Thursday 1st March, 2007


Phagwa’s deeper message

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Our spiritual quest must not only focus on internal spiritual practice, but also on extreme activity for peace and human welfare.

By Paras Ramoutar

NO, Phagwa (Holi) is not the Hindu Carnival. It has a very transcendental message for all mankind. It is a message of truth, faith, honesty, graciousness and about life itself. Although it is associated with chowtal singing, shaking of jhalls, tassa drumming and the throwing of abir.

But what is this all about? Is it just sheer merriment, or is there another deeper, spiritual message?

How can one describe Hiranyakashipu’s behaviour not only to his son, whom he had begged dearly for, but to mankind? Has that message become a dead or irrelevant one with the passage of time?

How would one describe Hiranyakashipu’s attitude in the context of the functioning of Prakriti, and by extension the three Gunas or forces.

Legend has it that an old woman’s grandchild was to be sacrificed to a female demon named Holika and a religious leader in the community advised her that abuse and foul language would subdue Holika.

The old woman collected many children and made them abuse Holika with foul language, and the demon fell on the ground and died. The children made a bonfire of her remains.

A connecting chord to this episode is Bhakta Prahalad’s devotion to Lord Narayana and his subsequent escape from death at the hands of Holika.

Prahalad’s father, King Hiranyakashipu, punished him in a variety of ways to change his devotional mind and make him worldly. But he failed in his attempts and at last, he ordered his sister Holika (who had a device to allow her to remain unburnt even inside the fire) to take Prahalad on her lap and enter into the blaze.

She did so, and she subsequently perished. Prahalad remained untouched in the fire and kept laughing. He was not affected by the fire on account of the Grace of Lord Narayana.

As this story of Prahalad unfolds, we mortals must not look at it as just another story without any moral, ethical or spiritual relevance.

For sure, Hiranyakashipu did not measure up to the Sattvic aspect of the Prakritri which embodies purity, light and harmony. He failed that one too.

And look at the Rajas aspect which comprises passion, activity and motion, all of which failed as well.

Hiranyakashipu was a stubborn man just like many today. He was set to conquer the worldly objects, senses and pleasures. Look how this was a noble being on the threshold of conquering death and obtaining spiritual liberation through his devotion to Lord Narayana, and he quickly changed his agenda.

There is a being who has been and who will always be in charge of this world and our lives. This belief is echoed in other religions. Phagwa follows the religious Hindu observance of Shiva Raatri; and the Christian period of lent, all of which pay homage to a higher force.

Phagwa recalls the victory of the oppressed against oppressors and the ideal that supreme justice will prevail. It reaffirms that truth, goodness and justice will always be present.

There is no doubt that Prahalad suffered immensely at the hands of his father and aunt, but the story demonstrates that no matter what punishment one may receive at the hands of evil-doers, survival is certain once there is strong and unconditional faith in God.

Major family crisis

It was a major family crisis having its genesis in the innermost plateau of the conscience. It showed unconditional faith in Lord Narayana, because he had lived an exemplary sourced from the rich Hindu philosophy.

We need more Prahalads. We have too many Hiranyakashipuses in our world society. This year’s Phagwa must help us to identify them and see how best we can help them out of their Tamasic state of life.

We must woo the Prahalads in our society into sensitising others to become clones of the ideal one. Let us, therefore, give Phagwa a microscopic power to examine and solve our problems.

Phagwa affirms the concept of divine omnipresence, whether on our tiny planet of the billions of galaxies spread across the Infinite Universe. Each and every individual, regardless of religion or nationality, race or ideology, embodies a spark of Divinity.

The highest goal of life is to fan this spark within each of us and allow it to blaze into spiritual realisation. So it is known that all humans have the divine spark, then the entire human race represents a single extended family, and in the final analysis, the inner spiritual link that binds human beings together is stronger than outer differences which divide us.

Phagwa emphasises the dual goal of human life: spiritual release of our individual souls from bondage; and the welfare of society and the world community.

Our spiritual quest must not only focus on internal spiritual practice, but also on extreme activity for peace and human welfare.

Let us get rid of the negatives that continue to pervade our lives. Let us start now. Happy Phagwa.

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