“Today evening in the city of Raghuvira there is great splendor and beauty. The Lord of Ayodhya is seeing the lovely festival of Diwali, which does so much good.” (Gitavali, 309.01)
साँझ समय रघुबीर-पुरीकी सोभा आजु बनी |
ललित दीपमालिका बिलोकहिं हित करि अवधधनी ||
sām̐jha samaya raghubīra-purīkī sobhā āju banī |
lalita dīpamālikā bilokahiṁ hita kari avadhadhanī ||
This person is addressed as “Babaji.” There is a certain look to accompany the title. A long beard, simple clothes, a serious demeanor, a string of beads around the neck. Wandering from place to place and only speaking on one topic, there is no misunderstanding or misidentification. The respect received from the public is deserved, for most cases. Cheaters are everywhere, but the genuine saint has renounced everything in order to take up a life of service to Bhagavan, the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
Questions of a similar nature often arise in response to such a visual.
“Do I have to follow the same route? Is that the only way to become advanced, so to speak? Is the path towards the eternal heaven through their example? How do I give up so much when I have such strong attachments? How can I maintain a job and still advance spiritually?”
The occasion of the first Diwali provides some answers. The original incident did not have the associated name. There was a spontaneous reaction, an outpouring of affection that was neither coerced nor staged. In fact, it was like one side to a bookend; a preceding event saw a similar response.
The time in between was fourteen years. The people of Ayodhya learned that their beloved Rama was leaving for the forest, to not return until the time of exile was up. The response to the news was despair. Feeling hopeless, the citizens wondered how they would survive such a long gap. They wanted to see Shri Rama and His immediate family every single day.
A spontaneous call to action, similar to what would be shown upon Rama’s return, the people left the city and followed the trio into the forest. Rama was leaving and taking the younger brother Lakshmana with Him. Rama’s wife, Sita Devi, insisted on going, as well. The citizens would rather live in the forest with Rama than stay in a majestic city devoid of His association.
The people eventually returned home after Rama was able to flee undetected. It was regrettable, but had to be done. Rama did not want His devotees to suffer on account of Him. The people returned to their daily lives, but the consciousness did not change. Every person was awaiting the Lord’s return.
Therefore, when years later news of Rama’s imminent arrival broke, the people reacted without external encouragement. They did not think that they were advancing through some religious practice. If dharma had dictated to act as if nothing were happening, they wouldn’t abide. They were not interested in any personal benediction to receive from Rama, who would now rightfully take the throne that had belonged to Him in the first place.
Men, women, children, laborers, merchants, artisans, drivers, servants, and even beggars were alike in mindset. They prepared to welcome the approaching aerial car, the Pushpaka, with diyas. Placed together in what seemed to be many rows, the lit lamps created a wonderful sight. Thus, Diwali came to be, and the tradition has been followed annually ever since. Rama even got to enjoy subsequent celebrations in His kingdom.
The babaji, the renounced mendicant, the parivrajaka spiritual leader, travelling from place to place helps to rescue souls by reminding them of their original friend, the Supreme Lord, who is always close by. The same heights of consciousness can be reached by a person just doing their regular jobs. The well-wishes of the honest street sweepers are appreciated just as much as the poetic words of the expert devotional singer. Shri Rama lacks discrimination in this way, and for this reason people become more attached to Him, year after year.
This babaji so much respected,
From their behavior to be expected.
Success only in that way to reside,
Where family and home casting aside?
Lesson from first Diwali celebration take,
Where people of all kinds to make.
For advancement or piety not caring,
Only how Shri Rama and family faring.