Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Decoding Sanatan Dharm – Part 1 – Why do we Celebrate Deepawali?

What most people call Hinduism today, is actually ‘Sanatan Dharm’. The details of how, why and what will be shared in another post. Not today, because today is reserved for a topic which is most appropriate today – Deepawali (commonly known as Diwali these days) – and why do we celebrate it.

The first thing that most people are taught and told, even in Bhaarat (India) is that Deepawali was first celebrated by the residents of ‘Ayodhya’ by lighting Deeps and burning crackers to welcome their prince and to-be-King ‘Ram’. However, Deepawali existed long before that day.

Let us begin by understanding the meaning of the word ‘Deepawali’. If you go by the ‘Sandhi’ concept of Sanskrit or Hindi you know that Deepawali is a combination of two words – ‘Deep’ and ‘Awali’. Deep means a traditional ‘lamp’ called ‘Deep’ or ‘Diya’ in Hindi. ‘Awali’ has a meaning close to ‘garland’. There are many Sanskrit words which do not have exact translations in English. So Deepawali means a garland of lights/lamps.

There is more than one aspect to celebrating Cultural or Dharmic (religious) Festivals in Sanatan Dharm (and hence in Bhaarat). Whether it is Holi or Deepawali, there are, at the very least the following 4 aspects-
      1.       Economic
      2.       Scientific
      3.       Psychological
      4.       Spiritual

I will discuss only these 4, because these are the most relevant. And if we can't understand this, we will not be able to understand the other aspects like Quantum Mechanics, Parallel Universes, Origin of life etc. which have close ties to these Dharmic festivals.

Let me explain the four aspects one by one-

Economic Significance of Deepawali – Goes without saying Deepawali has a lot of economic significance. The businessmen/women earn a lot. People buy clothes, jewellery, vehicles, sweets, lamps, rangoli & loads of other stuff.  While new clothes are bought, old ones are donated.

Scientific Significance of Deepawali – About the science behind Deepawali celebrations, I just don’t know where to begin and stop. There is so much to it. I will try to point out the most relevant:
·      Deepawali begins by cleaning of houses and offices. Thus ensuring hygiene and safety.
·      Deeps are lighted which exterminate the insects that arrive during Deepawali.
·      The crackers that people used to burn in the ancient times had various reasons. They weren’t as loud as today and they didn’t pollute the atmosphere. They used a very different material for the crackers.
·      Deepawali is celebrated just before the onset of winter in Bhaarat. The lamps and crackers are meant to warm up the climate.
·    The burning of crackers resulted in the sky being covered with gases, which absorbed more heat from the Sun and hence decreased the effect of winter.
·      Similarly Holi is celebrated just before summer. Would you like to play Holi in winter? 
·      During Deepawali, we burn firecrackers to bring our mind to the present. Have you noticed when your mind is disturbed with too many cravings and aversions, you feel as if your head will burst, isn’t it? That is why we burst crackers, the burst on the outside settles something inside, and you feel light and move alive!
·      In the ancient days, there was no electricity so children used to burn fireworks to have fun and feel happy. Today we are living in the age of electricity, so we can use electric lamps which do not harm the environment rather than burning crackers.

Psychological Significance of Deepawali – Again, Deepawali serves various psychological purposes as described below:
·      It is meant to be a get together for family members, who otherwise don’t get to meet often. This helps people get out of loneliness and boredom. 
·      It is meant for relaxation of your mind body and soul – you get holidays, don’t you?
·      It is meant to develop the feeling of ‘Vasudev Kutumbakam’  [ All world is one family]. You are supposed to forgive your adversaries and even enemies and celebrated the festival of Joy and Prosperity.
·      It is meant to inculcate the habits of hygiene and donation.
·      The cleaning of the house and office is also associated to have a psychological affect about cleaning your own mind and conscience.
·      It is meant for a moment of reflection about where we are, what we have done and where we want to go.

