BALAM PICHKARI! Throw colors and get lit-that’s Holi right? It’s a festival of colors to celebrate Spring. That’s all I thought Holi was until last year, when I was on Twitter and following Amitabh Bachchan. I saw him post a picture of Holika Dahan the day before Holi I was like WOAH WAIT…Holi has a story? *NEWSFLASH* Yes it does. So growing up I learned Bharatnatym, and I have also done enough cultural dances on the Avatars of Vishnu and could tell you the story of Hiranyakashipu by heart. However I didn’t know where this fit in in terms of festivals and the rest of the stuff we do. So after reading Mr. Bachchans tweet, I decided to look it up and I was like “OMG”.
Long story short, there was a King named Hiranyakashipu who thought he was God, his ego was higher than Mt. Everest and he believed he was as powerful as God. He asked God to make him indestructible by asking for a few boons, and he wanted everyone to worship him because he believed he was God.
His son Prahalad disregarded his father, and knew who God was and refused to believe in what his father thought of himself. He knew this truth, he knew who he was and who God was. Hiranyakashipu hated this, and he tried many attempts to punish his son-none of which worked. He then told his sister Holika, to trick Prahalad into burning him on a Pyre. Holika had a cloak on that made her fire resistant, however during the attempt to burn Prahalad in the Pyre, the cloak fell on Prahalad and left Holika burning to ashes. Then God came to earth, meeting all of Hiranyakashipu’s boons to defy them and eliminated Hiranyakashipu.
So what does this mean? In my interpretation it is:
- You must stick to your truth. Only we know what’s best for us. Dharma will always win. Dharma is doing what your duty is in that context. Prahalad chose not to partake in the actions that were against what he felt was right by sticking to his truth, and in the end things worked out in his favor. Sometimes, our greatest opponents of truth can come in the form of our own family-that doesn’t mean you stop loving them-that means you continue to stick to your own truth. If you truly know what’s best for you it will feel right, it will be in harmony with you as long as you are in harmony with yourself. On your journey not everyone will be your biggest cheerleader, not everyone will be onboard with what you are doing, but what they think of you is their problem. In this story Prahalad didn’t feel right about Worshipping his own father as God, he knew it was wrong and he stuck to his own truth regardless of what anyone said or did. His own aunt tried to burn him, but he didn’t try to stoop down to that level, he did what was right. How many times have we been in situations where it has been sticking to our truth vs giving in to someone or something? Maybe our boss, friends, or family, at some point or another have asked us to do something that we didn’t feel was right for us. I believe acting in line with your dharma is doing what’s right for you and only YOU know that.
- Ego, humility, human tendencies. Does the scenario of person A wanting respect, person B avoiding it, and person C attacking person B sound familiar? This is not a new plot. Many time us humans get carried away with our own selves. Ever heard of people having defining moments? Do we sometimes get carried away with ourselves and what we define as “ our accomplishments “ that “we” did because “we are so awesome?”, and then quite soon we have moments where “ life happened” and we had a “ humbling experience?” That’s because us as humans have our own ego’s and sometimes get carried away thinking “I’m the man/woman” when it’s not us but it’s a higher-power working through us. When we are able to accept this, life is a lot easier. “If you don’t remember where you cam from, God will make sure you go back” When we accept this, we understand that nothing is in our control, we don’t control anything and the best we can do is to live life in the flow, and be grateful for every moment and everything that happens because that’s exactly how life is meant to be lived for your own higher purpose. In this story Hiranyakashipu represents humans when our ego gets inflated, God on earth destroying, is those “ defining life happening moments” that happen when our ego goes beyond us. Holika represents our own lower tendencies/negative thoughts and attitudes that sometimes take over us when we want to be in control.
