Our life is like a lamp. Just like a lamp needs oxygen to keep burning, the same is with our life. If you were to be locked up in a glass cage, then you would be able to survive only as long as there is oxygen in the cage. In the same way, if you cover a lamp with a glass, then the lamp will burn only as long as there is oxygen. So there is definitely some similarity between a lamp and our life. That similarity is fundamental to the celebration of Diwali. It is to remind you that you too are a lamp.
Diwali celebration has been celebrated in our country since time immemorial. Life is like a light, it has always been associated with light. Our soul is also a light, it has always been associated with light. That is why whenever someone dies, it is a custom to light a lamp near the head of the dead body. Whenever a child is born in a house, the first thing people do is light a lamp in the house. So the lamp has a very unique relationship with our life.
It is not sufficient to light just one lamp to bring light. All the lamps in our society need to be lit (here meaning people need to shine with joy and wisdom). Only then can our society make progress. That is why in Sanskrit we chant, “Sangachhatwam”, which means let us all walk together, and may there be light and happiness in everyone’s lives. This is the unique message of Diwali. That is why on the festival of Diwali, we light not one but a 1000 lamps. Lighting one lamp alone does not suffice to dispel the darkness (here meaning the darkness of ignorance and negativity). Many thousands of lamps need to be lit to dispel the darkness. That is why in Diwali we light so many lamps during the night and come together to celebrate. That is why it is called as Deepawali.
There is a strong relationship of the festival of Diwali with our ancient epics and scriptures such as Ramayana and Mahabharata. Many events in the Mahabharata and the Puranas are related to the festival of Diwali. For example, when Lord Rama returned to Ayodhya after completing 14 years of exile, everyone in the city celebrated His return by lighting lamps everywhere. There is a deeper meaning to this as well. It means that once the light of knowledge dawns from within, then there is light everywhere in the world around us. The whole world starts scintillating with the light of knowledge. To convey the unique importance of spiritual knowledge in our life, we celebrate Diwali.
Lord Buddha said, “Aappah Dipo Bhavah”. Lord Buddha says that one should not think that one has really celebrated Diwali simply by lighting oil lamps in the house. The real essence is that you too should shine with the radiance of knowledge, so that you can illumine the path of many others in life. This is what Lord Buddha has said. So everyone should meditate regularly.
In the Yoga Sutras, Rishi Patanjali has said, “Murdha jyotishi siddha darshanam”(Vibhuti Pada, #32). It means that once you recognize the (Divine) light within you, you will attain perfection, and many Siddhis (extraordinary abilities) will be awakened. Your intellect will be refined and illumined. This is what is said here.
So this Diwali, light the lamp of knowledge within you, be happy, content and spread this happiness to many others around you. Drop all the problems and negativity of the past and put it aside. Be in harmony with everyone else, let there be sweetness and gentility in your behaviour towards everyone.
During Diwali we burn firecrackers to bring our mind to the present. Have you noticed, when your mind is disturbed with too many cravings and aversions, you feel as if your head will burst, isn't it? That is why when you burst crackers, the burst on the outside settles something inside, and you feel light and more alive. Also, in the earlier days, there was no electricity, and so children used to burn fireworks to have fun and feel happy. Today we are living in the age of electricity, so you all do not need to burn fireworks. You can light up so many places using electric lights instead of using firecrackers. This will also prevent air pollution.
It is alright to burn a few crackers, but again you should not burn crackers that are very loud and create too much smoke. So many birds and animals get very disturbed because of the noise. They experience a sense of shock because of these fireworks. You know, birds experience trauma because of loud crackers. So, I would suggest you all to refrain from fireworks this Diwali. If at all you cannot keep yourself from bursting firecrackers, then you can light a few sparklers and celebrate. There is no need to burn loud crackers which create so much sound and disturb everyone. Even the birds and animals in the environment get so scared because of these disturbing fireworks.
Also, it is not necessary to eat a lot of fried foods to celebrate Diwali. Have food that is healthy and nutritious and serve the same to others as well.
Remember the vastness and eternal nature of your life and feel a deep sense of gratitude for all that you have received in life. Light lamps to spread light everywhere and also remind yourself that you too are a beautiful lamp and are here to spread the light of joy and knowledge. Everyone who comes to you should experience the light of joy, no one should feel sad. This is what you should pray for.