My family has had some ancestors who were highly spiritually evolved individuals. My paternal grandmother’s father was a householder yogi (yogi- one who seeks union of individual consciousness with the Universal consciousness) who held a day job as a government employee and raised a large extended family, but he was also an advanced yoga practitioner. Once, my grandmother explained to me his technique of meditation, where he turned both his eyes inwards and held concentration for a long time. He would see a light between his eyes, which he explained to her was the divine presence in his body. I tried the technique as a child but never saw anything. Over the years, I have realized that what he explained as a light was symbolic of the inner light. The light that drives away ignorance, illuminates the true knowledge and takes us from being mere instinctual animals to the Divine.
As the winter season approaches the countries in the northern hemisphere, each culture counters the long hours of darkness with festivals that involve symbolic lighting of lights. In Hinduism, the most famous fall/winter festival is Deepavali (October 27 for 2019), which means a row of lights. Historically, Deepavali was a celebration of the victorious return of King Rama with his wife who was kidnapped by an evil King Ravana sometime in the 15th century BCE. The victory is celebrated by lighting lamps, wearing new clothes, decorating the house, starting new account books and distributing sweets. However, the deeper meaning is to reignite the light within. Just like during practice of any skillful event, we go through a dry run. Similarly, the external manifestation of Deepavali symbolizes cleaning the self (body and mind) and creating an environment of joy and well-being, which precedes the restarting of the quest for higher spiritual goals by lighting the pilot light of the spiritual furnace. The physical action of lighting the oil lamp has symbolic significance. The oil represents the bad tendencies of the person. The wick represents the ego. When lit with spiritual knowledge, the bad tendencies slowly get exhausted, and finally the ego also disappears. The flame is always directed upwards, symbolizing the higher aim. As the spiritual knowledge is shared, many lights are lit, and darkness of ignorance vanishes.
Deepavali has five days. The first day is Dhanteras, when Dhanvantari – the Deity of health – is worshipped. The second day is Narak Chaturdashi, where symbolically, an evil demon is slayed. The third day is when Deity of Prosperity – Laxmi is worshipped. The fourth day is when wives seek blessings for their husbands, and in return, they gift their wives to appreciate the other half of the family arch under whose care the rest of the family members flourish. The fifth day is when sisters seek blessings for their brothers, who appreciate their sisters with gifts. This sequence of events symbolizes the ascent of the person.
Prior to any spiritual quest, the physical body is to be strengthened. A cramping aching back or joints will not let a person sit undistracted for a long time. Then the outside disturbing elements (demons of sorts) are to be subdued to establish external peace. After peace is established, the material affluence is gained so that the worldly duties, like taking care of the immediate family and the extended (whole creation) family, is achieved. Then comes the appreciation of the spouse without whose support none of this would be possible, and finally the representative of the family who took care of us before we went on to start our own family. After completion of these worldly duties, we are ready for seeking the absolute.
Regardless of which pathway you follow, and which spiritual medium is your guide (guru, messiah, book, prophet or non-manifest entity), these steps in one form or the other will definitely lead you to your ultimate goal –– the manifestation of the light within!