So in my interpretation, the burning of Holika is destroying the negativity within us. I think it’s a great day of all of us to stop and reflect on our life. Asking ourselves, are we acting in line with our truth? And are we humbling ourselves at every level? Last thing we want is a “ defining moment” where everything we have comes crashing down to humble us on our knees. I believe by humbling ourselves first we can put ourselves at a better point to grow with humility. There is a saying that “God gives us what we can handle & are ready for.” In the story, Hiranyakashipu was given what he wanted but he didn’t handle it well and it was taken away. We can and should prosper, but in parallel with internal growth; humility vs with an inflated ego about what we have. I agree that this requires A LOT of introspection, but I also believe that life is easier when we become stronger, and choosing to strengthen and build ourselves. I’ve had plenty of defining and humbling moments in my life, and one thing that was told to me by a good friend which I always like to keep in front of me is” This too shall pass.” Whether it’s a good day or bad day, it will pass. Reminding ourselves that we are on a journey of life and we aren’t in control, keeps us grounded & aligned, and helps us to stay humble and grateful. But, it’s a choice we must make every day to choose to be humble and grateful!
So this is story #1, the second story of Holi will be shared in the next post as to WHY we use colors! Below I have a wonderful perspective that was shared with me, that goes slightly deeper than my interpretation into the different spiritual aspects of the story.
A Spiritual Viewpoint
In this specific story, Hiranya means gold (representing addiction to material things) and Kashipu means mattress or cushion (signifying physical comfort/stagnation without growth). Hiranyakashipu represents growing materially without growing from within in terms of your attitude of gratitude in life, and seeking a mindset of humility and prosperity. In the age of an intellectual based society, it’s important for us to grow our mindset and seek knowledge & understand vs blindly following things we don’t understand-doing without understanding is what leads to eventual stagnation as generations move on.
Hiranyakashipu represents our ego, refuse to accept our true nature as infinite-divine-consciousness (Vishnu). Ego (ahm-kara) means our assumed personality, we hold an idea about ourselves as an individual with body-mind-intellect. Throughout our life we struggle to overcome the limitations/defects of this sense of individuality and longing to experience the wholeness. Spirituality is enhancing or dissolving this sense of individuality (ego) to our universal divine identity (Brahman). When an individual firmly decided to bring changes in his/her life, ego creates boundaries in mind for its survival. These are the five boons illustrated in the story. We will explore what is the meaning of each boon.
- Killed by neither a human being nor an animal: A seeker will start purifying his physical body, through discipline of YOGA and austerity. Body is the main field of Ego and it carries lots of karmic patterns (impressions). Removal of these patterns will destroy body identity and loose the grip of Ego. By denying physical austerity, Ego is securing its survival.
- Neither indoors nor outdoors: Creating an environment for spiritual practices within your house (pooja, meditation room) or external facilities (temple, ashram etc.) will endanger the survival of Ego.
- Neither at day nor at night: Certain time and day are very conducive for the spiritual practices. Eg: Maha Shivaratri, Ekadasi etc. Ego doesn’t want you to benefit from these occasions in your spiritual progress.
- Neither by astra (projectile weapons) nor by any shastra (handheld weapons): The astra symbolizes prana and shastra implied to Upanishads. A spiritual seeker may attempt to understand how the vital (prana) forces works and use them for the spiritual gain. Ego will try to prevent the inclination to learn Upanishads (shastra) and other spiritual text. Eg: people will say, I have not time for study and practice of YOGA. You should recognize the interference of Ego in your life.
- Neither on land nor in water or air: By creating aversion in your mind, Ego is hindering you in visiting spiritual places (holy land and rivers) and meeting knower-of-Self, understand that Ego is securing his survival.
Prahalada means the one who always ecstatic with inner joy. He is always joyful and unaffected with the situation around, because he received the Self-knowledge from Narada Maharshi (Guru) when he was in the womb of his mother. Holika is our inner tendencies that always works against our spiritual progress. Even when you attained the highest spiritual experience, lower tendencies rise and try to derail abidance in our true nature. Time after time these demonic tendencies take us on fiery experiences in life. Those who are completely absorbed in to the divine aspects of our existence will not affected by these tests in life.
Just to allude back to the earlier, paragraph, it is told that Vishnu came as a half man-half lion, at dusk, sat on the edge of the house, and use his lion claws to kill Hiranyakashipu. This met and defied all of his boons!
“The Indian Girl”
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