Today is the day on which Naraka, the demon was killed. What does this event signify? It signifies killing the demon in man. 'Nara' means man and 'Asura' means demon. This demon is present in every human being. It is not necessary to acquire great Astras and Sastras (weapons) to kill this demon. Man is called 'Nara' because there is Atma in him. That Atma is the embodiment of love. It is possible to kill the demons only through love. Therefore, realise the Atma Tathva and develop love. This is true Bhakti (devotion). We are celebrating such a sacred event of killing the demon Narakasura as a festival by preparing so many delicious dishes and feasting on them. But, we are not making any effort to understand the inner meaning of this sacred event. In order to understand the sanctity of this great event, we must join Satsanga (good company). You should not lead a life of selfishness. That is the life of a Vyashti (individual). That is a wasteful life. It is only in Samashti (community) life, can you realise divinity. You must lead a happy life by identifying yourself with Samashti (society). In fact, Samashti is the embodiment of divinity. Give happiness and take happiness. Happiness is not a one-way traffic, it is a two-way process of give and take. Speak good words. Develop Samyak Drishti (sacred vision). Lead a life of purity. Make your life sanctified.
Divine Discourse: November 4, 2002
All festivals of Bharat have an inner divine significance. In Bharat the festivals are celebrated to prove the immanent divinity in humanity. This day's festival, Deepavali, teaches a sacred inner meaning to humanity. No other element in this world is as significant as light. It is the light that shows us the way dispelling the darkness. It is because of the light that man is able to attend to his daily duties.
The flame of a lamp has two significant qualities. One is to banish darkness; the other is a continuous upward movement. Even if a lamp is kept in a pit, the flame is directed upwards. The ancients have taught that the upward movement of the flame denotes the path to wisdom and the path to divinity. However, the external light can dispel only the external darkness, but not the darkness of ignorance in man.
When Narakasura was killed all those who suffered under him were overjoyed. Having led a life of darkness till then, both internally and externally, they celebrated the occasion by lighting lamps. There is significance in lighting lamps. The flame of one lamp can light the whole array of lamps. That one lamp symbolizes the Paramjyothi (supreme effulgence). The others symbolize the Jeevana Jyothis (light in individual selves). Deepavail is celebrated in order to teach this truth to the world. People celebrate this festival by bursting firecrackers signifying the victory of good over evil.
The inner meaning underlying the Bharatiya festivals should be rightly understood. On each festival day people have a sacred bath early in the morning and wear new clothes, keep their houses and surroundings clean. Thus the festivals teach us the importance of internal and external cleanliness. The Vedas declare, "Anthar Bahischa Tat Sarvam Vyapya Narayana Stithaha", God is present within and around. So one has to be pure both internally and externally. It is the water that helps to keep your body clean. But it is love that keeps your heart clean. You should celebrate the festivals in full realization of their inner significance.
Divine Discourse: October 19, 1998
Naraka Chathurdhasi is the day on which you resolve to get rid of your bad qualities and follow the path of righteousness. Deepaavali is celebrated today as a festival of lights, with the firing of crackers and display of fireworks. In olden days the ancients rejoiced over the destruction of the demon Narakaasura and let off fireworks.
There is another meaning in the burning of crackers on Deepaavali day This is the rainy season. All kinds of germs fill the atmosphere. The smoke from the crackers destroys these germs. The joy derived from the burning of crackers should really come from the elimination of bad qualities within one. For this, it is essential to meditate on God. Listen to Divine discourses. Participate in Bhajans.
Divine Discourse: October 23, 1995
Deepavali ushers in the light of prosperity
From the very name of today's festival--Deepavali--it
can be seen that the Divine effulgence is manifest in it. Deepavali means
"the array of lights." "Thamasomaa jyotirgamaya" (Lead me from darkness
to light) is an Upanishadic prayer: This means that where there
is darkness light is needed. What is this darkness? Sorrow is one form
of darkness. Peacelessness is another. Loss is another. Disappointment
is one form of darkness. Misery is yet another. Lack of enthusiasm is another.
All these are different forms of darkness. To get rid of the darkness of
sorrow, you have to light the lamp of happiness. To dispel the darkness
of disease, you have to install the light of health. To get over the darkness
of losses and failures, you have to usher in the light of prosperity.
Origin of Deepavali from scientific point
Looking at the Deepavali festival from the scientific point of view, it should be noted that at one time in the distant past, our ancestors lived in the Arctic region (the polar region). In this region, darkness prevailed for six months. The sun appears on Mesha Sankranthi day (the sun entering the Aries sign of the Zodiac). The sun sets in this region on Tula Sankranthi day (when the sun enters Libra). In the movement between these two signs, there is an interval of six months. After the sun sets in Libra, the dark half-year starts.
Today is Chathurdasi (the fourteenth day) in the month of Karthik. It is Amavasya (New Moon day). The month is called Kaumudi. The people in the polar region used to start lighting their lamps from this day. The lighting of the lamp is not without other significance. As they would be in darkness for a long period, they described the lamp that was lit as Nithyajyothi (the perennial light).
