Namaste dear friends,
As you read this, in our Tufts community and around the world, we have just celebrated Diwali – one of the most widely observed Hindu festivals. Meaning “a row of lights” in Sanskrit, Diwali is commemorated with the lighting of clay lamps known as diyas. Here, at Tufts, we sent Diwali kits to students containing Rangoli powders, a paper stencil, and an electronic tealight. To celebrate, we met for online Aarti, discussed the Rama Amar Chitra Katha, and ate together virtually.
While considered a world religion, Hinduism does not have a single scriptural text nor a single religious leader. Hinduism includes a spectrum of philosophical, spiritual, and religious practices, beliefs, and traditions. According to our scriptures, in particular the Ramayana, Diwali also commemorates the return of Lord Rama to Ayodhya after vanquishing the ten-headed Ravana.
We might contemporize the understanding of Lord Rama’s undertaking as that which any human being on the journey to enlightenment needs to undergo to overcome ten steps to Self-Realization. I interpret these ten steps to Self-Realization as related to the ten Yamas and Niyamas (dos and don’ts) of Sanatan Dharma.
The five Yamas are:
- 1) Ahimsa (Non-violence),
- 2) Satya (Truth),
- 3) Asteya (Non-stealing),
- 4) Brahmacharya (Behavior as God), and
- 5) Aparigraha (Non-hoarding)
The five Niyamas are:
- 1) Saucha (Cleanliness),
- 2) Santosha (Gratitude),
- 3) Tapas (Discipline),
- 4) Swaddhyay (Study of Self) and
- 5) Ishvar Pranidhan (Surrender of Self).
In this sense, Diwali is a time for all of us to contemplate our being beyond the egoic domains of existence. I recently read the beautifully written book The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben, and learnt that trees live outside of principles of “survival of the fittest.” If one tree suffers, the whole community suffers. Using a complex, interrelated root system, the community sends nourishment to a member in need.
In these times, let us remember that our roots are interrelated. May the lights that illuminate the physical dimension imprint in our emotional, mental, and spiritual dimensions. May we embody the diya and find ways to illuminate our own life as well as those around us.
Dhanyavaadah and best wishes,
Preeta Banerjee, PhD.