Diwali is the festival of light and it reminds us that the only way to negate darkness is with light and the only way to dispel all negativity is through positive thoughts, words and deeds. Darkness can only be vanquished with light and evil can only be vanquished with goodness. Anger or hatred cannot and will not be vanquished with more anger or added hatred. The theory of ‘an eye for an eye’ only makes all warring parties blind – blind to the truth, blind to collateral damage and blind to compassion.
Light The Lamp Of Peace!
The most common icon which captures the spirit of Diwali is the oil lamp, lighting up millions of homes and establishments with joy and hope. Zoroastrians also light oil lamps at home and at offices, not just on festive days, but, every day! We celebrate light every single day, be it while praying the Meher Yasht (hymn) or the Meher Niyaish (litany) to sunlight or while praying before a consecrated fire or a hearth fire at home.
We can choose to light a diva (on Diwali or Daily) mechanically or with deeper understanding and positive affirmation. As we all know, light carries the energy required to sustain life on earth and without light we are unable to see anything. Thus, while we light oil lamps to usher in light and dispel darkness, more importantly, since Ardibehesht (the Divinity of Truth and Righteousness and giver of good health) also presides over fire, we light the divo to celebrate truth, righteousness and invite good health and good living. When lighting the diva and simultaneously chanting the Yatha ahu vairyo five times, we should understand that we are not just dispelling darkness from our environment, but also dispelling the darkness of doubt, deception and depression from our mind.
With the recitation of each Yatha, we should affirm that our five senses (vision, hearing, smell, taste and touch) become more enhanced, creative and positive. Pray for foresight, pray that you hear no evil, pray that you smell success, pray that you taste love and pray that you touch lives in a positive way, each day of your life. When the mind is fed with positive affirmations, it begins to resonate with light itself and such a person starts to exude the light of life itself. A person who is very knowledgeable, wise and compassionate is called ‘enlightened’. The term ‘enlighten’ comes from the metaphor that ignorance is a state of being ‘in the dark’ and that knowledge, wisdom and compassion is illuminating.
Understanding And Unity!
As a community what is it that we need the most? While some say, “More houses for young couples,” others may say, “more entrepreneurs.” The moot question is, why is our prosperity on the downslide? Is it lack of enterprise? Has that ‘fire in our belly’ been snuffed out? Have our charities made us lazy and crazy? Sociologists may give us a hundred more reasons. However, to my mind, prosperity can only come if there is progress and progress is possible only if there is understanding and unity. Therefore, to my mind, what we need most is ‘Understanding’ and ‘Unity’.
Peace is an outcome of harmony characterized by the lack of violence (be it in thought, word or deed). Peace comes from ‘freedom from fear’ and the absence of hostility and vengeance. But, above all else, peace requires sincere and repeated attempts at reconciliation. However, unfortunately, we continue to divide ourselves within the community and over virtually everything – be it efforts to revive or sustain our community institutions or even an event for our youth or our priests. As a community, we much prefer to meet each other in the courts of law rather that sit across a community table and find solutions.
‘Hama’ means ‘together’ and ‘Zor’ means strength. It literally means: Strength that comes from togetherness or unity.
In the Zoroastrian tradition, there is a beautiful term – ‘Hamā-zor’ – which captures the spirit of peace, harmony and unity. In the Āfrin-ī-Gāhambār, we pray: “Hamā-zor bād vehāne haft-keshvar zamīn … emān avā eshān, eshān avā emān, hamā-zor ham-baher, ham-yāred,” which means, ‘May we all cooperate with the righteous men of the seven regions (the whole world) …. May we be one with them and may they be one with us. May we all benefit and help one another.’
During the Jashan ceremony, Zoroastrian priests offer a special handshake to each other reciting, “Hamāzor hamā asho bed” or ‘May we be united in spiritual strength, may we all be righteous in our actions.’
Religion Should Light Our Path!
Religion is a way of life and is meant to light the path ahead of us. Unfortunately, today, as a community, we talk about religion, argue about religion, fight for the religion and some are even ready to die for the religion …. We are ready to do anything and everything except live the religion, or live our lives according to the true precepts of our religion.
Let us endeavour on this festival of lights, to promote peace, tolerance and understanding. Let us endeavour to build and work on our strengths and try to ignore our weaknesses, for it is only our strengths that can give us the energy to correct our weaknesses. As a community, let us remain open to social and economic changes, but not at the cost of our values, ethos, culture or identity. As Mahatma Gandhi used to say, “You must open the windows of your mind, but you must not be swept off your feet by the breeze.”
Above all else, let us endeavour to become more tolerant of each other. Let us accept the fact that the very best amongst us, hold either traditional or liberal views. If a fellow Parsi Zoroastrian is either a traditional or liberal by conviction or on account of his/her upbringing, let us respect that individual’s right to his/her opinion.
In the courts, the only winners are the lawyers. No matter which side wins, the community collectively stands a loser. As a community, we should respond to all issues, social, economic or religious, with proper evaluation and a calm mind instead of reacting impulsively and without adequate thinking. Instead of being ‘Petty, Pretentious and Partial’ let us all, the orthodox and reformist together, strive for ‘Peace, Progress and Prosperity’!
This festival of lights, let us resolve that we will not just celebrate light, but, endeavour to become the light that will en-liven and en-lighten the lives of all those whose lives we touch.