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  • Writer's pictureSGS

Deepavali Celebrations

Updated: Oct 19, 2022

In the darkness of ignorance and in real darkness also we stumble and fall. We need light to show us the way. A lamp gives light. Light represents knowledge of Truth. Truth gives happiness. The city of Ayodhya was lit for Sri Rama, here it represents our body. This is the day when knowledge entered this body. That is why we have to remember Lord Vishnu. Knowledge gives us health and prosperity. That is why we worship Lakshmi. SGS

A world wide celebration

Deepavali wishes to everyone. I am very happy. In the Indian tradition, we celebrate with great joy festivals such as Ganesha festival, Sri Rama Navami, Sri Krishna Janmashtami etc. We celebrate Devi Navaratri with even greater joy. By celebrating all these festivals, we forget all grief and sorrows and step into a happy new times. We keep our mind good and change our lives for the better. The Deepavali festival brings happiness and excitement. During this Deepavali, there are a few things to keep in mind. There are untimely rains in some places that are destroying crops. Some places, there is too much rain, in some others there is drought and lack of drinking water.

This is God’s divine play (Leela). This has to go on. God does this to maintain balance in Nature. During Ugadi, we have the tradition of eating a concoction made of neem and jaggery to remind ourselves that happiness and sorrow occur in pairs. We should pray to God for both happiness and sorrow. We should not just pray for happiness. Pray saying, “Give me sorrow and give me the strength to bear the sorrow too. Give me happiness, but please keep me away from ego.”

Try eating with with hands

During a festival, we all gather in one place. The festivals are an occasion for relatives living in different places to come together. The festival is time for different mentalities to come together. In high spirits and with happiness, everyone wears new clothes, eats good food and decorates the house. Whether there is devotion or not, we offer worship to God. If you can worship with devotion, how much better will it be? You can do a full study of Srimad Bhagavatam or at least read a couple of verses. You can read one chapter of the Mahabharata or the Ramayana and then start the worship rituals. It is tradition to come together to eat after the worship rituals. The tradition is to sit on the floor, not at a dining table, during such festive occasions. The food is also digested better when you sit on the floor. One should not eat with a spoon, but should use the hands to eat after thoroughly washing them clean. When we eat with our hands, we prepare the morsel of food by gently squeezing the food with our hand. The five fingers represent the five elements of Nature. The various organs in the body are also represented in the hand. The kidneys are represented (Swamiji points to the area on the palm where the fingers when folded meet the palm) in our palm. There are organs for digestion here. When we eat with our hands and hold the morsel of food with our hands, the area near our stomach gets massaged. The digestive juices are secreted. There are many glands involved in this process. So, we should gently squeeze the food in our hands, making a fist so that the gentle massage of this area on the palm gives us greater energy to digest the food. That is why we are asked to eat only with our hands. Other people may have put the spoons in their mouths, but our hands have only fed our mouths, not others’. Of course, we wash our hands clean after licking them up. Regardless of how much food we eat, we derive great pleasure in licking our fingers. The taste of the food we lick off our fingers somehow seems greater. Even after a big feast, we like licking the food off each of our fingers. We lick our hands clean. Very good, no problem. But eating with our hands and gently squeezing the food into a fist (so that the four fingers gently massage the palm) is very good for our health. We should observe these practices during a festival. At least during a festival, we should sit on the floor and eat off a plantain leaf. Of course, it is hard to get plantain leaves these days. So, we eat in plastic plates that look like plantain leaves. Okay, we will pretend they are plantain leaves while eating. If we can get a real banana leaf, that is even better.

Style of eating should benefit health

(In traditional India sit-down meals, a sampling of all food is served before the guest starts eating) We should wait till all the food is served. When a sweet dish is served, the guest finishes it before the server can come back to serve the chutney. The server is not sure if he served the sweet dish. By the time the server comes back with a curry, the chutney has disappeared from the plate. When the server comes back again, he wonders what happened to the three items he served. The guest ate the curry by itself, the chutney by itself and the sweet dish as well. If the guest is served rice, he’ll eat the rice by itself. I do not understand what kind of eating that is. One should eat only after all items are served. You should see what food items are there. You should determine what you will eat and in what quantities so it is good for your health. We should decide what we need to eat and what we do not. All these practices were made back then for our good health. But we do not follow those practices. We eat whatever is put in front of us. We devour entire plates and entire glasses. We do not even know what items we ate. After serving small quantities of all items, they serve rice in the end. Guests then eat a little bit of each item with the rice. There is so much science behind all of this. In some houses, they make 14 to 15 items. Some make 5-6 items. Each item benefits different nerves in the body. There is great science in it.

