my little room.

my little room.
nathan.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Diwali.


     The festival of Diwali, the festival of lights, symbolizes the conquest of knowledge over ignorance, freedom over bondage.  And to commemorate the occasion, Indians all over the country spend their hard-earned rupees buying up all the fireworks they can handle and subsequently turn their villages and towns into war-zones.
          The reality is, these days, that for some time before and after Diwali, crackers go off at all times of the day and night.  One can be sipping a coffee on ones porch, peacefully contemplating the meaning of life, when a cracker lands at ones feet.  The coffee lands in your lap, your lower extremities dissolve in a fine mixture of substances, your toast lands in the bushes and all you can think of is revenge.  Never mind the meaning of life.  Never mind peaceful introspection.  All you want is to get the bathdurd who threw it, even if he/she is only six or seven years old. 
     I had/have a friend, an ex-Vietnam war veteran, who lived near the ashram here.  We were having some food and a chat at a local outside café, (dhaba,) one day several years ago, when a cherry bomb went off nearby.  The next I knew, my buddy was cowering under the table and it took me several minutes to convince him that the Viet Cong had gone back into the jungle. 
     A lot of the local guys find it tremendously entertaining to shoot the rockets down the street instead of up in the air.  The missiles careen along at high speeds, zig-zagging in a brilliant show of sparkling danger.  People of all shapes and sizes dive, jump or duck to save themselves.  One fine year, the inevitable happened.  A rocket barreled down the street, found its way right into the fireworks shop of the area and all hell broke loose.  Everyone literally had to run for the hills, the shop ended up a burnt-out bunker and it took quite some time for life to return to anything that could be considered normal.
     All of this goes on within the context of the true meaning of the festival of Diwali, when it was said that Lord Raam came out of exile to take up his rightful place on the throne of the kingdom.  And Raam, with the help of Hanuman, a rather simian-sort-of fellow who could apparently jump like a son-of-a-gun, was said to have rescued his beloved wife, Sita, from the clutches of the demon Ravana.  

     On the day of Diwali, the people get dressed in their finery.  Some folks still fast on tea and fruit for three days, praying to Laxmi, the Goddess of prosperity, for wealth, good health, a higher sperm count, a good harvest in the coming year.  People still put simple candles all up their steps alongside the paintings, charming drawings of lotuses and mandalas, done with henna and vegetable dye paints, on their doorsteps and in their courtyards. 
     And there are still pockets of people all over India and the world, like here at this blessed ashram in the Kullu Valley, who do take the festival as a time to celebrate the recapturing of our eternal, essential nature, to continue their prayers for and to meditate upon the direct realization of that nature, the eternal life that permeates all, pure, free and forever.    

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