Welcoming Charity to Diwali Festivities at the Ashram

By Rev. Jaspal Soni

Happy DiwaliDiwali or Deepawali is the biggest and the brightest of all Hindu festivals in India. It’s the festival of lights. It spiritually signifies the victory of light over darkness, good over evil, knowledge over ignorance, and hope over despair. Its celebration includes millions of lights shining on housetops, outside doors and windows, around temples and other buildings in the communities. The festival preparations and rituals typically extend over a five-day period, but the main festival night of Diwali coincides with the darkest, new moon night of the Hindu month of Kartika. This year the Diwali will be celebrated across India on Sunday, October 30.

Before Diwali, people clean, renovate, and decorate their homes and offices. On Diwali night, people dress up in new clothes or their best outfit, light up lamps and candles inside and outside their home, participate in family puja (prayers) typically to Lakshmi, the goddess of fertility and prosperity.

Happy Diwali - fireworksAfter puja, fireworks follow, then a family feast including sweets and an exchange of gifts between family members and close friends. Like Christmas, Diwali also marks a major shopping period.

Historically, the origin of Diwali can be traced back to ancient India, when it was probably an important harvest festival. However, there are various legends pointing to the origin of Diwali. Some believe it to be the celebration of the marriage of Lakshmi with Lord Vishnu. Whereas in Bengal the festival is dedicated to the worship of Goddess Kali, the dark goddess of strength. Lord Ganesh, the elephant-headed God, the symbol of auspiciousness and wisdom, is also worshiped in most Hindu homes on this day. In Jainism, Diwali has an added significance to the great event of Lord Mahavira attaining the eternal bliss of nirvana.

According to the epic Ramayana, Diwali also commemorates the return of Lord Rama along with his wife Sita and brother Lakshman from his fourteen-year long exile and vanquishing the demon-king Ravana. In a joyous celebration of the return of their king, the people of Ayodhya, the capital of Rama’s kingdom, illuminated the city with earthen diyas (oil lamps) and burst firecrackers.

Beloved Charity’s Presence at the Diwali Festivities

There is beautiful large public-park located across the ashram which is heavily used by both the young and old citizens living in the neighborhood. Normally, the busiest times in the park are early in the mornings before the sunrise until 10:00 am and in the evenings from 4:00 pm until the sunset. It is easy to notice groups of men and women of all ages who either drive or walk to the park, sitting on the benches or on the ground and engaged in their meditations and yoga exercises. Others can be seen playing cards or chanting and clapping mantras in groups or simply chatting.

The park has several kilometers of beautiful pathways surrounded by green shrubs and low-lying trees where people jog or walk either alone or with their families and friends while enjoying the Mother Nature. Last year, the park management officials installed several pieces of exercise equipment in a small open area to encourage the young generation to use it. Needless to say that it has been a successful experiment, humming like a beehive!

There is a staff of about 25 people consisting of land tillers, gardeners, sweepers and others responsible for the upkeep of the park. They live on the park premises with their wives and children in small shanty homes. Their wives also work part-time in maintaining the park. There are also about 10-15 children, up to three years of age living with them.

Jaspal and ashram serving dinner

On October 5, Chananda Cultural Society organized a charity dinner for the staff of the park workers. We ordered food from a near-by restaurant, carried it over to the park and served them in front of their homes. Some of them sat on the chairs while others on the ground in rows – men on one side, women and children on the other side. It was a humbling experience to go thru while serving and spending time with them.

Jaspal and ashram serving dinner

We have decided to make this a sacred ritual serving them dinner once a month. We plan to add an important spiritual dimension to it by sharing the teachings on the violet flame and the I AM Presence. Our next dinner date with them is the Diwali night of October 30. We plan to go there early that evening, decorate their homes with strings of electric lights as much as possible, do a little puja ceremony with them and then serve dinner followed by a delicious desert!

Children with dinners at the park

Thank you beloved Charity for your sweet presence!

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