“Deepavali” – Is Kali black? ——————– On Sunday, the 4th November 2018, brother monk Swami Shantatmananda requested me to deliver a Talk on the “Deepavali” Festival. It was held at the Sarada Auditorium. Deepavali is not a stand alone Festival as it is preceded by two other holy occasions and followed by another two holy occasions, thus can be in effect it is a Five-day Festival! I gave a synopsis of these five days’ occasions and went into introspective mode of discussing whether these five days can be imagined as linear progress in material and mental spheres of the human soul. While bringing up the topic of Kali Puja that is widely observed in the eastern parts of India on the Deepavali amavasya night, obviously the discussion veered round to a point of view on the subject of Mother Kali and the concept behind Her worship… This lecture can be heard here:
Diwali is indeed, a glorious and colourful festival that is celebrated by all Hindus internationally. How Diwali unites and brings people and families together is a matter of experience of the millions. The beautiful array of clay lamps in all Hindu households creates an atmosphere of love, warmth, sharing, and more importantly, reminds of the existence of God in all beings. Therefore during this auspicious time, we should all try and improve ourselves spiritually. At this point, three important ennobling qualities come to mind: tyaga (sacrifice), seva (service) and prema (love).
Hearty, Happy Diwali Greetings! May this Diwali lighten up your life, may it lighten your burden and may it enlighten your path!
Diwali has become an occasion for charity of all sorts. If you give love, even if you do not give much of anything else, it does not matter. And however much you may give materially, if it is not done with love, it does not mean much. So it is love that makes all giving meaningful. I would like to relate a story of how love of virtuous deeds brought blessings.
Once upon a time the village of Nagpur in India was experiencing famine. There was such a scarcity of food that many people were starving and dying of hunger. A widow named Kamala and her little daughter, Kanama lived in this village. They were poor and had no means of earning money. The mother fell ill suddenly and she was worried about her little daughter. The little girl assured that she would be fine.
Kanama set out to beg food for her ailing mother. She tried begging at several households with no luck. Exhausted, the little girl finally rested under a tree. In the distance she saw a lady making roti. Kanama ran to her and begged for a piece of roti. So the lady offered her one piece of bread and Kanama accepted the bread gratefully and she said, “O, mother! my mom has not eaten anything for the last week, if only I can get one more piece of bread, I will really be grateful.” The kind lady gave her another piece of bread. Kanama was returning home happily.
On the way she saw a hungry dog looking for food. “Oh! what a pity! the dog cannot beg for food!”, so she thought and lovingly offered the dog one piece of bread. The dog ate the bread happily. When Kanama reached home, she narrated the incident to her mother. Kanama’s mother was happy to know her daughter was so compassionate. As they were about to eat the remaining piece of bread, they heard a voice at the door… “O mother! I am dying of hunger, please give me something to eat.” The virtuous Kamala said “someone is suffering from hunger, give away my share”. The compassionate little Kanama said “how can this poor beggar appease his hunger with half a piece of bread? Let me give him my share as well.” The beggar ate with great relish and said to Kanama, “May God bless you, my child.”
When the beggar left, both the mother and daughter fainted from hunger. Then Kamala had a dream in which Goddess Lakshmi, the divine consort of Lord Vishnu appeared to her and said, “O Kamala! Even though you and your daughter were starving, both of you lovingly gave away whatever you had to the hungry dog and the famished beggar. It was I, who appeared in these forms to test you. I am very pleased with your loving concern for others. May you have enough wealth and live happily.”
Their meritorious act brought rain to the village. The people of Nagpur were relieved of the sufferings due to the tyaga, seva and prema of the mother-daughter duo. This story shows us all, how God’s grace overflows to those who do sacrifice all in the service of others done in absolute love. The following is taken from Prabuddha Bharata.
Once a very poor devotee had a strong desire to go to Varanasi to have the darshan of Lord Vishwanatha. But he was too poor to do so. Swami Adbhutananda, a direct disciple of Sri Ramakrishna, was then living in Varanasi. He came to know of the devotee’s earnest longing and wrote to him to somehow collect the one-way railway fare to Varanasi and that other things could be taken care of. Thus being assured, the devotee reached Varanasi with great difficulty and had the darshan of Lord Vishwanatha and Mother Annapurna, and enjoyed the holy company of Latu Maharaj.
