Happy Diwali - A Talk by Giriraj Swami

Happy Diwali
A Talk by Giriraj Swami, October 25, 2003, Houston

We wish you all a happy Diwali. Diwali, or Dipavali, marks the end of the

year, and by the year's end we want to pay our debts, rectify our

relationships--and then try to do better the next year.

The Vedic literatures inform us that in the present age, Kali-yuga, the

recommended process for self-realization, or God realization, is the

chanting of the holy names of the Lord. Of course, we know that Lord Krsna

appeared about five thousand years ago and spoke the Bhagavad-gita. At the

end of the Bhagavad-gita (18.66) Lord Krsna instructed:

sarva-dharman parityajya

mam ekam saranam vraja

aham tvam sarva-papebhyo

moksayisyami ma sucah

"Give up all varieties of religiousness and just surrender unto Me. I will

deliver you from all sins. Do not fear."

But how do we surrender to Krsna, practically? It is a big question.

Therefore Krsna Himself came again about five hundred years ago as Sri Krsna

Caitanya and showed us how to serve Krsna and develop love for Krsna,

especially in the present age of Kali. He quoted one verse from the

Brhan-naradia Purana (3.8.126):

harer nama harer nama

harer namaiva kevalam

kalau nasty eva nasty eva

nasty eva gatir anyatha

"One should chant the holy names, chant the holy names, chant the holy names

of Lord Hari. There is no other way, no other way, no other way for success

in the present age of Kali."

Lord Caitanya Himself demonstrated how to chant the holy names. Actually,

there are two methods: In japa, one chants softly but loud enough that at

least he himself, or she herself, can hear. Our acaryas have recommended

that we chant on beads, japa-mala. I suggest that as a New Year's resolution

you all begin to chant at least one mala (round) every day, and that those

who are chanting already try to increase. Suppose someone is chanting two

malas every day. In the New Year that person can decide to do four malas, or

whatever he or she can manage. One mala will take five to ten minutes. So,

that is japa.

The other method is kirtana. As you know, kirtana means loud chanting, all

together, usually with musical instruments such as mrdanga, karatalas, and

sometimes harmonium. That collective chanting of the holy names of God is

very effective in the present age of Kali.

And what does chanting do? Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu explains,

ceto-darpana-marjanam: chanting cleanses the dirt from the mirror of the

mind. If you have a mirror and you want to know what you look like, you have

to look in the mirror. But if the mirror is covered with dust, you cannot

see. So we have to cleanse the dust from the mirror of the mind; then we can

know who we are. Now, in ignorance, we may think we're the body. We may

think that we're black or white or red or yellow; man or woman; American,

Russian, Chinese, or African. We have so many designations based on our

falsely identifying with the body. But ceto-darpana-marjana--when we clear

the dust from the mirror of the mind by chanting, we can actually see who we

are: not the body but the soul within the body. The soul is not black or

white or male or female or Russian or Chinese. The soul is pure spirit, part

and parcel of God, the Supreme Spirit, Krsna.

So chanting will cleanse all the dirt from the mind, or the heart. But how

does chanting work? A verse from the Padma Purana (quoted as Cc Madhya

17.133) explains:

nama cintamanih krsnas


purnah suddho nitya-mukto

'bhinnatvan nama-naminoh

"The holy name of Krsna is transcendentally blissful. It bestows all

spiritual benedictions, for it is Krsna Himself, the reservoir of all

pleasure. Krsna's name is complete, and it is the form of all transcendental

mellows. It is not a material name under any condition, and it is no less

powerful than Krsna Himself. Since Krsna's name is not contaminated by the

material qualities, there is no question of its being involved with maya.

Krsna's name is always liberated and spiritual; it is never conditioned by

the laws of material nature. This is because the name of Krsna and Krsna

Himself are identical."

The holy name of Krsna is Krsna Himself. Abhinnatvat nama naminoh: there is

no difference between the name and the person who has the name. In the

material world, or the relative world, there is a difference between the

name, or word, and the object. For example, if I am in the desert dying of

thirst and I chant "water, water, water, water," just chanting "water,

water" will not quench my thirst, because the word water and the substance

water are different. But in the spiritual world, the absolute world, the

name of the thing and the thing are the same. So when we chant the holy name

of Krsna, Krsna is actually present, dancing on our tongue. Thus, because

Krsna is all pure, when we associate with Him by chanting His holy name, we

become purified (ceto-darpana-marjanam). And when we become purified--when

we become Krsna conscious--we automatically develop all good qualities.