Different events that caused the celebration
Five thousand years ago there were some planets going round the earth. Some of these planets disappear from time to time. There was one planet called Naraka which used to go round the earth. In the course of their orbits, sometimes the moon and the Naraka planet used to get close to each other. At one time, the Naraka planet appeared to be approaching close to the earth. The inhabitants of the earth were filled with dread of the approaching catastrophe. They prayed to the Lord for averting the imminent disaster and saving them. At that stage, Sri Krishna used His Prajna (extraordinary knowledge) to destroy that planet. This extraordinary knowledge of Krishna was termed Sathya. That is to say, Krishna destroyed the Naraka planet in association with Sathya. The denizens of the world started celebrating that day with lighting of lamps and adoring the Lord who saved them. That day of the Lord's triumph was celebrated as a festive occasion.
It was on Deepavali day that Sri Rama's coronation took place after his victorious return to Ayodhya from Lanka vanquishing Ravana and his Rakshasa brood. For a long period Ayodhya had been plunged in darkness when Rama was in exile in the forest. In the absence of the effulgent Rama, Ayodhya was a city of darkness. The forests were filled with light. The return of Rama was hailed by the people of Ayodhya as the return of divine effulgence and hence they celebrated the event by the lighting of lamps everywhere.
Nor is that all. Today's festival is marked by other significant features. This is the day on which the Lord in His Vamana incarnation sent the Emperor Bali to the Nether World after He had got the promise of three feet of ground (measured by the Lord's foot) from Bali. Vamana (as the incarnation of Vishnu) used the gift of three feet of land to put down the Ahamkara (egoism) of Bali. Bali is described as Chakravarthi (sovereign lord).
Deepavali signifies suppression of the ego
In every human being there is a sovereign who presides over all his qualities. That sovereign is the Ego. This sovereign Ego--Ahamkara Chakravarthi--suppresses all the good qualities in man. Ahamkara has another meaning. It is the very form of Aham the "I'. The egoist is one who identifies the body with his Self. But you are not the body The body is only an instrument. It is an agglomeration of material substances. How can this inert body be equated with the Self?. It is the association of consciousness with the body that it is able to undertake various activities.
Deepavali is a festival which is designed to celebrate the suppression of the Ego by the Higher Self. Man is plunged in the darkness of ignorance and has lost the power of discrimination between the permanent and the evanescent. When the darkness of ignorance caused by Ahamkara (the ego-feeling) is dispelled by the light of Divine knowledge, the effulgence of the Divine is experienced. Deepavali is also the day on which Emperor Vikramaditya ascended the throne.
It is for these various reasons that Deepavali has been observed by Bharatiyas, young and old, as a day of great rejoicing.
However, the lights lit on Deepavali day
remove only the external darkness and not the darkness within man. Even
when the sun shines brightly, his light cannot dispel the inner darkness.
For this purpose, you have to learn a lesson from the external light. For
instance, if you want to light a lamp, you need a container. You have to
fill it with oil and place a wick in it. You need a matchbox to light the
wick. Only when you have all the four accessories can you light the lamp.
The lamp cannot be lit if any one of them is lacking. This lamp dispels
the external darkness. As the wick burns, the oil is consumed. When the
oil is exhausted the flame goes out. Saint Ramadas compared human life
to a lighted lamp and declared in one of his songs that when the oil of
life ebbs away, neither the wick nor the light will follow the departed.
Man has to dispel the darkness of ignorance
If the darkness of ignorance is to be dispelled, man needs a container, oil, wick and a matchbox corresponding to what an external lamp needs. For man, the heart is the container. The mind is the wick. Love is the oil and vairagya (sacrifice) is the matchbox. When you have these four, Atma-jyothi (the Divine flame of the Spirit) shines effulgently. When the light of the Spirit is aflame, the Light of Knowledge appears and dispels the darkness of ignorance.
The flame of a lamp has two qualities. One is to banish darkness. The other is a continuous upward movement. Even when a lamp is kept in a pit, the flame moves upwards. The sages have therefore adored the lamp of wisdom as the flame that leads men to higher states. Hence, the effulgence of light should not be treated as a trivial phenomenon. Along with lighting the external lamps, men should strive to light the lamps within them. The human estate should be governed by sacred qualities. This calls for the triple purity of body, mind and speech--Trikarana Suddhi (purity of the three instruments).---
The inner significance of Deepavali is to lead man from darkness to light. Man is perpetually plunged in darkness. Every time he is enveloped in darkness, he should light a lamp that is ever shining within him. Carry that lamp wherever you go. It will light your path wherever you may be.
Divine Discourse: November 5, 1991
When we inquire into the significance of the Deepavali festival which we are celebrating today, we find that traditionally it is a joyous festival to celebrate the destruction of the demon Narakasura by Sri Krishna. It is only when we first understand the meaning of the Krishna Principle will we be able to understand the significance of the Naraka principle. Krishna is the embodiment of the Five Elements: ether, air, fire, water and earth. He is also the embodiment of five life breaths--Prana, Apana, Samana, Udana and Vyana. "Kleem-Krishnaaya-Govindaaya-Gopijanavallabhaaya Swaah." This mantra contains the essence of the Bhagavatha. The five names represent the Five Pranas (vital airs). Kleem refers to the earth. Krishnaaya refers to water. Govindaaya refers to Agni (the Fire-God). Gopijanavallabhaaya refers to Vayu (Air). Swaah refers to ether.
