Diwali and its teachings दीवाली (October 2016)

Isn’t it a beautiful coincidence that the monthly Hawan this time falls on the auspicious day of Diwali! Let’s take this blessed concurrence, which I do not recall happening in the last 21 years, as an opportunity to share with kids the truer, deeper meaning of Diwali and other festivals’ celebrations.
Navratri, Ashtami, Durga Puja, Dushehra, Ahoi, Diwali and… the list goes on for the Indian festivals celebrated in a short period of time that it is referred as the festival season in India. There is excitement, energy, and enthusiasm in air: people clean and decorate their homes, wear new clothes, meet and greet friends and relatives, exchange sweets and gifts, and perform special religious rituals and prayers with family members. Those who have been to India in this season can attest to the absolute unique experience. Unfortunately, in all these festivities, one thing is getting lost: contemplation on the purpose of the festival. Each festival is accompanied with deep moral values and teachings, in whose remembrance, the observance of the festival started in the first place. But lack of focus and contemplation on the actual meaning over period has given birth to some improper behaviors and misconducts, like drinking and gambling on the auspicious day of Diwali.
This month’s topic for kid’s assignment is Diwali and its teachings. Kids will reflect on the true meaning and teachings inherent in Diwali celebration. Followings are a few pointers to get started:
·         Triumph of good over evil
o   This is one of the key teachings which talks about victory of good over evil. Here, good and evil are characterized as human qualities – not the labels on human beings. Lack of the understanding of this subtle point makes us label people as good or evil. While we need to be aware of other’s malicious nature (to safeguard ourselves), we shouldn’t be unnecessarily thinking/talking about it; instead, our focus ought to be on the honorable qualities of others that we want to imbibe in us.
o   Secondly, it will be hypocrisy if we pinpoint others’ shortcomings while staying oblivious to our own. Depending upon situations, sometimes, weaker/wrongful thoughts may arise in our mind. We need to make our virtuous thoughts so powerful that in those weaker moments, they are able to overcome the wrongful thoughts.
·         Exchange gifts and best wishes
o   Exchanging gifts signify two things: one, love & respect, and, two, a benevolent act of giving & receiving. If while exchanging gifts, these ingredients are missing, the act become meaningless. While giving or receiving gifts on such occasions, we need to nurture the feelings of love, wellbeing and blessings for the other person.
·         Respect and express gratitude for wealth
o   We must respect and value wealth and work hard to earn it. And, when it arrives, we must accept it as God’s reward for our hard work. We should be careful that its arrival doesn’t rob us of humility. True gratitude for wealth is expressed by helping needy and putting it to use for the welfare of society.
·         Cleanliness
o   In addition to focusing on the cleanliness of the outside, we must strive to clean our inner self, i.e., cleaning our mind of blemished thoughts. No matter how filthy the outside environment is, cleaning it is a far easier task than cleaning inside, which is a daunting task requiring strong will and conviction. We must resolve to keep it clean.  
·         Festival of Lights
o   Diwali is also known as the Festival of Lights. Indian scriptures equate darkness to ignorance and light to knowledge. Just like, lighting diyas and candles dispels darkness, a mind illuminated with knowledge dispels ignorance. True knowledge empowers us to see right from wrong and make the right choices. We must strive to acquire true knowledge that helps us grow in material and spiritual realms.
There are many more points. We should encourage kids to think independently and come up with the learnings inherent in different aspects of this beautiful festival’s celebration as they see it.
As always, looking forward to illuminating thoughts and interpretations by Hawan kids.
Harsh Mendiratta