What a beautiful shining night here! After a Shakti-filled puja with all of us drenched in the Divine, Jagat [Jagadananda Das] explained the significance of Divali, the night of a million lights, where candles light the landscape as far as the eye can see from the earth to the rooftops. It is a celebration of light over darkness on the personal level as well as the cosmic and the historic, where dharma, the essential nature of all beings and all forms, firmly takes root. Divali also celebrates the return of Rama from the epic battlefield of The Ramayana. He, as man and God, has vanquished the demon Ravana and freed his consort Sita to finally bring her home. As they enter the city, it is as though the light of all worlds has inextricably seized this moment, permeating all living beings with that Light. All is well. Divali celebrates this precise moment in us all at every level.
This Festival of Lights felt like a Live and Sacred Being who made Herself known in an unbroken flow from beginning to end. First, there was the 6 pm meditation. Then came the puja which seemed to invoke the divine from the inside out. Then the historic/cosmic/subtle meaning of Divali was given, which led seamlessly into a brilliant kirtan that built on itself again and again with our Brazilian guests giving it their all. The children joined in dancing and singing. Soon most everyone in the Meditation Hall was bursting in song from the very heart of us all. All divisions and divisiveness melted. We even drowned out the sound of the fireworks outside-- not from the noise we made, but from the feeling that enveloped the room. At one point, Swami Niranjan spontaneously sang out from the back of the hall to the far end where Jagat resoundingly replied. Almost everyone joined in, singing in caller-response with joy and abandon. It was just a vibrant, divine kirtan where-light-met-sound.
Dinner was served late after evening prayers, with sweets of many kinds offered to honor our beloved teacher Swami Veda who so delights in feeding his ever-expanding family with abundant prasad on Divali.
The following Thursday evening, continuing in the Divali spirit, Jagat led us in a one-hour non-stop kirtan. During the week before and after Divali, he also taught Sanskrit to students and guests who delight in his classes so much that one was overheard saying that he wanted to quickly finish his meal to go study Sanskrit in preparation for the next class.
(Photos courtesy of Nalini Behari)