Real essence of Diwali

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
In India, it is said, when a saint or a wise one visits your home, know that day is Holi and Diwali, meaning, there is no celebration without wisdom. Despite having everything else, if there is sorrow, despair, pain, anger and hate in life, then that is not true celebration. Then there is no light. That’s why every day is Diwali in a seekers’ life because there is light of wisdom in their life.
Gratitude is the real wealth
Diwali begins with Dhanteras festivities. What is wealth? In our ancient scriptures, it is said, ‘dhanam agnih dhanam vayu dhanam surya dhanam vasuh Dhanam indro dhanam brihaspati. Fire is wealth. The brilliance within you is fire. The fire that is in you in the form of enthusiasm, because of which you rise in life, is wealth. The air is wealth. Today due to pollution in the big cities it has become difficult to even breathe fresh air. Exposure to this toxic pollution for even a few minutes is enough to bring in host of diseases. So good air, the source of life, has been considered as wealth, and so is the sun. Similarly, the life force that keeps the body alive is also a form of wealth. To consider just money, silver or gold coins as wealth is foolish. To feel blessed in life is the greatest wealth. Those who lack gratitude cannot be truly called wealthy. When we broaden our understanding of what is real wealth and become grateful for it, then how can there be greed for smaller things in life? So the message for Dhanteras is this-remember all that you have received in life and be grateful for them. This is the purpose of celebrating Dhanteras.
On Dhanteras, we bring out all the gold, jewelry, and money and keep it outside. The reason behind this practice is, when we see all of this we are reminded of all that we have and that there is more than enough of everything in our life. This reminder removes all sense of lack and greed. As long as there is greed and lack in life, poverty persists. Once these are removed, contentment shines through. Know then, the lamp has been lit and there is light. So to remove this darkness of greed and discontentment, we need to light the lamp of knowledge.
Dhanteras is also celebrated as the day of Ayurveda. It is said that after the great churning, Lord Dhanwantari appeared with the amrut kalash (pot of immortality) and gave the knowledge of Ayurveda to the world, and this day came to be celebrated as the Day of Ayurveda.
Narkasura’s dying wish
The story goes that right before slaying demon Narkasura, Lord Krishna asked him for his last wish. Narkasura said ‘I have caused so much pain to people. I have lived in darkness all my life. I want this darkness to end with me. I desire that when I die people should celebrate by lighting lamps.’ Narkasura received self-knowledge and Lord Krishna blessed him to become free. Since then we have been celebrating Narak Chatrudashi. During the Satyug, Goddess Kali was worshipped and so during the holy month of kartik, lamps would be lit every day in each house. During the Tretayug, Lord Ram returned to Ayodhya after defeating Ravana on Kartik Amavasya, after fourteen long years. All the people of Ayodhya lit lamps and celebrated Diwali on this day. Returning to our source is the real essence of Diwali. The story about Lord Ram’s return to Ayodhya after 14 years also has a spiritual element to it which is, we keep roaming all our lives before finally returning home. Ancient texts mention 14 realms where the soul is said to transit through lifetimes and after dwelling in these realms of sansara when the soul finally gets established in itself, it is the real journey back to the source which is the Self. So in spirituality, lighting the lamp of self-knowledge is real Diwali. Once you know who you are, that is Diwali. Once there is light of wisdom and you know life is impermanent, then there is real celebration, real Diwali.