Diwali 2013

Diwali lights“From home to home auspicious songs are being sung, and both rich and poor are equally happy. Tulsidas melodiously sings Rama’s glories, which destroy all the impurities of Kali Yuga.” (Gitavali, 309.4)

ghara ghara mangalacāra ekarasa harasita ranka-ganī |
tulasidāsa kala kīrati gāvahiṃ, jo kalimala-samanī ||

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God’s association is for all. If any person has the chance to be by His side, it means that any person is allowed to worship Him. Such worship is encouraged, as the spirit soul’s original position is pure God consciousness. The purity in mood brings the highest pleasure, a level of satisfaction otherwise desperately sought after but rarely achieved. On the occasion of Diwali we remember the heartwarming homecoming celebration for Shri Rama, His beautiful wife Sita, His devoted younger brother Lakshmana, and His many friends who risked their lives in His service. We also remember how in Rama’s kingdom the initial homecoming became its own annual tradition, where rich and poor alike celebrated Rama and enjoyed His protection.

Gold coins stackedThe tendency is to envy the wealthy. “Oh, they have so much. Do they really need that many pairs of shoes? I don’t feel bad for them if they run into hard times. What’s the worst that can happen to them, they have to sell their second yacht? At least when they are destitute they will learn what so many of us have to go through. They have no worries in the world, so why should I care so much about them?”

With the poor, the tendency is to pity. “Oh look at that person and how poor they are. I can’t imagine living like they do. They barely have any possessions. They wear maybe two or three sets of clothes. They eat the simplest food. They must have so much trouble paying the bills each month. It’s not fair that they are struggling while the greedy corporations are raking in the profits. Maybe one day they will find their way out of poverty.”

While it is natural to think along these lines, in the spiritual sense there is no distinction. Think of it like having two children, one who spends a lot of money and buys a lot of things and another who barely has anything. Ideally the parents will love both children equally, not caring for the temporary lots in life. After all, material opulence is just a collection of stuff. It has no bearing on the person’s identity. This must be the case because the wealthy adult likely wasn’t wealthy earlier on. The poor person might also have had a lot a few years prior. Financial dispositions can dramatically turn on the dime. When collecting on unpaid bills, credit card companies often offer a program known as “hardship.” This is to help those who previously had a lot but then suddenly lost it all. It is understood that fortune is chanchala, or always moving.

Whether there is a giant mansion or a tiny shack, God’s presence is still there. He is within every individual as the Supersoul, or Paramatma. God’s presence is within every atom as well, so never is there a time when He is not the witness to events. Since He is everywhere, He can be worshiped by any person, at any time. Unless you are taught about this universal presence and how to take advantage of it, you will think otherwise. The yogi thinks God can only be found through intense meditation and contorting the body in different stretching poses. The jnani thinks God can only be found with great intellect, which is built brick by brick through study of shastra, or scripture. The fruitive worker thinks God can only be found through working hard and accumulating a lot of things; through material success God will be worshiped sufficiently.

Goswami TulsidasGoswami Tulsidas says otherwise. As a saint of the bhakti tradition, he follows devotional service to God. Bhakti-yoga, or devotional service, is identical to God. Everything comes from the Lord, but not everything represents Him fully. Some things are separated from Him in terms of interest. Bhakti-yoga represents Him fully, and the person who engages in it is so in tune with the divine consciousness that they cease thinking in terms of explicit religious practice. All they know is devotion, which brings God’s association, so they don’t take their way of life to be out of the ordinary. To them, it is the only way to live.

Whether one can stretch or not, they can stay with the Supreme Lord. Whether they can read Sanskrit or not, they can sing the glories of God. Whether they can earn a lot of money or not, they can honor the Supreme Lord and feel tremendous happiness. The scene in the above referenced verse is Diwali in Ayodhya. Diwali is a popular Indian tradition today, often celebrated as a social occasion, similar to the way Christmas and Thanksgiving are viewed. Its actual origin is religious, an event where the Supreme Lord was welcomed home after being away for fourteen years.

Rama and friends riding homeHe appeared in Ayodhya in His incarnation of Lord Rama, the eldest son of King Dasharatha. Rama showed all good qualities, especially exhibiting fearlessness in following righteous principles and defending the innocent. The citizens of Ayodhya loved Him very much, and they anxiously awaited His return home after He left for fourteen years. Rama brought back Sita and Lakshmana, His two closest associates, along with forest-dwellers who helped Him rescue Sita from the clutches of the fiendish king of Lanka named Ravana.

Rama was installed as king after he returned, and during His reign that first Diwali became an annual celebration. In his Gitavali, Goswami Tulsidas describes how Diwali was celebrated during Rama’s time. The homes were decorated with so many lamps. Electricity wasn’t necessary, as fire burning from lamps fueled by ghee was enough to create a heartwarming vision for all the residents.

Tulsidas says that both rich and poor alike were happy. Ekarasa means that they each had the same mellow, which was harasita, or tremendous happiness. In ekarasa, both rich and poor were united, despite their class difference. Rama is pleased by devotion and nothing else. If a person has many lamps they can arrange, then fine. If another person only has one lamp, that too is sufficient. The genuineness of the sentiment is what is taken into account.

Rich or poor was of no concern in Ayodhya, but one may feel that since Rama is not ruling the earth today they can’t celebrate in the same way. Tulsidas clears the doubt by saying that in the Kali Yuga, the present age which is notorious for the rise in quarrel and hypocrisy, the glories of Rama are sung by him melodiously. That singing removes all the faults of the present age. In Kali Yuga men are generally short-lived, unfortunate, and devoid of character. Instead of following the timeless discipline of bhakti-yoga, which is strengthened through respect for the basic principles of religion, man makes up his own rules and regulations, which are all rooted in defiance of God’s will. Since man is ignorant of the truth, he is especially prone to making distinctions based on class, which is not wise.

Tulsidas writing about RamaTulsidas, who appeared on this earth many years after the Diwali celebration in Ayodhya described above, celebrated by singing the glories of Rama, whose activities are thoroughly documented in the Vedic texts. Rama is God for everyone, whether one grows up in the Vedic tradition or not. Since He is full of opulences, He is Bhagavan. One way to test His divinity is to see who is eligible to worship Him. Rich or poor, pure or impure, man or woman – the only qualification is sincerity in purpose, which Tulsidas forever displays through his wonderful singing. He cures the ailments brought on by Kali Yuga by using the potion of Rama’s name, fame, glories, and attributes. On Diwali we honor his singing and his retelling of the festivities in Ayodhya during Rama’s reign.

In Closing:

With rich and poor difference we see,

One with nothing while other in opulence to be.


In Kali Yuga over such distinctions to fight,

But cure is there, one way for all to unite.


Like Tulsidas, the glories of Supreme Lord sing,

Can worship Him even if you own not a thing.


Diwali in Ayodhya, people of sentiments pure,

Ekarasa of happiness for both rich and poor.


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