Today is Diwali, the festival of lights. Hundreds of millions of people around the world tonight will decorate their houses by lighting lamps around their houses. Several millions will burst crackers and play with fireworks. Delicious sweets will be prepared, consumed, and shared. People will greet each other, "Happy Diwali." Millions of phone calls, email exchanges and Facebook status updates would be made to wish friends and family a very happy Diwali. People will also make their own personal wishes known to Gods and Godesses. They will pray for more success, prosperity, and happiness in their lives. But in the end, Diwali will be just like any other day, if we do not reflect on the actual meaning and signficance of Diwali. Certainly, we all know that Diwali is the celebration of the triump of good over evil, and that the light denotes the eradication of ignorance through enlightenment. But are we really a little more good after Diwali than the day before? Will we be a little more close to enlightenment when we go to bed after celebrating Diwali? I believe not, at least for the most of us. We will continue to go about living our life the exact same way as we did before. We will be consumed by the same desires and worries that consumed us yesterday. Most of us will not have changed by even a fraction of an ounce. So what is there to celebrate?
Now the above paragraph may seem a little too pessimistic to you. But actually, I am not against Diwali celebrations. I certainly do not prefer modes of celebration that are harmful to our mind, body, and the environment, but I am not against celebrations per se. Celebrations are very good for our mental health, especially when it involves connecting with our near and dear ones. However, I believe that Diwali—or any other festival for that matter—should also be a time for reflection and not just celebration. Let's not just mindlessly celebrate Diwali without doing a deep reflection on our inner selves. Let's identify the demons inside us that need to be slayed, and then take conscious steps to weaken (and eventually destroy) them with the help of the goodness or God in us. Let us spend some time meditating so that we are more mindful of our ignorance and knowledge. Often we have theoretical knowledge about the art of living, but we compartmentalize our minds so much that we fail to consciously apply our knowledge to different spheres of life. Consequently, we continue to suffer from the same anxieties, fear, and disappointments in life over and over again. So, this Diwali, I hope that we all spend as much time on reflection as we do on celebration. The specifics of our reflection will, of course, vary from person to person. But let's set aside some time to think and contemplate on our thoughts, emotions and actions. Let's meditate on the causes and consequences of these thoughts, emotions, and actions. And then let's commit ourselves to a small change that will make us a better and more compassionate human being. That would make Diwali worth celebrating.
Wishing everybody a happy and reflective Diwali!