Diwali is always incredibly special for all Hindus. The significance of Diwali Mahotsav or the Festival of Lights increases manifold when devotees celebrate it with Swami Mukundananda at the Radha Krishna Temple of Dallas – the official Headquarters of JKYog.
During this year’s Diwali Mahotsav from November 9 to 13, 2023, the beautifully lit Temple felt like Golok on earth in Swamiji’s divine presence. There were devotional vibes in each pillar, wall, and in the space between the floor and the ceiling of the Temple. The 5-day festival was filled with bliss for the devotees and wonderment for visitors. There were numerous devotional and fun activities to engage the community.
The evening of Diwali felt very magical from start to finish. The devotional Lakshmi Pooja was performed by devotees to seek the blessings of the Mother of the Universe for the wealth of divine knowledge. Just as beautiful was the Abhishek of Sita-Ram performed first by Swamiji and then by the Temple’s devotees. The devotees felt very grateful to receive the “Abhishek Patra” directly from Swamiji. The excitement peaked when youth representing Shree Ram, Sita, and Lakshman entered the Prayer Hall. They were greeted by Swamiji and other devotees. Temple devotees then carried the “Utsav Murtis” of Shree Sita-Ram, symbolizing their return from exile. Everyone joined the divine chants as the Ram Darbar procession walked down the marble stairs into the beautifully lit Temple courtyard – a representation of thousands of diyas that lit the city to welcome their Lord back to Ayodhya.
The celebration continued outside with pooja and Aarti of Shree Sita-Ram. The beautiful Diwali pooja was witnessed by many officials from the City of Allen and lots of community members and partners. All the participants were particularly impressed with the lighting of thousands of diyas.
Many officials from the City of Allen and local religious and partner organizations were invited to the Diwali Mahotsav at the Radha Krishna Temple. The guests who arrived and participated included the former Mayor Mr. Kenneth Fulk, Chris Schulmeister who represented the Mayor’s office, Mr. Sathya Sastri, the President of the Sunrise Rotary Club, Dr. Bill Parker, Allen ISD Board of Trustee, Laura Parker, and Latha Sastry. The guests participated in the ceremonial lighting of the lamp or Diya that symbolized the Festival of Lights.
The formal Diwali program continued in the Prayer Hall where Chris Schulmeister, on behalf of the Mayor of Allen, handed the Diwali Proclamation to Swamiji. He declared November 2023 as the Diwali Month for the city. He thanked Swamiji and the Temple for serving the Allen community in many ways, for including the community in all the wonderful celebrations, and for their generous contribution to the Allen Library and the school district’s scholarship fund.
The Diwali Message by Swamiji was a much-awaited moment as hundreds of participants and City officials took advantage of the opportunity to partake of the bliss of divine knowledge. Swamiji explained the significance of Diwali, the most joyous of all occasions for the Indian diaspora. He shared some philosophical tenets of Deepawali or rows of lamps. Referred to as the Festival of Lights in the Western world, Deepavali is founded on a historical event of how Lord Ram returned to Ayodhya from exile. Swamiji allegorically described Ayodhya as our hearts where Lord Ram is supposed to reside. However, we have exiled Him from our consciousness, which is why we are living a purposeless life filled with darkness. Diwali is the time to install the Lord back in our hearts.
Universally, the word “light” signifies the truth, wisdom, love, all that is noble, sublime and elevated, saintly, and holy whereas darkness typifies selfishness, pride, anger, greed, anxiety, and all unholy emotions. Swamiji advised us to bring the light into our lives to remove the darkness from within. We all realize that unwholesome thoughts do not make us feel good. Thus, although we strive to cultivate good thoughts, we do not know how to get rid of darkness.
Swamiji explained the meaning of a beautiful verse from the Bhagavad Gita (2.69) which means that what a saint considers to be day is night for the worldly people, and what is night for a saint is day for others. The night is when our consciousness has turned away from God, which is why we have forgotten our true identity as divine souls. This is the reason that we run after material objects thinking that these will provide the happiness we are looking for but do not feel satiated ever. It is this darkness of ignorance that makes us lead a hedonistic life. In contrast, waking up is when we become situated in scriptural knowledge, detach ourselves from lower pleasures, understand the purpose of life, and nurture noble and sublime thoughts in our hearts. Then our hearts will become a fit receptacle for God.
Another symbolism associated with Deepavali is that people clean their homes and decorate them with beautiful objects, however, the bigger priority for us is to cleanse our hearts to make them suitable for Lord Ram. Swamiji asked everyone to prioritize the purpose of life by cleansing our hearts – to purify the mind and generate thoughts of optimism, hope, and positivity. This cleansing process will enable us to win the battle over the inner enemy – the uncontrolled mind. When the mind is illumined with the light of God’s wisdom and loving devotion, then it will become our best friend. We should uplift ourselves with the power of our minds.
Deepavali is also the time for new beginnings. Swamiji encouraged everyone to resolve to lead their lives as per God’s desire. He also asked people to take stock of their inner state on each Diwali to see how we have progressed in our spiritual journey. If we are much further away from the goal, we must strengthen our resolve. We must not miss the tremendous opportunity that we have received, i.e., the human form with the faculty of knowledge, free will, and the desire to elevate our souls. Thus, we must make the most of this life by moving toward the light where every thought makes us feel good, and we wish to pursue goodness in all forms. So, using an inner compass, we will strive hard to make this a transformational year, so our hearts can become a “place” where Lord Ram would want to reside. Swamiji ended the lecture by describing the beautiful dialog between Lord Ram and Rishi Valmiki where the sage describes all the sublime qualities of devotees in whose hearts Lord Ram could reside. Also emphasizing the importance of the worship of Mother Lakshmi, Swamiji asked devotees to pray and ask the Mother of the Universe for the wealth of divine love for God, then each day of our lives would be Deepavali.
