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Deepavali
Spiritual Significance of
Prof. PR Mukund
Deepavali
P.R. Mukund, Ph.D.
Spiritual Significance
Transcribed and extracted from talks given by Prof. P.R.
Mukund. Transcription and editing was done by Dr. Anand Go-
palan, Shyam Ananthnarayan and Dr. Vanditha Mukiund.
Published by
The Foundation for The Preservation of Knowledge
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Website: www.jnyana.org
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Tara Prakashana, Bengaluru - India
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Website: www.taraprakashana.org
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Page - 01
Deepavali is a festival that is observed all over
India with a lot of fervor. Today when one asks the
lay person what Deepavali means, the rst answer
one gets is that this is the Festival of Lights. Prob-
ing further, if one were to ask “why does one light
lamps?” the answer one is likely to get is that it is to
dispel darkness or ignorance. Further questioning
relating to how the lamps help to dispel ignorance
is likely to result in confusion. Delving deeper into
Deepavali as it is celebrated in most parts of India,
we see that there are three specic events that gen-
erally take place over three days - Naraka Chatur-
dashi, Lakshmi Puja that takes place on Amavasya,
and nally Bali Padyami. All the days are spent
in joyous company of family and friends, sharing
food and sweets. While all this enjoyment is good,
one should also search for the deeper truth beyond
the revelry. What benet one gets from the celebra-
tion of a festival depends upon the level at which
the celebration is done. All festivals are symbolic,
with deeper meaning that needs to be understood.
Deepavali
Page - 02
Deepavali actually starts with lighting a lamp on the
south side of the house on Trayodashi the thirteenth
day of the second half of the lunar month, the south-
ern direction being the domain of Yama according to
Vedic scriptures. e common misconception is that
this is to ward o death! However death is the inevi-
table truth and has to be faced by everyone. So what
is it we are really trying to ward o? e Vedas say
tamasōmā jyōtirgamaya, mrityōrmā amrutamga-
maya. e amruta mentioned here is not freedom
from death, as is oen loosely translated, but a state
where there is no change of form. So the lighting
of the lamp on Trayodashi starts with this symbol-
ism. Next is Chaturdashi the fourteenth day of the
second half of the lunar month, the day Krishna got
rid of Narakāsura. Let us examine the name Narakā-
sura. is is not his real name; it is a moniker that
this asura was given to indicate that he is one who
gives naraka or suering to other people. So, on the
rst day of Deepavali one lights a lamp to symbol-
ize thankfulness to Krishna for getting rid of those
people who are responsible for suering to us and
people around us. So, if this has to happen, when we
light that lamp we should say there are those peo-
ple who ‘appear’ to give suering to other people.
We can only say ‘appear’ because we dont know
the reality and our perception may be distorted.
Page - 03
We are essentially saying “please protect us from
such people or forces.” Only aer this happens can
the way be cleared for Lakshmi to come into our lives.
In reected light one can imagine things to be
as one would like for them to be not as they are.
When that reected light is at its lowest - that is
when Lakshmi will come. Lakshmi not only rep-
resents wealth but blessings in eight dierent forms.
We pray that with all the forms of blessings that
Lakshmi gives us, we can see in the correct light.
On the next day, we celebrate Bali Pādyami. Bali,
contrary to popular lore, was not an evil man. He
had in fact taken an oath to grant whatever any
Brahmana might ask of him. However, this came
from the arrogance that he thought he had so much
to give. Also, he had an ulterior motive - he did
this because he wanted to be in Indras position.
at is why Vishnu came as a small boy, Vāmana.
We do Lakshmi Puja on Am-
avasya day. Why Amavasya?
Amavasya is when the moon
is at its smallest. ere is no
moon light or reected light
from the sun on this day.
Moonlight symbolizes what
is reected from ones mind.
Page - 04
then appeared as Trivikrama. So when we light the
lamp of knowledge on Bali Pādyami, we should ask
ourselves “what did Bali actually see?” What does it
mean when Vāmana turns into Trivikrama? What
Bali saw was that in one step Trivikrama covered the
whole earth. So, he saw Vishnu in everything on the
earth. In the second step he saw Vishnu covering ev-
erything in the antariksha - the heavens and other
spiritual worlds as well. So, Bali saw only Vishnu in
the entire known universe. ere was nothing le
in the universe where Bali didn’t see the Lords Feet.
en Trivikrama asked him “where can I place the
third step?” e ultimate oering to God is ones
own atma. So, Bali oered himself, nally, and said
“let Vishnu pāda be on me.” Interestingly, by oer-
ing himself to Trivikrama, he got everything he had
originally desired as well! Furthermore, Bhagavanta
tells him that when he has diculties, symbolized
by naraka, He will be there guarding Bali, so that
he will not suer. So, when we light a lamp on Bali
Pādyami, this is the thought process we should have.
He came and asked Bali for
three steps of land. Actually,
Balis teacher Shukracharya ad-
vised against honoring this re-
quest; however, Bali ignored even
his guru! Of course, Vāmana
Page - 05
OUR INNER LAMP AND SIGNIFICANCE OF
THE WICK, THE CONTAINER AND THE OIL
e cultures of the east pay a lot of attention
to lighting lamps. e question one might ask is
“what symbolism were people trying to incorpo-
rate into the “diya” or clay lamp.” Why not light a
candle or use a metal container for the lamp? One
can light a wick in an innite number of shapes.
Similarly a jīva can be given a body in many dier-
ent forms. us, it is ones good fortune that one
has a human form as sādhana sharīra namely, a
body that can enable spiritual progress. is body
is represented by the clay diya. e rim of the diya
is mostly circular symbolizing the dharma chakra.
