Today marks a major religious festival celebrated by Hindus, Sikhs, and Jains around the world. Diwali is also known as Deepavali, which means “row of lamps.” In Hindu mythology, it marks the return of the avatar Rama to his kingdom following a 14-year exile. His elated subjects lined the streets with oil lamps to welcome back their ruler. Sikhs and Jains similarly celebrate notable events in their religions’ history.
Diwali is known as the Festival of Lights because devotees decorate temples and their homes as well as streets and public places with lamps and lights. Hindus also honor the goddess Lakshmi and the god Ganesha. In West Bengal and also in the Ramakrishna ashrams, the goddess Kali is worshipped.
The Festival of Lights symbolizes light overcoming darkness and the triumph of good over evil. It shares these symbolic parallels with the Jewish Festival of Lights, or Hanukkah, which is a joyous celebration recounting a Talmudic miracle. Both Diwali and Hanukkah share the practice of lighting lamps or candles.
The contemporary mystical aspirant can also participate in Diwali by symbolically kindling the flame of spirituality within their heart. God is omnipresent; God dwells within each person. Each person can find and experience God within themselves. By stoking the light of God within, we pay homage to our own soul, our true Self, which marks a triumph of spirituality over worldliness. That light blazes brightly, so much so that all darkness is doused, all negativity extinguished.
Like the Phoenix rising from the ashes, the mystical meaning of the Festival of Lights is establishing our victorious inner connection with God and rising above our worldly limitations. From within us, the flame of God’s infinite light and love and peace extends outward to all quadrants of the universe, touching all beings, and transforming the entire creation. One tiny light can thus grow to illumine the entire cosmos. Boundless, infinite, immeasurable illumination – the Festival of Lights is celebrated both outwardly and inwardly on this joyous day.