Diwali, the festival of lighting the inner lamp of wisdom

In our last article, we saw that we are bound in the prison of our attitudes, habits, moods, desires, and attachments; the energy that frees us from this prison is called Durga.

The process of creation needed shakti (energy) and this was called ‘Adhya’ shakti or the first energy. This Adhya Shakti then took on three forms, each for a function. These three are called as Mahalaxmi, Mahakali and Mahasaraswati. These three energies are worshipped after navratri; the period towards the new moon. Mahalaxmi is worshipped on ‘Dhanteras’ or the thirteenth day, Mahakali on ‘Kalichaudas’ or the fourteenth day and Mahasaraswati on ‘Diwali’ or the new moon day.

The word Laxmi comes from the Sanskrit ‘laksya’ or aim. The word ‘aks’ means eyes; holistically meaning to set eyes upon a goal. Through the eyes travels the light of observation, which we call as attention. Hence, Laxmi means one-pointed attention upon our goal. She is worshipped on Dhanteras. Here the word ‘dhan’ means wealth. Mahalaxmi being worshipped on the day of Dhanteras means focusing all our attention on the acquisition of ‘dhan’ or wealth; the meaning of dhan changing from person to person. Everyone worships Mahalaxmi for good fortune and prosperity. Some interpret wealth as money and prosperity, some good fortune; for the spiritual seeker the only meaning of wealth is the experience of the divine. The great saint Meerabai expressed the meaning of the word dhan beautifully in her devotional song “Maine Ramratan dhan payo” translated as “I have acquired the wealth studded with the jewels of the divine.”

The ancient sages were interested in going into the depth of the process of seeing or ‘darshan’. They saw that this process involved three things, the seer, the seen, and the process itself. When we see something we are focused on what we see. We never ask ourselves what is it that sees, not as a name, not as a body, but in reality. If, for a moment, we can penetrate to our inner depths and have a feeling of that which is seeing, we experience what is Mahalaxmi, the divine sitting within us.

The next form of energy is Mahakali or the great Time. The word ‘kala’ means time and also means darkness or blackness. When attention, which we called as Mahalaxmi, flows out of the five senses to experience the world, it gives birth to time. For light to reach an object, it takes time; attention being the inner light. When we gaze upon a distant star, we actually see that star as it was many years ago; since it takes time for the light of that star to reach us, which could sometimes be thousands of years. It is this form of Shakti that becomes Durga and battles the demon of negativity over nine days. It is interesting to note that whenever the ancient seers or rishis talk about time, they call it as kali or kala, also meaning black. An important question to ask is ‘Why time is always represented black?’ Is it because there is really nothing like time and we are still bound to it like slaves? Are they saying that what you are seeing is just a reflection and is reality is the darkness of the energy beyond?

The third form of the original energy that is worshipped on the new moon or the Diwali day is called as Mahasaraswati. The word ‘saras’ means to flow and the word ‘wati’ means to hold, it also means female. Mahasaraswati hence, means the one who holds the flow or possesses the flow. Now here lies one of the deepest secrets possible. When anything moves, it moves in time. Every movement gives rise to a feeling or a sensitivity of that movement. If we are standing in a flowing river, there is a lovely feeling of the movement of water as it touches our body. Similarly but at a very subtle level, when light or attention flows out of our eyes on to an object outside, there is a feeling or sensitivity of this movement of attention or inner light. A student has to work hard on his level of sensitivity for a long period to experience this flow. This attention falls upon an object, which in a certain way is reflecting light, that is it reflects attention and we have the experience of seeing the object. Thus, the process of seeing or ‘darshan’ involves the flowing out of attention and it being reflected back. This flowing out and back in is called as ‘saras’ and the one who has experienced and understood this, is the one who possesses ‘saras’, that is Saraswati. She is depicted as a female because to undergo this experience a deep level of receptivity is required, a characteristic only of a female.

In a nutshell, we experience three different sensitivities, (1) Mahalaxmi or the flow of attention from our eyes to the object, (2) Mahakali, the feeling of time or reflection, (3) Mahasaraswati, the feeling of the flow returning and the experience of the seer within.

With this experience the inner lamp of ‘buddhi’ or wisdom is lit. This is the true symbolism of Diwali or the lighting of lamps. That is why Mahasaraswati is worshipped on Diwali day. She is the Goddess of wisdom and learning. Learning not as in gathering information but that learning which comes from the flow of the fountain of knowledge that lies untapped within all of us.

For the student who has realised this highest knowledge, that of ‘darshan’ or what is seeing and who is the seer within, his life is filled with celebration. Wherever he goes, his inner light enlightens many others.

With this hope and purpose in mind, on behalf of Asian Voice and all on the spiritual path, we would like to wish all our readers a very Happy Diwali, in the true sense of it.