Page - 06
We don’t light a lamp in an earthen pot. What makes a
diya sādhana sharīra is the pointed end in one portion
of the rim. is single point represents the focus of the
aspirant. If this pointed end enables the wick being
pointed upwards then and only then is the container
suitable for lighting a lamp. No one lights a lamp in an
earthen pot because there is no point of focus. When-
ever one lights a lamp the wick is always placed at the
pointed end, and extended a little beyond the lamp.
Our wise ones wanted
us to think about the
dharma chakra and
that dharma should be
an integral part of the
aspirant at all times.
However, not all round
vessels can be diyas.
Page - 07
is is so that the light burning is not inside the lamp,
it is just outside and dispels darkness beyond oneself.
Extending the symbolism further, if one looks
at the chakras in the human system, the sa-
hasrahara is actually just outside the physical
body indicated by the measure dashangulam.
e three major states of being are awake, sleeping,
and dreaming which happen naturally. However, the
fourth state turiya which exists a little beyond the
natural states can only happen if that pointed focus
toward Bhagavantha or the Lord is present. e wick
represents time or lifespan. Just having a body and ex-
isting in the three normal states is not good enough.
No one knows how much time one has or how long
the wick will burn. Oen people do things to try and
extend their lifespan. is is like trying to extend the
wick. e better thing to do is not extend the wick but
extend the portion of the wick outside the lamp. is
is the only true measure of how long the light will sus-
tain. A philosophical question that arises is whether
Page - 08
it is the oil in the lamp or the wick which is burning.
e answer is both. Oil is derived by squeezing a
substance hard. Only those things which have the
ability to feed themselves to the wick so that they
will light up and sustain the light when brought
in contact with the wick are used in a lamp. e
oil in the lamp provides the sustaining power.
e wick needs to be able to absorb the oil. If the
oil cannot provide the sustaining power the wick
will not be able to burn very long. You see this in
spiritual aspirants also who get very excited for
a few days but disappear at the rst sign of dif-
culty, basically not having the sustaining pow-
er. Finally, there needs to be a way for lighting the
wick. In the lakshadeepa utsav in Karthik masa we
see that one lamp is used to light another lamp.
Without another lamp that is already burn-
ing, having all the other ingredients of the new
lamp is pointless. Some force unseen has to
bring an already lit lamp and light this one.
If the soul or jiva actually turned into light symbol-
ized by the the wick turning into energy and lighting
is symbolizes that only a guru
can light a lamp in a shishya.
Page - 09
its surroundings, that in the end is what we refer to as
moksha; this small light becoming one with the larg-
est light. When we say merge, we are talking about
the knowledge and consciousness being similar in
nature to the Lord and thereby enjoying eternal bliss.
LAMPS WITH OILS AND GHEE
e shastras tell us that if one uses groundnut (peanut)
oil, the energy that comes from that favors asura shak-
tis. is is simply because anything that exists under-
ground can never see light. What is the point in tak-
ing some thing that has always been in darkness and
squeezing that to get light? Light from such a lamp can
only increase darkness in a spiritual sense. us, such
a lamp would only go to forces that exist in ajnyana.
e shastras also say that using sesame oil is better.
Sesame seed comes in two forms white and black. If
one has ever observed a Shraddha we use sesame seed
to oer tarpana to our genetic ancestors. e spiritual
aspirant has another set of ancestors from the lineage
of his gurus. e white sesame seed is representative
of these ancestors. us, the oil that comes from the
sesame seed, which is symbolic of squeezing all you
have learned from the spiritual lineage, also burns
and gives light. is energy goes to devata shaktis.
Page - 10
e ultimate lamp is where the medium is the ghee.
However, you cannot get ghee from squeezing
anything. Where does ghee come from? e start-
ing point is milk which symbolizes true knowl-
edge from the Vedas. For the milk to be turned
into solid curds, solidied knowledge, a drop of
curd, which is the guru upadesha has to be applied.
is solid knowledge,
when applied in daily
life or churned yields
navaneeta or true
bhakti which is sym-
bolized by butter. is
too has tamasic and
rajasic components.
When bhakti or butter is heated -represented by
challenges and diculties in life, and the tamasic
and rajasic components are separated and ltered
Page - 11
out, leaving behind ghee. is ghee is added to the
clay container - the sadhana sharira, causing the
wick, the lifespan of the aspirant, to be dipped in it.
When the wick is extended just beyond the lamp,
that is one lives beyond oneself, the lamp burns
giving true light. is light is true ythartha jnya-
na. is, the wise ones say, reaches Bhagavantha.
.
Once the lamp is lit and extends beyond one-
self, that is the only thing which will light an-
other lamp and continue the cycle. is is the ad-
hyatma in lighting a lamp during Deepavali. I
hope and pray that this adhyatma will be in our
hearts as we light that lamp this Deepavali. Let a
million lamps be lit and the darkness go away.
Prof. PR Mukund is an educator, researcher and en-
trepreneur. He is a Professor of Electrical Engineering
at Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester, New
York. He is also a keen student and teacher of Vedic way
of life. Prof. Mukund started Tara Prakashana, initially
in the USA, and subsequently in Bharat. is non-prot
organization has saved thousands of ancient Vedic man-
uscripts from disintegration, including the Sarvamoola
Grantha of Acharya Madhva. His work has been report-
ed worldwide, including BBC, CNN and MSNBC. Re-
cently he started the Foundation for the Preservation
of Knowledge in Peneld - New York, that focuses on
Preservation & Dissemination of Vedic Knowledge.
www.jnyana.org
Prof. PR Mukund
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Listen to this Vedic Discourse by Prof. PR Mukund