At the Sunday Satsang, Swamiji described the blissful sentiments of the citizens of Ayodhya and Lord Ram’s family members when He returned from exile. In a remarkably interesting twist to the epic’s story, Swamiji beautifully described the elements that made the Diwali celebration possible in Ayodhya. If it were not for the characters like Kaikeyi and Manthara, we would never have been able to celebrate Diwali. Encasing the value of such a celebration vis-à-vis the reality of the world, Swamiji explained that evil characters like Manthara exist in our lives to enable us to purify our sullied hearts.
Of the numerous takeaways, one important message was that one should not postpone auspicious things even for a single day, otherwise, they may lose something highly valued like the kingdom of Ayodhya. The underlying message was that we keep postponing our devotional practice knowing full well the purpose of life and how to connect with our soul beloved. Another critical takeaway was that adversities in life help inner growth and bring out the best in people if they remain spiritually awake. For example, we would never have known about the spectacularly selfless and sacrificing qualities of Lakshman, Sumitra, Kaushalya, and most of all Bharat. Shree Bharat’s extreme austerities, the purity of his heart, and the tremendous internal attachment to Shree Ram exemplify his surrender. He rejected the throne of Ayodhya and a life of opulence to practice severe austerities in a renounced state while dutifully managing the kingdom.
The underlying message was that we should contemplate the lessons of life that adversities present to us that we would have never learned otherwise. Thus, we should embrace challenges as the grace of God in the same way as we welcome happy events. The highly inspirational message uplifted all the devotees and visitors at the Temple.
Govatsa Dwadashi pooja is a unique festival dedicated to the worship of cows as an expression of gratitude for maintaining human life. In such a pooja, cows and calves are worshipped by putting a vermilion tilak on the forehead and adorning them with elegant fabric and a garland of flowers. They are also fed with nourishing food and an Aarti is performed as a mark of reverence. These rituals are a symbolic representation of cows as a form of Kamadhenu – the one who fulfills the wishes of the owner. However, for devotees on the path of Bhakti or devotion, the significance is associated with Shree Krishna’s or Gopal’s love for the cows and calves.
There was a beautiful pooja of real calves for the first time at the Radha Krishna Temple. Swamiji performed the sweet pooja rituals as guided by the Temple priests. The singing and dancing by devotees to the tunes of sweet kirtans enhanced the rituals and captivated everyone’s hearts.
The Govardhan Pooja beautifully commemorated the leela of how Shree Krishna protected his devotees. The beautiful Govardhan pooja, Annakoot for Shree Krishna, and Satsang brought devotees and community participants together to offer “Bhog” and participate in Govardhan Abhishek and Priti Bhoj. The icing on the cake was another beautiful message by Swamiji.
Swamiji's special address at the Govardhan Leela was about the importance of attaching the mind to God alone. If the mind is filled with worldly things, whether tamasic, rajasic, or even sattvic, the goal will not be accomplished. God wants single-minded or exclusive devotion or ananya bhakti from us. It is because the soul attains that to which the mind is attached. Our material mind is situated in the three gunas but God is gunatit. Thus, attaching the mind to God alone is the sovereign recipe for inner purification and ultimate God-realization.
With this background, Swamiji beautifully explained the significance of exclusively worshipping the Supreme Personality alone instead of celestial gods. Then, He described how the Brajwasis came to worship a mountain – Govardhan instead of Indra a celestial God. The beautiful description of the Govardhan and childhood Leelas captured everyone’s hearts – from how Shree Krishna foresaw the future, how He convinced the Brajwasis to do Govardhan Pooja, how Indra flooded Braj, how Shree Krishna protected everyone who took shelter under Govardhan mountain, to finally, how Indra apologized to the Lord after recognizing Him. Swamiji also provided a context for how Annakoot became an integral part of Govardhan Pooja. The heart-warming lecture was filled with Brajras and centered on Ananya Bhakti to allow all the devotees to perceive God as “mine” (instead of perceiving Him as the omnipotent Supreme Personality).
Diwali is the time for a variety of ritualistic poojas as it is associated with multiple festivals like Dhanteras and Kali Chaudas, and poojas in honor of Mahakali Ma and the Ram Darbar including Hanuman ji. There were numerous poojas on each of the five days of the festival. Many community members participated in Mahalakshmi pooja, Vishnu Sahastranaam chanting, and the 1008 chanting of Hanuman Chalisa. Swamiji and devotees participated in a beautiful Abhishek of Shree Radha Krishna on the first day and of Shree Sita Ram on the day of Diwali.
One of the characteristic features of all major programs and festivals at the Temple is the very high quality of cultural programs. Several professional dance schools participated in the Diwali celebrations, delighting the crowd with top-notch classical dances that represented different regions of India. They showcased our beautiful and rich cultural heritage.
Swamiji very graciously delivered special discourses at the Sunday Satsang, on the day of Diwali, and during the Govardhan Pooja. The special lectures highlighted the wisdom-filled teachings and also helped everyone to understand the philosophical basis of Lord Ram’s leelas. In addition, Swamiji’s deeply devotional and energizing kirtans left everyone in a packed Prayer Hall wanting more. He emphasized the importance of enthusiasm in bhakti or devotion. He encouraged everyone to sing kirtans with full enthusiasm by clapping hands to attract divine grace. No one wanted the festival to end, however, like all good things, this lovely 5-day Mahotsav also came to an end. All the devotees will count their blessings until the next Diwali and carefully contemplate the divine takeaways to elevate the quality of our lives.
We invite you to share your comments and experiences during the beautiful Diwali Mahotsav at the Radha Krishna Temple of Dallas (Allen).