Light is central to so many of the fall and winter holidays. Both Diwali and Hanukkah are known as “Festivals of Light.” Diwali with its many lanterns and lamps celebrates the safe return of Ram and Sita to their
kingdom after many years in exile (and an escape from a demon king and his army). Diwali also celebrates the triumph of the light of wisdom over the darkness of ignorance. Hanukkah with its menorahs commemorates the rededication of the Temple of Jerusalem after it was destroyed. At the time of the rededication, there was just one day’s worth of oil left to keep the temple menorah burning. But tradition says a great miracle happened: the oil lasted for eight days. Kwanzaa begins with the ritual lighting of the first of seven candles that represent the core principles of: unity; self-determination; collective work and responsibility; co-operative economics; purpose; creativity; and faith. Christmas with its many lights and candles celebrates the birth of Christ, who in the book of John says, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” And the Winter Solstice falls on the longest night of the year and celebrates the rebirth of light and the return of the life-giving Sun, literally the life-giving light of the world, as the days begin to lengthen again.
Beautifully, all of these traditions celebrate in their own way the victory of light over darkness, literally and metaphorically. In the tradition of Yoga, the goal is enlightenment - to be enlightened. The word “light” is built right into the goal! In the December Jivamukti Focus-of-the-Month, Camilla Veen writes, “What is realized in the enlightened state is the ‘oneness of being,’ that we are all one and that we share the same consciousness.”
All of these traditions—all religions and spiritual paths—may be thought of as rivers that are flowing back toward one Luminous Source, or one Ocean of Grace, or simply the One. They all came from it, and they all return to it. It’s all One, and we’re all One. Holding up one finger, “It’s all One” is what Mahara-ji, beloved Guru of Ram Dass, would often say. May this Season of Lights remind us of the victory of light over darkness, of good over evil, of justice over injustice. May we practice seeing others as holy beings who are doing their best, just like we are. May we remember our unity, our interdependence, our Oneness.