Dipavali or Divali means a ‘row of lights’. This festival falls on the last two days of the dark half of Asvina (Sep.-Oct.). For some it is a three-day festival: the first day is Naraka-Chaturdasi, the second is Lakshmi-Puja on the New Moon day and the third is Bali-Padya. The festival of Dipavali is observed as the joyous commemoration of the victory of the Divine forces over the dark ones. On this day, according to ancient tradition, Sri Krishna killed the demon Narakasura. In our own bodies, egoism or Ahankara is the real Narakasura. Kill this egoism through the sword of Atma-Jnana or knowledge of the Self, and merge in Sri Krishna, the Supreme Light of the world, and thus enjoy the spiritual Dipavali or inner illumination.
Many Dipavali festivals have come and gone, and yet the hearts of the vast majority of people are as dark as the New-Moon night. The houses are lit with brilliant lights, but the hearts are full of the darkness of ignorance. O Man! wake up from the slumber of ignorance, eradicate your ego or Ahankara (the real Asura), completely, and realise the eternal Light of the Soul, through meditation, and Vichara or enquiry, and dispel the darkness of ignorance, and attain full inner illumination.
The screen that obscures the splendour and the light of the Atman is called the veil of Ajnana or Maya. Maya is Trigunatmika, viz., Sattva, Rajas and Tamas combined, Ajnana is manifest in the individual consciousness in three forms: Mala (impurity), Vikshepa (distraction) and Avarana (veil). After the destruction of the first two, it is on the final piercing of the Avarana that all dualities cease to be and the highest non-dual consciousness of the Atman alone shines there in all its radiance and brilliance. This truth is brought out to us by the battle between the Atma-Sakti as represented by Sri Krishna and the demon Narakasura, who is annihilated in the end.
The ultimate aspect of Ajnana (Maya) is nothing but the human ego which continues to persist to the very last, and it is a prolonged struggle by which the Sadhaka ultimately overcomes it and has Aparoksha Anubhuti or direct realisation. The ego of man persists right up to the threshold of Nirvikalpa Samadhi. We are told that ever, in one of the highest types of Savikalpa Samadhi, when all other aspects of Jiva-consciousness are completely eradicated; the mere feeling of ‘I am’ (Asmita) persists. We learn from this that it is only when we begin to go deeper and deeper into Dhyana that certain obstacles, deeply hidden Vasanas and Samskaras of bygone experiences, begin to make themselves felt. In the first superficial stages of meditation most of the deeply submerged Vasanas do not come up in the form of Vrittis, because they are deep down in the unconscious of the individual. It is only when the meditation proceeds and becomes deep that these hidden Vasanas suddenly spring up into life and begin to distract the inner meditation of the Sadhaka. It is the keen one-pointedness of the meditative mind, the absolute fixity of concentration, the Tivra Ekagrata, the Brahmakara-Vritti which is generated and held steadily that overcomes: the last attack of the suddenly aroused hidden Vasanas, in a final assault.
From the foregoing a great truth is revealed to us, viz., the ego is very hard to identify, to pin down, to catch and to destroy, for we do not know in what particular form it actually persists. Therefore, even the greatest of wise people, the most earnest and sincere of seekers and the cleverest of Yogis are, too, often deceived by the different forms and disguised shapes, which the Bahurupi (all-formed) ego assumes. It is a master-strategist. We will be looking for the ego in some particular form with a particular notion of its nature; but we will find that it is not there. And we will be caught unawares; we will be careless with a false assumption that the ego has now been completely removed. But to our surprise we will notice that the ego has always been there, that it has so completely changed its form that we do not find it in the form we thought of, but is in a totally different form which we did not at all recognise. Ego is the first son of Maya, it is a superb actor. No vigilance is too much on the part of the seeker, if he is determined to track down the ego to its last stand and destroy it.
The ego can deceive and enslave all parts of the seeker, but not that part which is formally and wholly given over to the Divine. The Divine cannot be deceived. The only insurance against the deception of the ego is a whole-souled giving ourselves to the Divine, so that we become completely merged in the Divine and allow the Divine to take complete possession of us. For, it is the Lord alone who can ultimately overcome Maya. No amount of individual cleverness can ever be of any avail in rooting out this product of Maya, ego, because the very fact of individuality is within the realm of Maya. Individual consciousness flows from Mula-Avidya (primordial ignorance). While you are in Ajnana, you can never perceive its nature in all its subtle aspects. It is by a complete handing over of ourselves to the Divine that we shall be able to get beyond the pale of our ignorance or Avidya. This is a very subtle truth which will be apparent only after much reflection, Vichara.
One should develop keen Vichara shakti (power of discrimination). Vichara is the greatest friend of the aspirant, well-wisher and guide at every stage of Sadhana, right up to the very end, until he is merged in Samadhi. Progressive aspects of finer and finer Vichara Sakti are indispensable companions to the Sadhaka on every stage of the ascent. If the leader is given but the army is not united in its willingness to accept him, there is bound to be dissension within the ranks, and this will hamper the smooth progress and outcome of the campaign. Even so, if the personality of the Sadhaka is divided against itself, and there are some parts unwilling to accept the new implications of the answered prayer and the working of Grace, these little parts can bring about a great deal of delay in the progress, spiritual evolution and the expansion of consciousness. With Vichara Sakti constantly active, with resolution firm, with faith abiding and deep in the Lord, one will have to pass through the critical stage; and once there is a total acceptance of the Grace and total surrender at the feet of the Divine, there can be no fear. Here it is the play of the Divine, and the part of the individual is one of only a mute, willing follower. From now on the Sadhana proceeds on a higher plane.
Here the ultimate annihilation of the ignorance is brought about. We may equate this stage with the Pratyahara, Dharana and Dhyana stages of the Yoga way, where the destruction of Ajnana in its finer aspects takes place. Again we are told in the scriptures that Brahma-Jnana is not a thing to be acquired, it is something which is already there in us eternally. The only requirement is that the thing which obstructs it has to be removed.
The truth which the different sacred observances and festivals symbolise is better understood and glimpsed when their scriptural background is impartially studied. Start regular daily meditation (those of you who are not regular, make a resolve on the sacred occasion of Dipavali) and Vichara, and feel for yourself the wonderous power that you derive therefrom. This is the real power of powers. It will guard you from all dangers, give you infinite strength to overcome all obstacles and take you to the very pinnacle of splendour, power, peace and illumination.
O Man, Awake, Arise! Sing the Names of the Lord. Worship and meditate on Goddess Lakshmi, the Abode of all virtues. Do Vichara. Turn a new leaf in the book of your life. Light the lamp of wisdom in your heart and dispel the darkness of ignorance–the perception of name and form. Behold now the Light of lights, the Atma within yourself. May all men’s hearts be illumined with wisdom!