When we recognize that the Divine is immanent in the five elements, we will realize that there is no place in the cosmos where these five are not present. The human body is composed of the five elements. These elements, because they constitute the body, can affect only the body but cannot affect the Atma in any way.
Krishna's encounter with the demon Naraka has to be understood against this background. "Nara-ka" means one who is opposed to the Atma. The celebration of Deepavali as the day of deliverance from Narakasura commemorates Krishna's victory. The day is observed as an occasion when the Divine leads mankind from darkness to light.
The legendary version of the Narakasura episode describes the demon as master of Praagjyothishapura. The symbolic meaning of Praagjyothishapura is that it is a place which has forgotten the Atma. The inner meaning of this is that demonic forces dwell in any place where the Atma is forgotten. All the chaos and evil in the world today are due to the fact that men have forgotten the Atma (the Supreme Spirit). Every man is conscious of the body and of the individual soul, but is not conscious of the Paramatma (Divinity) within him.
On Deepavali day, we light numerous lamps with one candle. The light with which other lamps are lit is a Symbol of the Divine. The other lamps are Jivanajyothis (individual lamps). They derive their light from the One Supreme Light. It is to teach this truth to men that the Festival of Lights is observed.
Divine Discourse: October 28, 1989
The city in which the demon Narakasura had his capital was known as 'Praagjyotishapuram.' The name consists of four syllables: Praag, jyoti, sha and puram. Praag means former; jyoti means light; sha means forgetting and puram means the body. Together the term refers to the heart. The inner meaning of the term is that the man in his body is forgetting the light, the Atmajyothi, in him. Nara has various meanings. One is Atma. Another meaning is that which is not permanent. As Nara, man has forgotten his true spiritual state. When bad qualities enter the city of nara, man becomes Narakasura (a demonic being). The term Narakasura also means one who carries people to Naraka (hell).
The inner meaning underlying the Bharatiya festivals should be rightly understood. Note, for instance, the fact that the whole array of lamps are lit by the light from one lamp. That one lamp symbolizes the Supreme Effulgent Lord. The others symbolize the light in individual selves. The truth of the Vedic saying, "The One willed to become the Many" is exemplified by the lighting of lamps by the flame of one. The Deepavali festival thus bears out the profoundest spiritual truth.
Deepavali has to be observed as a day for getting rid of all the bad qualities in us, symbolized by the demon Narakaasura. The Gopikas who were freed on that day represent the imprisoned good qualities in us. They should be manifested effulgently. This is the inner significance of the festival. As long as the demonic qualities remain in man, he will be immersed in darkness. Bad qualities and thoughts have to be got rid of altogether.
I desire that our festivals and the holy days should be observed in the right spirit, with an understanding of their inner significance. The destruction of the Narakaasura symbolizes the destruction of evil and the restoration of what is good.
Divine Discourse: November 9, 1988
Deepavali means a garland or festoon of lights, the most characteristic way in which the festival is observed by all. Deepavali is the day when old clothes are discarded and new ones worn; when the home and its precincts are swept clean, given a new look and made to appear fresh and fine. But even while doing all this, attention has to be paid to the discarding of worn out prejudices, the adoption of new habits of love and mutual respect, the freshening of one's attitude towards one's kith and kin, brothers and sisters of all creeds and castes, the hanging of festoons of friendship and fraternity over the door sill of the heart. This will make the festival really meaningful and fruitful.
Deepavali is also a day dedicated to the goodness of riches called Dhanalakshmi. They celebrate the day as Dhanalakshmi Puja in many states in India. But, riches when one comes by them, have to be revered as something given on trust and must be used for the amelioration of the wants of society and not for personal aggrandizement. Riches may come or riches may go; scholarship may be acquired or may not be acquired; even joy may come and go. Whatever happens, man must be unmoved, he must not swerve from the path that he has chosen towards the goal.
Divine Discourse: October 25, 1973
The human being is a composite of man and beast and God, and in the inevitable struggle between the three for ascendency, you must ensure that God wins, suppressing the merely human and the lowly beast. This festival of Deepavali is to express gratitude at the defeat of naraka tendencies in man, which drag him down from divinity. Naraka is the name for hell and the Asura, whose death at the hands of Krishna is celebrated today, is called Narakasura, the personification of all the traits of character that obstruct the upward impulses of man.
He is said to be the son of Bhumi (the earth) and he is also called Bhauma. This is very appropriate, for the earth and all attachments for things earthly lead us down into the regions of pain and grief. Earthly domains, earthly riches are powerless before the spiritual domain over the senses, spiritual riches of self knowledge and self confidence.
On this Deepavali day, resolve to light the lamp of Namasmarana and place it at your doorstep, the lips. Feed it with the oil of devotion; have steadiness as the wick. Let the lamp illumine every minute of your life. The splendor of the Name will drive away darkness from outside you as well as from inside you. You will spread joy and peace among all who come near you.
Divine Discourse: October 24, 1965