But one day, at the Vishwanatha temple, he felt great mental anguish. After bathing in the Ganga and finishing his worship of Shiva with bel leaves, when he came out of the temple he saw that all the devotees were giving alms to mendicants and beggars according to their ability. He alone lacked the capacity to give in charity. He cried fie upon himself: ‘I am a poor, wretched beggar myself, deprived of this rare opportunity. On the contrary, having come to this holy place I am enjoying food and shelter provided by sadhus, and I do not have a penny to pay for it!’ He returned to his room with a heavy heart, closed the door and started shedding tears of grief. Latu Maharaj came to know everything and suggested: ‘What does it matter? You do one thing: tomorrow after bathing in the Ganga offer a handful of it to God and pray, “May all the miseries of the world be dispelled.”’ The devotee thought, ‘This is just a consolation for a helpless destitute like me. What merit can be derived from it?’ However, the next day the devotee did exactly as he was advised simply to honour the words of a great soul like Latu Maharaj. Immediately his mind became calm and serene, his heart was filled with an unspeakable bliss, and he felt blessed with divine grace. This is the result of true pilgrimage.
The idea of complete self-sacrifice is illustrated in Mahabharata and narrated by Swami Vivekananda in his Karma Yoga lectures.
After the battle of Kurukshetra the five Pândava brothers performed a great sacrifice and made very large gifts to the poor. All people expressed amazement at the greatness and richness of the sacrifice, and said that such a sacrifice the world had never seen before. But, after the ceremony, there came a little mongoose, half of whose body was golden, and the other half brown; and he began to roll on the floor of the sacrificial hall. He said to those around, “You are all liars; this is no sacrifice.” “What!” they exclaimed, “you say this is no sacrifice; do you not know how money and jewels were poured out to the poor and every one became rich and happy? This was the most wonderful sacrifice any man ever performed.”
But the mongoose said, “There was once a little village, and in it there dwelt a poor Brahmin with his wife, his son, and his son’s wife. They were very poor and lived on small gifts made to them for preaching and teaching. There came in that land a three years’ famine, and the poor Brahmin suffered more than ever. At last when the family had starved for days, the father brought home one morning a little barley flour, which he had been fortunate enough to obtain, and he divided it into four parts, one for each member of the family. They prepared it for their meal, and just as they were about to eat, there was a knock at the door. The father opened it, and there stood a guest.
Now in India a guest is a sacred person; he is as a god for the time being, and must be treated as such. So the poor Brahmin said, ‘Come in, sir; you are welcome,’ He set before the guest his own portion of the food, which the guest quickly ate and said, ‘Oh, sir, you have killed me; I have been starving for ten days, and this little bit has but increased my hunger.’ Then the wife said to her husband, ‘Give him my share,’ but the husband said, ‘Not so.’ The wife however insisted, saying, ‘Here is a poor man, and it is our duty as householders to see that he is fed, and it is my duty as a wife to give him my portion, seeing that you have no more to offer him.’ Then she gave her share to the guest, which he ate, and said he was still burning with hunger. So the son said, ‘Take my portion also; it is the duty of a son to help his father to fulfil his obligations.’ The guest ate that, but remained still unsatisfied; so the son’s wife gave him her portion also. That was sufficient, and the guest departed, blessing them. That night those four people died of starvation.
A few granules of that flour had fallen on the floor; and when I rolled my body on them, half of it became golden, as you see. Since then I have been travelling all over the world, hoping to find another sacrifice like that, but nowhere have I found one; nowhere else has the other half of my body been turned into gold. That is why I say this is no sacrifice.”
It is my fervent prayer that each one of us be blessed with such noble and divine qualities! May the light of the lamp burn brightly in our hearts on this holy occasion of Diwali !
असतो मा सद्गमय | तमसो मा ज्योतिर्गमय | मृत्योर् मा अमृतं गमय | ॐ शांति: शांति: शांति: || Om asato ma sat gamaya | Tamaso ma jothir gamaya | Mrityor ma amritam gamaya | Om shanti shanti shanti ||