The Festival of Lights
by B P Wadia
© 2005 Online Teosofiska Kompaniet Malmö
The wisdom of the Sages points to the meaning and purpose of festivals. These, like folklore and so many persistent social and religious customs, have a core of truth hemmed in by superstition and sham. When dissociated from their form side, these festivals reveal a spiritual significance. Men and women who desire to celebrate them in an enlightened manner should make use of such significance. Divali, which falls this year on the 14th [2nd] of November, is such a festival with a message for the earnest learner.
Deepavali is a festival associated with the symbols of Light. Light in Nature is universal and impersonal and occupies an important place in the code and classification of symbols.
The physical sun is commonly supposed to be the giver of light and life and is widely worshipped as such; it is but the visible symbol of the spiritual Sun – the impersonal Deity, from which all has proceeded and into which all will return. Its first manifestation, as the opening chapter of Genesis points out, was Light; and Light
Focused in the heart of every living being is a ray of this pure Light of Divinity – some call it the Light of Christos; others, the Light of Krishna or of Allah or of Ahura Mazda. It is ”the true Light, which lighteeth every man that cometh into the world,” in the words of the Apostle John, and a parallel teaching can be found in all the great
world scriptures. This is how the Gita describes it:
”It is the light of all lights, and is declared to be beyond all darkness; and it is wisdom itself, the object of wisdom, and that which is to be obtained by wisdom; in the hearts of all it ever presideth.” (XIII. 17)
This inner Light of Truth dispels the moral darkness of ignorance and illusion that has fastened upon our minds. Further, that Light guides us in the great pilgrimage which our life should be but is not for most men and women. Most people are aimless wanderers or travellers seeking pleasure or profit.
The Enlightened One calls upon us to be Lamps unto ourselves and an ancient Chinese proverb instruct us – ”It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.”
In the thickest gloom can be discerned a glimmer of light, often sufficient for the pilot to find the polestar and so to fix his course. Many of us are infants ”crying for the light” but failing to discern its glimmer, blinded by the tears of self-pity.
But, however dim that Light may appear to us to begin with, if we but remember that it is within us and look to it for guidance in our daily life, it will steadily grow and illuminate our path; also it will fall on the path of others, our fellow pilgrims struggling amid the encircling gloom.
During the Divali festival houses will be illuminated – with humble oil lamps or with glowing electric bulbs. This is symbolic of the lighting up of our tabernacle of flesh with the radiance which comes from within. This ”imprisoned splendour” cannot escape from the recesses of the heart, where it has been hemmed in by wall after wall of flesh, save through the acquirement of spiritual knowledge which is not mere head learning.
One of the worst forms false knowledge can take is oblivion of the unity of all life, of the brotherhood of man. This deludes us into thinking that our heart-light is different from that shining in our brother men.
The symbol of light can yield many meanings. The derivation of the various colours and the multiplicity of hues from the one pure light is suggestive in more ways than one – e.g., as applied to the various religions and sects. Equally suggestive is the image of countless flames getting lit at the one central flame without in any way diminishing its radiance. ”Those having lamps will pass them one to others,” taught Plato in The Republic. The fully illuminated Ones, the Buddhas, have kept ablaze the Torch of Truth across the ages for the benefit of those who aspire to kindle their humble wicks at that Sacrificial Light of Pure Wisdom – the Tathagata Light. How profoundly significant
does Divali, the Festival of Lights, become for those so aspiring!
B. P. WADIA
From ”Thus have I heard”, pages 142-144. Utgiven av Indian Institute of World Culture, 1959.
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