Spiritual Significance of Deepawali – Now that we have understood the first three aspects of Deepawali celebrations, let us venture into the main part of it – the Spiritual Significance. Following points will help you understand it:
·      Let me begin by saying that there is nothing in the ‘Sanatan Dharm’ that does not have a Scientific or a Spiritual side to it.
·      The lighting of the lamp signifies the lighting of self. Yes, the message is about enlightenment!
·      There are 3 main deities that are worshiped on the eve of Deepawali – Ganesh, Saraswati and Lakshmi, each of them represent something spiritual. [ If it was all about Ram, why Ram isn't the central figure in Deepawali worship?]
·      Ganesh represents Intellect and Problem-Solving. He is the one to be worshiped first since you need intellect to solve any problem.
·      Saraswati represents Knowledge and Wisdom. Intellect is not sufficient. You need to learn constantly, you need knowledge. And even Knowledge is not sufficient you need Wisdom.
·      Knowing that ‘Tomato’ is a fruit & not a vegetable is Knowledge. But not putting it in fruit salad is ‘Wisdom’.
·      Lakshmi represents Wealth and prosperity. Contrary to common belief, Lakshmi does not represent Money. Money is Kuber’s department.
·      Wealth and Prosperity is meant in the holistic sense. Complete prosperity of mind, body and soul. It is about prospering not just economically, scientifically or psychologically. It is about prospering spiritually.
·      The lamp represents us. Just like if we are not given oxygen, we will lose our life, if the lamp doesn’t get oxygen, it will lose its life.
·      In Sanatan Dharm, our ‘Atma’ [soul] has always been associated with light. The lighting of the lamp represents enlightening of the ‘Atma’. The meaning here being that people need to shine with joy and prosperity.
·      However, we don’t light just one lamp. We light 10s, 100s and 1000s of lamps. Because we don’t want just ourselves to shine. We want the whole society to shine. Lighting one lamp may not be sufficient to dispel the darkness (ignorance/negativity) in the world.
·      Deepawali represents the fact that once the light of knowledge and wisdom burns form within, then we are able to see and experience the light everywhere in the world around us.
·      Gautam Buddha has also said “Aappah Deepo Bhavah”. His message is that real essence is when you too shine with the radiance of knowledge and wisdom, so that you can illuminate the path of many others in life.
·      In the Yoga Sutras, Rishi Patanjali has said, “Murdha jyotishi siddha darshanam”, (Vibhuti pada #32). It means once you recognize the light (divine) within yourself, you will attain liberation and many siddhis will be awakened. Your soul will be illuminated.

So based on the description above, I have the following requests:
     1.       Donate to the people in Need.
     2.       Celebrate with everyone!
     3.       Take pride in being a Hindu {better phrase – ‘follower of Sanatan Dharm’, a Dharmic}
     4.       Take pride in being a Bhaartiya [an Indian]
     5.       Remember the real reasons you are celebrating Deepawali.
     6.       Don’t burn crackers which pollute the environment or harm the animals.
     7.       Fire-crackers can burn houses and people. So be careful.
     8.       Take care of kids. I remember when I was just 6 years old, I thought, that on Deepawali everything burns and lights up [Baccha Buddhi – childish thoughts] – and so me and my younger brother took the Hockey to a lamp and tried to burn it. My mother gave me a nice beating with the same hockey!! ;)
     9.       Give food to animals – they need your help. We are the most intelligent of all beings. We have a moral and spiritual obligation to protect and help them.
     10.   Our earth has been around for billions of years. If we map that into 24 hours, the dinosaurs arrived about 4 hours ago and humans arrived about one hour ago. The industrial revolution started a minute ago, and in that one minute, we have destroyed 50% of the forests! So think about the environment.     
     11.   A practice or a tradition that was used to have benefits in one time, sometimes, starts to have negative impact, and such traditions need to be modified to make it beneficial again. Same goes with any festival that is celebrated across the world.
     12.   Everyone who comes to you should experience the light of joy, no one should feel sad. That is the message of Deepawali!

I have a lot more to tell and write, but I will stop here to wish you all a very happy and prosperous Deepawali.

PS: Images were obtained from Google Search.

PPS: I practice what I preach. Distributed Sweets and Clothes to Security Guards, Rickshaw-Wala, Juice-Wala, Auto-Wala etc. :)

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