Shri Datta Swami

Posted on: 28 Oct 2019

     

Deepavali Message

Avoid Needless Waste

O Learned and Devoted Servants of God! We light a lamp before God. For whom, is this lamp lit? Is it for God? Not at all! God is said to be the source of all lights and He has no need of any light (Na tatra suryo bhāti… tasya bhāsā…—Veda). The light is only helpful for us. With the help of the light, we can read a divine book or we can see the picture of God clearly. The light or oil lamp is useful to us only when there is darkness around. But we light the lamp even during the day, when it is not useful to us in any way. We are burning ghee or oil to produce the light which is not even needed. The oil or ghee is food-material and is created by God for the sake of human beings, so that they can live and grow strong. Thus your lighting the lamp is nothing but the burning of precious food needlessly. The Veda says that food should never be destroyed or wasted (Annaṃ na paricakṣīta).

The same oil or ghee could be donated to a poor man, for the sake of maintaining the life-light in his body. After feeding the starving man and saving his life, you can preach to him about God and make him a devotee. How meritorious is this deed! Lighting a lamp at night for our need of light is perfectly meaningful. But if we needlessly light the lamp even during the day, it is the greatest sin because, you are burning food instead of donating it to a poor devotee. Moreover, burning any material causes environmental pollution and climate change, which is affecting the rains. Thus, the unnecessary burning of any material harms the world. What pleasure do we get in harming others needlessly? It is no different from the sadism of a demon! God gets furious with demons and people doing demonic activities.

There is another purpose of lighting the lamp. The light from the lamp removing darkness is a model to preach to you the importance of knowledge, which similarly removes ignorance. But seeing a lamp lit once at night, is sufficient to understand this concept. You need not light the lamp every night to learn this concept! If you still continue to light the lamp every night to learn this concept, it is highly foolish. In that case, the original question remains as it is, which is, what purpose the lamp lit during the day serves? Moreover, even at night, when electric lights exist to provide light to you for all your domestic needs and even for your worship, what is the need of this duplication using oil lamps?

Types of Fire

The electric light need not be considered to be of lesser value than an oil lamp. The electric light (vaidyutāgni) is superior to an oil lamp having a physical flame (laukikāgni) since the former does not emit any polluting smoke and it remains on constantly, unlike the physical flame in the oil lamp, which takes some effort to maintain. In ancient times, a fire was constantly kept burning in huts in the forest (Nityāgnihotram) to keep mosquitoes and wild animals away. What is the logic in keeping a fire burning constantly at home today, when there is no such need? Shri Shirdi Sai Baba used to keep a fire burning constantly in the abandoned mosque, where He lived, only to keep away insects and wild animals. Today, you are burning wood constantly in His temples since you have not understood the real reason why He used to keep the fire burning!

The Gita says that you should perform any deed only after perfect analysis (Jñātvā kurvīta karmāṇi). You are lighting lamps without any analysis, following a blind tradition. In ancient days, before electric lights, an oil lamp was lit before God since it also served the domestic need for light. There are three types of fire (agni): (1) Laukikāgni or bhautikāgni, which is the fire lit by burning some fuel like wood, ghee, oil etc. (2) Vaidyutāgni is the ‘fire’ produced from electricity which can include electric lights and electric heaters. (3) Devatāgni or Vaiśvānarāgni is the fire of hunger in the stomach of a hungry person.

Fire is closely associated with the ritual sacrifice called yajña, in which food is to be sacrificed into the fire. Here, the first two types of fire are only meant for cooking the food and are called yajña-sādhanam which is the means to cook the food. The third type of fire is the yajñopāsya or the fire to be worshiped by offering the cooked food into it. The actual yajña is this offering of cooked food into the hunger-fire of the hungry person. Instead of analysing in this manner, ignorant priests are burning precious food in the first type of fire, which is physical fire! Sage Kapila clearly said that burning ghee in a sacrifice is foolishness. God Krishna asked the performers of a ritual sacrifice to feed the cooked food to His hungry friends and thereby fulfill the real aim of the sacrifice.

Grasping the Concept Behind the Festival

We must understand that the lighted lamp is nothing but the spiritual knowledge that removes the darkness of ignorance. Since we have already learnt this concept by seeing a lamp being lit at night, we need not light lamps every day. There is no need to remind oneself of this concept again and again, claiming that you are forgetting the concept every day! There is absolutely no need to light any lamp unless it is needed by some one. A lamp is called dīpaḥ in Sanskrit and a row of lamps is called dīpāvalī (Deepavali). A single lamp represents the spiritual knowledge that is heard (Śrotavyaḥ). A row of lamps indicates the same spiritual knowledge, repeatedly heard, until it is memorized (Mantavyaḥ). If this real concept is not understood, what is the use of lighting either a single lamp or a row of lamps, when there is no practical need?

