This is not going to be a typical Diwali post. It may not be a Diwali post at all. I have been quite measured in my approach today in looking regularly at all of my social media accounts as well as my phone for the best message or most inspiring text. It seems to be some sort of unofficial competition. Who can get the most interesting, yet relevant image, matched with a caption from a distant great thinker that is unique yet recognizable? It is even more prevalent on Twitter with people showing pictures of them buying and eating mithai (Indian heart-blockers/stoppers) while they go out and enjoy themselves. I do not begrudge any of them, but I can’t help feel like the most important piece of the puzzle is missing. The moral.
Aesop’s fables without the familiar lessons at the end are strange and sometimes ludicrous situations, normally involving some sort of animal. They are meaningless without a moral though. Why am I talking about Aesop? Well relate this to Diwali, or any other festival in any religion – if we just hear the stories and perform the rituals, but do not see to understanding the meanings behind them, then they are just bedtime stories. We must think about what these things represent. Don’t worry, I am not about to give you a lecture on the symbols in Hinduism and what they represent (if you really want to know then we can have a separate discussion). But asking a question for the sake of it is folly…actively striving to find the answer is what is required.
I am sick of people saying that religions and especially Hinduism is superstitious and ritualistic. What they fail to see is that these rituals have a meaning and an understanding behind them, but if we choose to be ignorant then who are we to criticize? It is not easy to discover these meanings, but that does not mean that it is not worthwhile. Our parents and grandparents may not have asked these questions, but unless we take this opportunity to find out, how can we expect our children to adopt our culture and our values when we never bothered to find out ourselves? Think about it.
It will not be easy and we will make mistakes. We will get the wrong end of the stick and we will not look deep enough. But every year, we hope to learn something new, to make a new discovery, to come one step closer to understanding. And that is what we hope to celebrate! Because that is what Diwali is about: illumination. So it is great to buy fireworks, to visit family that we don’t visit enough and to smell the homemade sweets as they drift through the house, but that isn’t enough. Today, tomorrow, this year make a resolution – that you will try to find out one more thing that you didn’t understand, one more thing that you can shed light on. Because this is the festival of light. So make the most of it.