At present we have qualities that are good, and we have other qualities that

are not so good. Usually at the end of the year people make resolutions for

the new year--how they will improve in the new year. It may be that one will

try to not lose one's temper anymore, or try to not overeat. We make so many

resolutions, but after some time we fail in our determination because of

weakness in the heart. The one resolution that will eventually help us

develop all good qualities and keep our other, secondary resolutions is the

resolution to chant the holy names of God.

Diwali also commemorates the return of Lord Ramacandra to Ayodhya. You all

know the history of how Rama was banished from His kingdom into the forest.

In the forest Ravana kidnapped Sita and took her to Lanka. Then Rama and

Laksmana searched for Sita. They made alliances with many monkey warriors,

and eventually They came to the southern tip of India. They built a bridge

across to Lanka, and eventually Rama killed Ravana, which is commemorated by

Dasara, or Rama-vijaya-dasami. Then Mother Sita was tested in fire, and she

emerged pure. Rama, Laksmana, and Sita, accompanied by other associates,

returned to Ayodhya. So the residents of Ayodhya, to prepare for the Lord's

arrival, placed lamps on the rooftops and balconies--and celebrated His

return. Then Lord Ramacandra was installed on the throne.

So we also want to welcome Lord Rama (Lord Krsna) into our hearts. Just as

we clean the temple before we install the Deity so that the temple is a fit

place for the Lord to reside, similarly we each want to welcome Lord

Ramacandra into our heart, to install Him on the throne in our heart. But to

make our heart a proper place, a fit place, for Him, we have to cleanse it.

Therefore, on the auspicious occasion of Diwali, we chant the holy names of

Rama and Krsna--Hare Krsna, Hare Rama--so ceto-darpana-marjanam: the heart

is cleansed. Then we can welcome Lord Rama into our hearts and install Him

on the throne of our hearts and celebrate His presence.

So this should be our resolution: to purify our hearts so that the Lord will

have a proper place to sit there. And who could be more fortunate a person

than he who has Lord Rama, or Krsna, with him?

There are many Ramayanas, or histories of Ramacandra, but the most

authorized in Sanskrit is the Valmiki Ramayana. Consistent with that

version, the Ninth Canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam also contains a short

Ramayana. And at the end of the Bhagavatam's Ramayana, there is a statement

that during the reign of Lord Ramacandra all of the citizens were peaceful

and happy, just like in Satya-yuga. There are four ages that repeat in

cycles, like the seasons. Satya-yuga is the best of the ages, the golden

age. Then come Treta-yuga, Dvapara-yuga, and Kali-yuga. The Bhagavatam

describes that during the rule of Lord Ramacandra all the citizens were

religious and completely happy, healthy, and peaceful, just like during

Satya-yuga, although it was actually Treta-yuga. Srila Prabhupada comments

that by God consciousness, Krsna consciousness, one can invoke Satya-yuga,

or Rama-rajya, even in Kali-yuga. Therefore the same Krsna who appeared in

Treta-yuga as Lord Ramacandra appeared in Kali-yuga as Lord Caitanya to

introduce the chanting of the holy names--Hare Krsna and Hare Rama.

So if we take up the chanting of the holy names, we can not only invoke the

presence of Lord Rama within our hearts, or welcome Lord Rama into our

hearts, but we can recreate the situation of Satya-yuga, the situation of

Rama-rajya. Sometimes Srila Prabhupada remarked, "People want the kingdom of

God without God." But we cannot have the kingdom of God without God. We

cannot have Rama-rajya without Rama. But if we invoke the presence of God,

of Krsna, by chanting His holy names, we can have the same experience of

Satya-yuga in Kali-yuga. We can have the same experience of Rama-rajya,

when, as described in the Bhagavatam, Rama loved all of the citizens just

like a father loves his children, and all of the citizens loved Lord Rama

and obeyed Him just like children love and obey their father. By Krsna

consciousness, we can have the same situation even today. And if on this

Diwali you can take a vow, make a resolution, to chant every day in the next

year--and in all the years to come--that will bring you all auspiciousness.

We pray that the Lord will bless all of you in the year to come, and that

you will also take the blessing of chanting into the New Year.
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