Saturday, November 10, 2012

Ask a Brahmin: Divali (Festival of Lights)?

Wisdom Quarterly: ASK A BRAHMIN with Swami Adrishananda and Yogi Nandhi, Diwali 2012
Diwali: Lakshmi, Goddess of Wealth, on lotus with white elephants symbolizing Ganesha.
Kwan Yin, Mt. Emei, Samantabhadra (h20002h)
Wisdom Quarterly: What is Divali or as you say, Deepavali?
Swami Adrishananda: It is a five-day Festival of Lights that begins today, a grand celebration in India. As the days wane, cultures around the world celebrate light. The promise that spring will return after winter, that light and the Sun will triumph over dark and the cold. We are ringing in the good and the bright. Pagans and Christians in Europe deck the halls with boughs of holly, tinsel strips, vigil-candles...
WQ: So it is about renewal and holding hope in our hearts?
SA: In practice this pooja (observance) is all about the new, a new heart. Everyone wears new clothes and sings bhajans like on New Year's, "May old acquaintance be forgot..." [Listen: Auld Lang Syne]. Things are forgiven and one looks forward through the darkness in search of new light. Fresh garments, fresh thoughts, it's a new start. This is the meaning.
Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva
WQ: Tapas Yogi Nandhi says "higher consciousness" is taking place. He explains that in the past, masters like Maharishi Mahesh Yogi declared that when a tipping point or critical mass of the population meditate, humanity steps into the threshold of higher awareness, intellect, and peace. We gain stillness of mind (samadhi), the first objective of meditation, and that tranquility allows what he calls "the streaming Source energy."
SA: That is quite true. The eight-limbs of yoga, asht-anga or Raja Yoga, is Patanjali's formulation, like the earlier Buddha Gautama's formulation. Lord Buddha was a Hindu...
WQ: Not really, brahmana. There was no "Hinduism" at that time.
SA: His father the king followed the Vedas, India's scriptures, and the customs like Deepavali!
WQ: Those are the customs of the brahmins (temple priests who worship Brahma), not the shramans (spiritual wanderers who seek direct and self-reliant experience of the highest truths). They both aspire to become "noble," not by birth like caste-loving brahmins, but by karma, by their deeds in this life, like caste-rejecting shramans or shamans.
SA: But his father the king...
WQ: ...followed what his brahmin advisers and ministers advised, that's true. But he was a kshatriya (warrior caste noble). Many Indians say the Buddha was a Hindu as if there was no difference between Shankara's systematization of the Vedas, Puranas, Vedanta, and Patanjali's yoga sutras and the Buddha's message. But there are many points of difference. Was Mahavira [the founder of Jainism, who lived at the time of the Buddha, many centuries before Shankara) a Hindu?
SA: He is honored by Hindus as well, like Lord Buddha.
WQ: That's wonderful. But both the Buddha and Mahavira and the other "heretics" as well, rejected the Vedas as ultimate authority. It would be like Jesus...
SA: Who?
WQ: Issa.
SA: O, Christ.
WQ: Yes, it would be like Saint Issa rejecting Jewish scripture and writing a New Testament.
SA: They did! Christ was a Hindu.
WQ: Was Moses a Hindu? Well, then, we're all Hindus because India has such an ancient pre-India spiritual tradition. The Buddha didn't come to certify the Vedas or to say they are nonsense. They are very valuable. But that is not his message. The Buddha had something to say beyond that. And Lord Issa had something new to say. The Buddha and Marhavira became shramanas, like shamans. They taught their disciples, male and female, high caste and low caste, the way to attaining spiritual perfection in this life, not by being reborn as brahmins first.
SA: So the Buddha observed Divali?
WQ: Probably, everyone in India does. Not formally, Buddhists do not do it as a "Buddhist thing." But the Jains do do it as a Jain thing.
SA: Christ does, and the Christians call it Christmas. Christ lived in India and took that back to Jerusalem.
WQ: But the ancient Jews had a festival of lights, Channukah.
SA: That's Deepavali! Jews lived in India, in Jammu & Kashmir, and according to Swami Abhedananda came to study with the Buddhists.

  In honor of feminine energy Yogi Nandhi honors Narayani, wife of Vishnu

WQ: Why do you call it Deepavali and not Divali?
SA: The same. Dipa is light. This is in honor of Maha Laxmi (Great Lakshmi), the goddess and Lord Vishnu's consort. [Hinduism explains the Buddha as simply having been an incarnation of the triune God Vishnu.]
WQ: What about Radha, the divine feminine?
SA: The same. Laxmi represents Radha also and all the goddesses (devis).
WQ: Tapas Yogi Nandhi quotes Mahatma Gandhi: "The human voice can never reach the distance that is covered by the still small voice of conscience." And he says that still small voice of conscience in unison is very strong, with scientific backing. It enables minds/hearts to meditate, practice Raja or Royal Yoga, Reiki, Tai Chi, karate, labyrinth walking, contemplative practices to help us remember that we are really spiritual having a physical experience.
SA: Yes, he's right. All is one, and all traditions say to practice non-harming, ahimsa.
WQ: So it's everyday in every practice, but do you have a special celebration?
SA: Yes, today, in the foothills of the San Gabriel Valley. And I will be chanting Lord Buddha's mantra Gate gate paragate parasamgate bodhi svaha.
WQ: Actually that's not...
SA: Not what?
WQ: ...not a bad idea. We're all ONE on Divali. Avalokiteshvara would be glad to hear it, and there's one personage we can agree on.
SA: Namaste.

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