Diwali or Deepavali is the festival of lights, the festival of joy, prosperity, knowledge, wisdom and more. It is not enough to just light one lamp. We need lots of lamps to be lit for knowledge to blossom and for the darkness to be dispelled. A physical lamp is just a symbol and it represents you. You have to lit up with vibrance, with joy and full of prana (life force) and that is the real festival. And this can only happen with knowledge, not just with comforts, gadgets, money or friends.
Real happiness comes with knowledge. We worship Goddess Lakshmi, as a symbol of thanksgiving to Mother Divine for the protection and blessings we received in the past year. We pray to renew our connection with the divinity. Anyone who is in touch with the divinity has no dearth of anything. The divinity is everywhere but it is dormant, and pooja (prayer) is the process to awaken it. The Pandits chant a very ancient prayer, which is said to be one of the first prayers of mankind from the Rig Veda-the Sri Suktam. Before that, Lord Ganapati is invoked, to remove all the obstacles. Then kalasha pooja is performed, with a pot of water, where all the divine beings are invoked and prayed to for blessings for everyone on this planet, so that they are bestowed with a good mind, a good heart, a good intellect, and wisdom. Pooja is that which is born from the fullness of your heart, is Puja.
Honoring is a sign of divine love and Puja is the art of honoring the divine. The ceremony of puja imitates what nature is already doing for you. The Divine worships you in so many forms. In puja, you offer everything back to the Divine. Flowers are offered in puja. The flower is a symbol of love. The Divine has come to you in love through so many forms: mother, father, wife, husband, children, friends. The same love comes to you in the form of the Master to elevate you to the level of divine love, which is also your own nature. Recognizing this flowering of love from all sides of life, we offer flowers. Fruits are offered, because the Divine offers you fruits in due season. You offer grain, because nature provides you food. A candle light and a cool camphor light are offered; in the same way as the sun and moon in nature nourish you, revolving around you. Incense is offered for fragrance. All the five senses are used in puja, and it is performed with deep feeling. Through puja, we say to God, “Oh, whatever you give to me, I give back to you.” Puja is honor and gratefulness. There are many benefits of a yagna ritual. It is known to bring yasha (good name), pragya (heightened consciousness), vidya (education), buddhi (knowledge), balam (strength), veeryam (valour), ayush (long life), aishwaryam (wealth), and many more.
“There are three types of energy in each person.
- Iccha-shakti (willingness of a person)
- Kriya-shakti (the energy to function)
- Jnana-shakti (wisdom)
Similarly, there is Mahakali (symbolizing power), Mahalaxmi (symbolizing material wealth) and Mahasaraswati (symbolizing wisdom). These are the different aspects of life that are governed by the subtle energy, and pooja is a way of connecting to the subtle world. The world that we see is just a tip of the iceberg because there is so much more. Now, how do we do that? We just have to sit in deep meditation and listen to the mantras; bathe in the mantras, which we call Mantra Snanam in India, and has recently become more popular as sound bathing in the west. The vibrations of these ancient chants energize our whole self or the soul.
Though we may not understand everything that is happening in the pooja, we just sit with eyes closed or eyes open and absorb all that is happening. That is what is called shraddha, which means falling in love with the unknown. We know that there is something, but we don’t know what that is. Once we fall in love with it, we start knowing it. Then you feel, “Wow, this is energy.” Then you realize that Mother Divine is not just a concept that has come from somebody’s mind, it is a reality.
There are two steps – love the unknown and once you do that you start knowing the unknown, you will realize that it is a part of you and not different or away from you. This is the Veda and the Vedanta, i.e., knowing the Divinity and merging into it.