The Darkest Night of the Year
October 18, 2017
Right now in India people everywhere are beginning the festivities for Diwali—a holiday celebrating the reappearance of light in the world. Diwali commemorates the return of the avatar, Rama, and his wife, Sita, to their kingdom of Ayodhya after winning the war against the evil king, Ravana, and his forces of darkness.
Beautiful, elaborate displays of lights are seen everywhere during this holiday—on houses, shops, and along the streets. People visit family and friends, exchange gifts, and paint and clean their homes. Despite the great diversity of religions here, this joyous holiday belongs to all of India.
Interestingly, however, the date for this celebration of light is chosen to fall on the darkest night of the year, according to the phases of the moon. As the night of Diwali begins to descend, homes are magically illumined with tiny earthen oil lamps placed in special locations. One lamp is always placed at the threshold of the house, representing the juncture of the outer and inner worlds, or more subtly where our outer and inner selves intersect.
The spiritual symbolism here is multileveled and beautiful. In our own lives, God’s light can often be found especially during the dark times of tests and trials. At the threshold of giving up all hope, if we light an inner flame of devotion, then God’s light enters our heart and dispels the darkness.
In our meditation practice, if we reside in peace amidst the seeming darkness of inner awareness, and remain attentive at the threshold of silence, then we enter (perhaps, to use Master’s colorful phrase, after a “probationary wait”) the realm of divine light and joy. In Ananda’s Festival of Light ceremony, we sing a song by Swami Kriyananda with the words:
“Out of the silence came the song of creation.
Out of the darkness came the light.”
Paramhansa Yogananda had a profound experience as a child one day when he was meditating. “What is behind the darkness of closed eyes?” he asked inwardly. An immense flash of light appeared before his inner gaze, and took on the form of saints meditating in caves. The forms dissolved, but the silvery beams expanded outward to infinity.
“What is this wondrous glow?” he asked.
A voice answered, “I am Iswara. I am Light.”
Yoganandaji goes on to write: “Out of the slow dwindling of my divine ecstasy, I salvaged a permanent legacy of inspiration to seek God.”
Diwali is a celebration of the light that shines through the darkness, of the victory of virtue over evil, and of the inner transformation of all of our darkness into divine consciousness. May it also serve as a reminder to us to continue to seek God always.
We wish you all a very beautiful Diwali season—now and until you are filled with God’s light.