Since Dussehra this year, I have been mulling over this topic. For every Hindu festival, a simple explanation given is – its the victory of good over evil. For e.g, today is Diwali. All Diwali wishes point out to Bhagwan Rama’s victory over Ravana as the victory of good over evil. Its the most simplistic explanation possible !!!
This definition of good vs evil, simplifies deep concepts of Hinduism. Its like Hinduism for the dummies, a little demeaning :):). We need to remember that the Upanishads, the Vedas and the Hindu traditions came at a time when the society’s spiritual growth was at its highest. It is not “philosophy” or the product of one man/woman’s thought process. Osho has this to say for the Upanishads – “The days of the Upanishads were the highest as far as the spiritual quest is concerned. Never before and never afterwards has human consciousness achieved such Himalayan heights.”
Diwali – Good Vs Evil ??
I saw on Twitter that Mr. Joe Biden, President Elect and Ms. Kamala Harris, Vice-President Elect of the USA, had wished Hindus, Buddhists and Jains for Diwali.
Yes, we start a New Year from Diwali, but why say “Sal Mubarak” ? That’s what we say for Eid – Eid Mubarak. Would they ever say “Christmas Mubarak” or “Sal Mubarak” instead of Happy New Year ? With her family ties to Chennai, I expected Ms. Harris to know better, but she is doing what every other politician is, speaking to her voters in the language they understand. This is precisely the problem. We Indians have failed to educate the world about our way of life, our greetings and the meaning behind our festivals.
We say “Shubh Deepavali” or “Deepavali Nalvazhthukkal”…. Shubh, doesn’t mean only happy. “Shubh” means “good prosperity”, basically prosperity that comes from doing good to others, essentially business that serves the community !! In saying Happy Diwali, this meaning is lost. 🙂
If only Mr. Biden and Ms. Harris had taken a moment to watch the Prime Minister of UK, Mr. Boris Johnson’s Diwali message, their message might have been a little different because their understanding would have changed. https://twitter.com/i/status/1327538300098371584
Dharma Vs Adharma or Good Vs Evil
Again back to Osho – “Do you think that the divine is less in Ravana? There is as much that is divine in Ravana as in Rama, there isn’t any difference, there can’t be any difference. It is another matter that for the Ram Leela, the life story of Rama to happen, it is necessary to divide things into two. Do you think there can be a Ram Leela without a Ravana? How could there be? Its very support would fall. Do you think that there can be a Rama without a Ravana? It is impossible. Just try writing a story about Rama and leave out Ravana. Write a story that is Rama and only Rama. You will find it completely flavorless. It loses all juice, all meaning. If Rama is alone, standing there with his bow and arrows, he will get tired, and you too will get tired. Sita, his wife, is sitting there, Ramachandra is sitting there – no one comes and abducts her, nothing happens…” This is from his book “Die O Yogi Die”
Another excerpt from yet another of Osho’s discourses will explain this even better – “There are no devils. With God, all devils disappeared; they were shadows of your God. Without God, the devil cannot exist. You will be surprised to know that the word devil and the word divine have the same root; it is a Sanskrit root. In Sanskrit, the divine is deva. From deva comes the English words divine and the devil. In fact, the devil and God are two sides of the same coin.”
Dharma is following your potential, living upto, exceeding your potential. Dharma doesn’t translate to good, it is about righteousness, living according to universal, natural laws and Adharma doesn’t translate to evil, its about flouting universal laws.
I feel we have dumbed down the explanation of dharma vs adharma because it raises many uncomfortable questions. For e.g If Ravana was evil, then why did Rama do penance at Rameswaram after killing Ravana? Its because Rama’s dharma was in living upto his Kshatriya dharma and he killed Ravana who is a learned Brahmin and in the process incurred the Brahma hatya dosham. Very loosely translated, it means a warrior must not kill a learned scholar, that is a sin and the warrior must do penance to rid himself of that sin. Please note – neither Kshatriya, nor Brahmin here refers to caste.
Even though we worship Rama as God, he plays his role as a human being according to his Dharma. He cannot and does not make excuses for being an avatar. Understand that the same applies to Ravana. His adharmic abduction of Sita incurs a bigger sin because he was a Brahmin, a learned scholar, who knew the four Vedas and the six Shastras. For him to have done something adharmic as coveting another man’s wife is a bigger sin. His punishment was at a different scale too.
Simple explanations don’t exist
In trying to fit in with the Western world and in trying to explain deep spiritual questions, Hinduism has chosen simple words and in the process we have lost the essence of our “way of life”. Deepavali is celebrated on the day of Amavasya, the all pervading darkness is dispelled as soon as a single lamp is lit. Mahavira, the most famous of the Jain Thirthankaras who was also a contemporary of the Buddha, got enlightened on the night of Kartik Amavasya which is why the Jains celebrate Diwali…. Hindus celebrate Diwali because Rama returned from Vanavas (his exile), its not so much about victory over Ravana. South Indian Hindus celebrate Diwali as Naraka Chaturdashi, which is the story of a mother killing her own son because he turned wayward !!
Naraka Chaturdashi – Satyabhama is one of Krishna’s wives. She is the incarnation of Bhudevi. In an earlier Avatar of Vishnu, Bhudevi and Bhagwan Varaha have a son called Narakasura. He stays alive till Vishnu takes his 9th avatar as Bhagwan Krishna but becomes increasingly greedy, destructive and unjust. Narakasura had a boon from Brahma that only his mother can kill him. Fascinatingly enough, Narakasura attacks Krishna and his wife Satyabhama, kills him. So much for women empowerment :):). Narakasura pleads with his mother that his death must be celebrated and remembered, so we continue to celebrate Diwali. This is the reason why Deepavali is celebrated one day earlier in South India than North India.
Dharma Vs Adharma
I would like all of us to think deeply about Dharma and Adharma. We need to discuss our Shastras, Vedas and Upanishads more openly and interpret them for the current times. Dumbing down concepts is not a great way to enhance our knowledge and understanding. India’s way of life is about debate and discussions, not forcing down a concept or thought or faith. Its time to get back to that way of life.
ॐ असतो मा सद गमय, तमसो मा ज्योतिर् गमय, मृत्योर मा अमृतम् गमय II (Asato Ma Sad Gamaya, Tamaso Ma Jyotir Gamaya, Mrityor Ma Amritam Gamaya) Lead us from untruth to truth, Lead us from darkness to light, Lead us from death to eternal life. ----from the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad
Shubh Deepavali. May we all live according to our Dharma. Would love to see comments from the readers.
Do read my earlier post – Are you a “practising” Hindu ?