Our ancient sages had cognized this knowledge through practices that aimed to directly access the most fundamental element of all creation, the fount from which spring forth all phenomena. This is what they called Brahm – the Ultimate Principle – eternal, infinite, absolute and immutable.
His Holiness Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, proponent of the Transcendental Meditation technique, would hold meetings with distinguished physicists, including Nobel laureates to discuss the scientific basis of this Vedic conception. In his successful endeavour to revive Vedic Knowledge in all its lost glory, he told to the world something that has conceptually bridged the seemingly disparate worlds of science and philosophy – that Brahm, Being is pure consciousness and so is the soul. Being is self aware. Being is silent bliss experiencing itself- Sat-Chit-Ananda or eternal bliss consciousness. And when it vibrates, it gives rise to Prana, from a propensity driven by latent Karma. The Prana, the evolutionary impulse of life, then drives the creation of the material universe.
Thus Being, what is revered in religion as Divine, God, Creator and many such names, is at the core of everything. When the Upanishads mention the heart, they do not allude to the physical blood pumping organ of the body; they mean the core of our consciousness. Being is fundamental to our life, to the mind, the intellect.
Being is always present in the background, a silent spectator. Engaged in the hum-drum of life, enjoying the senses vicariously, we put stress on the nervous system, which Maharishi called ‘the greatest gift of the Creator’. It is the antenna through which we perceive this all pervading consciousness. We lose the delicate feeling capabilities of the nervous system over time, cutting ourselves off from the source. Anxiety, disease, lack of drive and absence of happiness is the consequence, in our daily lives.
Our Vedic festivals are not merely an excuse to celebrate the turning of seasons, of venerating our Ishta-Devatas (gods/goddesses worth personally worshipping) or of family –reunions. They celebrate the synchronicity of cosmic events, processes that link the universe with the individual. They are a reminder that we are part of a self-sustained, blissful whole, just fooled into a notion of separateness through the appearance of myriad forms.
Diwali serves to celebrate the triumphant return of righteousness after vanquishing wrongdoing- righteousness being the cosmic forces that are in tune with the Natural Law which drives the universe and wrongdoing being those that maintain its course, but which temporarily become unbalanced. The festival of lights is a symbol for the return to cosmic order through communion with the Divine – Lord Ram.
So let us take a Diwali resolution for this year – of returning to righteousness and virtue through enlivening the divinity within. Light the lamp of Absolute Knowledge, pure awareness, and dispel the darkness inside.
A very happy Diwali to all of you!