Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Cheating Death

In three days we are going to celebrate the festival of Deepavali.

Yama Deepdaan is the first day of Diwali celebrations in North India and Gujarat. It is also known as Dhanteras.
Legend has it that a 16-year-old son of King Hima was destined to die on the fourth day of his marriage due to a snake bite. A girl agreed to marry the unlucky prince knowing his ill fate. The young bride was confident of her spiritual wealth and decided to save the prince. On the fourth night, after their marriage, she refused to let him sleep. She collected all her jewellery, ornaments, and also the gold and silver coins in the palace and placed them in a heap at the entrance of door. Then she lit innumerable Diyas (lamps) all over the palace. To keep her husband awake, she narrated tales and sang songs.

At the stroke of midnight, Lord Yama, the God of Death, reached the palace in the guise of a snake. But Yamraj’s eyes were blinded by the dazzle of the Diyas. This prevented him from entering the room where the young bride and prince was sitting. When the attempts to enter the room failed, Lord Yama hid near the ornaments and coins, thinking that the prince might come there to look at the valuables. But the clever young bride did not allow the prince to venture out and soon sun appeared and Lord Yama returned disappointed.

As usual the legend has a deeper meaning for each one of us to move to our real purpose in life.
Visitation by death is an inevitable fact of life. All that is created must move towards dissolution or dispersion. The third law of thermodynamics also states the same and hence the entire heat energy which is the signature of created matter must ultimately move to the absolute zero temperature. This is the eternal death of this creation or Brahma’s night or the domain of Yama. This is the physical aspect of one’s life but there is also the spiritual dimension. Though there is no death of atman or the soul, in its embodiment in creation there is a process of contamination which occurs due to a lowered level of divine consciousness and the life purpose is to purify one self of the accumulated karma so that the process of rebirth or samsara can be eliminated. Death signifies another beginning and defeating death means the process of unification of the created with the creator.
Lighting the lamp to ward of death symbolizes the higher knowledge or enlightenment.
The jewellery ornaments, and also the gold and silver coins in the legend are the created realities to which the self gets attached. This is the reason that though Yama is dazzled by the light of wisdom he hides near the created reality waiting to trap the created consciousness when it approaches this false reality. Yama taking the form of a serpent, which in all spiritual tradition symbolizes wisdom, is the earthly and sense oriented knowledge that leads to lower level of consciousness that poisons one's spiritual life.

As we start the season of celebration let this thought reside in all our minds. Kama (desire) and Artha (wealth) are only a means of livelihood but should be moderated by Dharma (right conduct) and we need to move away from its false sense of permanency to focus on our life's real purpose, which is to defeat death and attain divine union.

A very Happy Deepavali to all of you.


  1. thsi story really highlights how spiritual life in linked to the renounciation of wealth and material holdings...

  2. Defeating death and attaining divinity through enlightenment is fine.After a point it seems possible to be detatched from the desire to accumulate.But, is it truly possible,to give up fond ,affectionate ties? It sounds meaningless to pursue any kind of search unless you have someone to receive your thoughts or accept you as you are. My stand is we must build up stronger and deeper desire for human relationship, inorder to have a glimpse of divinity.

  3. A new story about Deepavali with invigourating hidden meanings!!!

  4. Francois, thanks for your comment.

  5. Subathra, your statement "It sounds meaningless to pursue any kind of search unless you have someone to receive your thoughts or accept you as you are" is driven by the ego expectation. Any type of desire ultimately leads to sorrow as there is clinging and we find it difficult to let go. We need to transcend this stage in life and 'sanyasam' really means this letting go in one's life.
    Thanks for your uninhibited sharing.

  6. SINTHANAI SITHARAL, thanks for your feedback.

  7. Subathra, I have a friend on Facebook, David Riewe, who shared with me the following thought from the Buddha. This is the type of relationship that we need to develop.
    ""In the seventh verse of training the mind the text, 'all my mothers', refers to all living beings. Through his omniscient wisdom Buddha realized that there is not a single living being who has not been our mother in the past, and each one of these mothers has shown us infinite kindness. Because we cannot recall our previous lives, and because the aspect of our mothers changes from life to life, we do not recognize them or remember their kindness; but this does not alter the fact that all living beings are in essence our kind mothers. If we regard all living beings in this way it will be easy to develop pure love and compassion for them.

    Even though we may find it difficult to prove for ourself the truth of the view that all living beings are our mother, we would neverthe less be wise to accept it because there are enormous benefits in doing so. We should understand that ultimately nothing is true except for emptiness. Conventional objects such as people, trees, atoms, and planets have a relative degree of reality that distingueshes them from non-existents such as 'square circles' and unicorns; but only the ultimate nature, or emptiness, of phenomena is true, because it is only emptiness that exists in the way it appears. Objects exist only in relation to the minds that cognize them. Since an object's nature and characteristics depend upon the mind that beholds it, we can change the objects we see by changing the way we see them. We can choose to view ourself, other people, and our world in whatever way is most beneficial. By steadfastly maintaining a positive view we gradually come to inhabit a positive world and eventually a Pure Land."

    This does not mean when you see someone suffering you say "its an illusion", "its not real", "its only a dream" and turn away. Buddha and Christ recognized conventional truths as well as ultimate truth and would help those people.