Today, the row of lamps that have been lit on this festival of Deepavali, should be understood to represent the real spiritual knowledge that should be learnt and memorized by us. We should leave behind the physical lamps, which are only models representing the concept and adopt the actual concept. Then, we are really worshipping Krishna. Krishna has clearly said that He can be pleased only by knowledge (Jñāna yajñena tenāham…). He has also said that the concept is more important than the physical model (simile) used to explain the concept since the physical model consumes precious materials (oil) (Śreyān dravyamayāt…). We worship Krishna as the embodiment of spiritual knowledge and as the Spiritual Preacher of the world (Krishnaṃ Vande Jagadgurum). Every chapter of the Gita, which contains a series of verses, is a row of lamps. When even the lamps burnt during Diwali have been condemned in this manner, what to speak of firecrackers, which cause heavy environmental pollution!

The celebration of any festival falls in the domain of creation, which is the imaginable domain. Scientific analysis is the ultimate authority in the imaginable domain. Scientific logic fails only in understanding the unimaginable God, called Parabrahman. It also fails in the case of any miracle, which is an unimaginable event performed by the unimaginable God. We should not attribute any unimaginable nature to imaginable activities like the celebration a festival or a sacrifice done to please God. The festival and the sacrifice are both imaginable. They are done by us, imaginable souls, to please the unimaginable God. The action done by the souls to please the unimaginable God need not be unimaginable. In fact, it cannot be unimaginable. If it were unimaginable, the soul could never have performed it at all! A soul cannot perform an unimaginable miracle, whereas, the same soul can celebrate an imaginable festival or perform a sacrifice to please God.

The sacrifice involves cooking food, which is to be provided to the participants of a ritual. The ritual is a meeting for discussing the concepts of spiritual knowledge and praising God through prayers. Unfortunately, nowadays, nothing uttered by the priest during the ritual is understood by anybody, including the priest himself! The priest recites Vedic verses and hymns in Sanskrit, which is not known to any body. Such a ritual becomes a total waste since the participants neither gain the spiritual knowledge contained in the verses nor do they improve their devotion to God. Similarly, the objective behind the celebration of any festival is also to increase our spiritual knowledge and devotion to God. Today, neither festivals nor sacrifices performed are able to achieve their real objective. On the contrary, the performers incur sin because of the burning of precious food and causing pollution. Such people are actually damaging the world, exactly like demons.

Good and Bad Traditions

They are simply following blind traditions, without analysis. These blind traditions are not the original ancient traditions established by the fully-learned sages. These traditions have been developed by middle-age priests, who used to blindly recite the scripture, without understanding any word of it. How can such a tradition be the authority? Some people argue that justice or dharma is born from tradition (Acāraprabhavo dharmaḥ) and that dharma, in turn, is supported by God (Dharmasya Prabhuracyutaḥ). Hence, they say that tradition is always supported by God. There is no point in arguing in this manner since it is a total misunderstanding. The tradition referred to in that verse only means the original good tradition and not the degraded bad tradition of today. If tradition by itself were the authority, the hatred towards the worship of God Viṣṇu was also the tradition of demons. Then why did the great devotee, Prahlāda, who was born in the dynasty of demons, not follow that tradition? Hence, tradition by itself cannot be an authority. Only good tradition is the authority.

Whether the tradition is good or bad, can only be decided by sharp analysis, which discriminates between truth and falsehood (Sadasat vivekaḥ). Without this analysis, we cannot even accept every statement of the scripture, because scriptures also get polluted by insertions (prakṣepa), in course of time. When the scripture itself is subject to analysis, what is the sanctity of such statements, which are not even from the scriptures? Divine preachers like Śaṅkara quoted the scripture and also analysed it for this reason. They did not simply quote the scripture and say that it should be followed without analysis. They analysed the quoted statements from scriptures, only to prove that those specific scriptural statements are genuine and are not insertions. Even God Krishna asked Arjuna to analyse whatever was preached by Him, before accepting it, (Vimṛṣyaitadaśeṣeṇa…) because Krishna knew that the Gita that He was preaching, might get polluted by insertions in the future.

na tattra suryo bhaati tasya bhaasaa annam na parichakshiita Vaidyutaagni Laukikaagni Nityaagnihotram jnaatvaa kurviita karmaani Bhautikaagni Devataagni Vaishvaanaraagni Shrotavyah mantavyah Jnaana yajnena tenaaham Krishnam Vande Jagadgurum Achaaraprabhavo Dharmah Dharmasya Prabhurachyutah sadasat vivekah Prakshepa Vimrushyaitadasheshena