Feeling Sober on a Saturday Morning

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Last night as I laid my head to the pillow, a red notification popped up on my phone. ‘Breaking News: Shootings and explosions in Paris’, it announced. The disaster had just happened, mere minutes earlier. There was very little information, just a handful of facts and speculations. I closed my eyes with a sigh and a prayer.

Earlier that evening at home we had sat around a live stream from Wembley Stadium of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s dazzling welcome reception to the UK. There was a sparkling stream of dancers, a full symphonic orchestra, giant rangolis in national colours, and much general hoo-haa. Modi spoke from the podium on India’s bright future, painting a vision of a country energised by solar power and high speed trains.

Meanwhile in the press, hundreds, including a long list of British Asian intellectuals, called attention to the apparent breaches of human rights that have been carried out on Modi’s watch. One went so far as to say that India is now being ruled by a ‘Hindu Taliban’. Others accused Modi’s travels of being merely motivated by the potential of foreign investment, ‘rupee bonds’ and good publicity.

In the midst of these two isolated events – one a £2m spectacle of money and patriotic pride, the other a spectacle of violence and devastation, approximately 900m Hindus around the world have been celebrating the festival of Diwali. Popularly dubbed the ‘Festival of Lights’, it traditionally commemorates several sacred events, one of which is the triumphant return home of Lord Rama, having defeated the demonic King Ravana in battle. Therefore the popular statements get trotted out – ‘light in darkness; good over evil etc’

It’s a lovely sentiment, but sometimes feels no more than an excuse for fireworks, samosas and a good old party. As I got the news about Paris – just one of many atrocious things happening right now in the world – it felt more like darkness is only just beginning to show its’ full manifestation.

Now I have no great head for politics; nor a great depth of spiritual understanding, but it feels like there are an awful lot of question marks in the air. Why is terrorism becoming the fear of our modern times? How can the crimes against humanity that have embedded such hate in the hearts of many, be unwound, or forgiven? Is religion to blame for all of societies’ ills? Where did it all begin, and will there ever be a brighter future?

The situation of the world, the depth of misbehaviour and corruption is difficult to comprehend – almost like sitting right up close to a movie screen – trying to look at it all at once just makes your head hurt. For most of us it’s easier to pretend it’s not happening, until it touches our life in a personal way.

In these times it is difficult to say who is right. Like the children’s book – ‘Which came first, the chicken or the egg?’, pointing a finger at one event only forces you to acknowledge that it was a preceding one that caused it. If you have a clogged drain, disgusting as it may be, you need to go to the source of the problem and deal with it, other wise no amount of ‘Mr Muscle’ is going to stave off the rising water for very long.

So yes, we celebrate the Festival of Lights, but I can’t help but feel that the light needed in our times is not from a handful of hot sparklers, nor freshly installed solar powered lights. An inner light is required to illuminate each person’s vision; to enable us to view all with respect and humanity; to value the opportunity to love and serve rather than exploit.

Otherwise what hope is there for Modi’s vision of a ‘clean India’, or any other large scale solution? As long as the root cause is left unaddressed, the devastation will rage on.




  1. just a small typo, i guess. the number of people celebrating diwali cannot be 15 billion. I think it would be close to 900 million.
    Great post though!

  2. The erosion of values in India is specially tragic, which has from the beginning of its civilization sought to base itself upon certain spiritual and moral values.
    I do not claim that India has always lived up to these values. I do not claim that Indians are necessarily more moral than any other people. But I do claim that the conceptual and ideological foundations of Indian culture have been on the basis of certain moral and spiritual principles.
    Gandhiji was very clear in his mind, and said that people who say that there is no relationship between politics and religion understand neither. We adopted as our national motto these words from the ‘Mundaka Upanishad : Satyam eva jayate ‘
    ( Truth alone triumphs ).
    The story of Sri Rama is probably better known in Indonesia, which is 85 percent Muslim, than even in parts of India. And we carried the message not through conquest, but through moral and spiritual power. Therefore, the claim that India has some message for the world is not simply a chauvinistic claim, it is based on our achievements over the last three thousand years and more.
    Today mankind needs this message more than ever before. Sri Aurobindo wrote that India is rising, so that it can bring the message of spiritual realisation and spiritual power to the whole of humanity.
    The spiritual gift of India to the world has already begun. India’s spirituality is entering Europe and America in an ever increasing measure. That movement will grow amidst the disasters of the time, more and more eyes are turning towards her with hope, and there is even an increasing resort not only to her teachings, but to her psychic and spiritual practice.
    A creative symbiosis could even at this hour dispel the darkness and release the psychic energies so urgently needed to meet crises like Paris.
    Based upon the collective wisdom of generations of seers and sages, the Upanishads and the Bhagvad-Gita stand as testimony to the magnificent spiritual endeavour and achievement of ancient India.
    Every country has developed a love for its own nationhood, but there are few that have had the capacity to rise above the imposing mansion of nationalisms and coceptualise the unity of the entire human race. Ancient India’s best minds have always held up the concept of mankind as a single family, ‘ vasudhaiva kutumbakam ‘. The relevance of this to the present human predicament is obvious.

  3. Nice article…thanks.

    I don’t know how many Hindus are in the world, but not possible to be 15 billion.

    Ys TS

    • Thank you so much for pointing out the error – as several others have! I wrote this article quickly, and should’ve checked those figures more carefully…I will amend!

  4. Hare Krishna. Appreciated your article. Insightful and thoughtful. You are gifted and should not stop writing. Suffice to say it has inspired me in my work. Take care.

  5. Thank you jahnavi devi. Until we see all people, what to speak of all living entities, as jiva atma these kind of mindless acts of terrorism and hurt will continue. We are all children of God- the same one God and creator. Without this higher level of understanding and respect people will not change their behaviour. This is sadly a symptom of kali yuga and why there is an urgency to share deeper spiritual consciousness with others. Hare krishna.

  6. Amazing read Jahnavi mataji…very deep point of what hope is there for Modi’s vision of a ‘clean India’, or any other large scale solution? As long as the root cause is left unaddressed, the devastation will rage on.

    I feel Prime Minister Narendra Modi is taking India into some direction. Unless people starts cleanliness drive they cannot understand spiritual principles as its said that cleanliness is next to Godliness.

    Please correct me if I am wrong.

  7. Nice. Salute to your humbleness.

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