That is what Deepavali festival is about. It is not just about firecrackers. It is also about eating whatever has been cooked with joy and offered to God and then, lighting as many oil lamps as the number of years in our age. If you place lamps all over the town, you are vulnerable to a fire accident. People light a lamp without keeping enough distance from the lamps. The sari can easily catch fire. These days, the saris are made of various synthetic material. The heat of the light bulb is enough to draw the sari to it and catch fire. Such materials are also being used to make saris. On Deepavali, we should wear cotton clothing and cotton saris. It will protect us and will not catch fire as quickly as other materials.

We light lamps for Deepavali. It means our ignorance is going away. Our bad thoughts are going away. The lights we place in front of God, with good thoughts, and to represent the knowledge that removes ignorance is what is Deepavali. We should put that into practice.

Some stories say it is the day Sri Rama returned to Ayodhya. Certainly true. There are other stories too. Some say it is the day Narakasura was slayed. We honor the three stories (the third is that it was the day emperor Bali was humbled by Lord Vishnu) that surround Deepavali. We observe it on all three days. One day, we take oil bath, one day we wear new clothes and another day, we light lamps. Like this, we observe all three days – Naraka Chaturdasi, Deepavali and Bali Padyami. Such a wonderful festival can be found nowhere else but in India. No one else has the fortune of such a festival. They can only mimic what we do. Let them copy. It does not bother us. No one else has such a festival.

Remember our family traditions

The relatives gather together for four or five days. That’s not how they do in other countries. They have Father’s day, Mother’s day, Sister’s day, Neighbor’s day etc. We do not even understand those. They do not even gather together on that day. They only call and greet each other. There is no question of meeting. One wonders how long it has been since they saw each other’s faces. They can’t even remember whether the father had a long beard or a short beard. They would have completely forgotten.

It should not be like that. A festival is a time for getting together. Father, daughters, granddaughters must all get together. All difference of opinion should be let go. You should be happy. Exchange presents. That is the meaning of Deepavali. In the past, Emperor Bali’s kingdom was magnanimous. That is how our lives should be. It should become like Rama Rajya (the Dharmic kingdom of Sri Rama). On this festival, all of us offer respects to mother, father and Guru. You must respect the teacher that gave you knowledge and education. The one who gives us education is Parabrahma. We have to offer salutations to such a Parabrahma. We must respect them on this auspicious festival. It is okay if you don’t do this on regular days, but on festivals, we need their blessings. We don’t want their curse. Even if there is any ill feeling, he will have to bless you if you offer your respects, there is no choice. That is the kind of feeling a festival gives.

Cultivate a feeling of happiness

I am not talking about, nor am I concerned about festivals protecting Dharma and religion. We should make it a habit to be happy during festivals. Whatever festival it is – Navaratri, Shivaratri, Sri Rama Navami, Sri Krishna Janmashtami – we want all these festivals. There is also a practice of doing weekly vows and rituals. These rituals such as Somavara Vrata, Shanivara Vrata – all pertain to various planets. (Pujya Swamiji raises His hands in blessings while saying) Not only on these three days, but on all 365 days, you should be this happy. Increase your devotion towards parents. Increase your devotion towards teachers that give you education. Increase your devotion towards gurus that give you knowledge. Increase your devotion towards the country you live in. Remember that. That is why we have two festivals we observe in honor of our country. Independence Day and Republic Day are also festivals. We should participate in both festivals. We should learn and sing our national anthem. We should inculcate devotion towards our country. We only care about wearing new clothes and eating good food. The soldiers are fighting for us, they ready to lay down their lives for us. They have left their families behind and are serving the country and protecting us. We are happy and free because of them. We are being disloyal to our country, we are being dishonest with members of our own family. We commit crimes, tell lies, indulge in immoral/adharmic acts, we unnecessarily blame others. We commit such lowly acts. Do they need to lay down their lives for the sake of these acts? They are protecting us from intruders and from attacks. We should bring our hands together to salute them. We should pray for their well-being.

The gift of food has great punya

Share your food with the needy. At least share one meal in a week. That is why on Tuesdays, some people skip their meal. They promised to skip their meal and share with a hungry being. People are still doing it. “I will give it to someone needy”. “I will donate at an orphanage”. “I will help some young children”. “I bought four shirts this year. I will give one shirt to someone needy”. What a nice thing to do. Do such things. I will be very happy. Datta and Hanuman will be very happy. We are praying to Lord Hanuman for the safety and welfare of this country and the entire world. There are so many calamites and disasters. Too much rains, floods, natural disasters all around. We pray to God to protect us from all these calamities. We observe Deepavali with happiness and joy. May Lord Datta always bless you.

Jaya Guru Datta. Sri Guru Datta

Speech of HH Sri Ganapathy Sachchidananda Swamiji – Day 2- October 20, 2017 – Mysore

Compiled by: Archana Penukonda

Photo Credit ; Avadootha Datta Peetham,Mysuru.

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