Moral Combat: Deepavali’s Message for You(th) Leadership

Moral Combat: Deepavali’s Message for You(th) Leadership

Will Deepavali (or Diwali) this year be the same for those who celebrate it? We hardly think so.

Coronavirus pandemic has already affected the global festive atmosphere, including the recent Muslim’s Prophet Muhammad’s Birthday (outbound link in the portal). As this piece is being written (5 Nov), there are already more than 8 million COVID cases with more than 120,000 deaths in India alone. This number, by itself, does not include  Indians from all other parts of the world.

We usually rely on the surrounding vibes to be in the mood. Now, with this year’s dim festive weather, how about having the brilliant illumination of Deepavali rekindled even brighter from your inside?

For that, you need to discover what is the significance of Deepavali celebration beyond having murukku and decorating the kolam (rangoli), particularly from your point of view as youths.

Let’s say that you are the kind of youths who have great awareness and concern about leadership, good governance and politics. Did you know that the tales signifying the celebration of Deepavali also revolved around these matters?

1. Good King Sri Rama versus Evil King Ravana

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One of the tales that originated the Deepavali celebration was the inspiring Ramayana triumph of good over evil – when virtuous King Sri Rama’s army defeated the evil King Ravana’s. The day of Deepavali was said to be the day King Rama and his allies returned to his land, Ayodhya, and subsequently bethroned as the emperor. The Deepavali’s ‘festival of light’ then was a reminiscing of the celebration, wherein the city was lit with the diyas (the oil lamps) much as you do today.

In the literature, the conflict arose when King Ravana of Lanka abducted Rama’s wife, Sita, and forced her to marry him instead. Through all obstacles, battles, and strategies, King Rama himself led his allies and army to Lanka to defeat King Ravana, threw him out of power, and rescued Sita.

Some argued that King Ravana was wrongly depicted to become the antagonist of the story. They reasoned that King Ravana was a well-versed Vedic scholar, a faithful devotee of Shiva offering bhaktis, and well-versed in statecraft, medicine, astrology and martial arts, which indeed he was.

However, King Ravana’s arrogance and insatiable desires made him greedy for more power, wealth, and pleasures to fulfil his every whim – those of which made him an evil ruler. King Ravana was said to acquire his throne through felony . He expelled the original King who was also his half-brother, Kubera, from the island. 

On the contrary, King Rama was humble, pious and was the epitome of morality in the Indian tradition. He possessed great leadership quality and dubbed ‘maryada purushottam – a man possessing exceptional qualities of religious behaviour, inner moral principles, ethics, customs or rules.

From the perspective of Purushartha (Hinduism’s concept of life goals), King Ravana was ruled by kama and artha. On the other hand, King Rama taught that people should choose dharma (righteousness or morality) over artha (economy or materials), and moksha (spirituality) over kama (enjoyable self-desire). 

The lesson here: those in power should always be guided by morality and spirituality rather than material and self-desire. If only our leaders’ and politicians’ morality is as bright as that light of King Rama’s!

Beyond lighting up the oil lamps, Deepavali teaches you to illuminate the good in your life and abolish the evil. And also, most importantly, doing so with respect to leadership, good governance and politics.

2. Good Prince Krsna (Krishna) versus Evil King Narak (Narakasura)

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Another infamous tale signifying the celebration of Deepavali was the victory of Prince Sri Krsna (or Krishna) over the long evil reign of King Narak (Narakasura).

The reason for the coup was due to King Narak’s evil ruling over the kingdom of Pragjyotishapura. He was hungry for power and possession, ruling against Vedic Law, and practising vice and violence. The people of the other nation he conquered were suffering. Some 16,000 women were said to have been exploited and tortured.

The seers were opposing, but that sparked King Narak’s hate and anger even more.

Sri Krsna, the prince of Dwaraka, was assigned to carry out the task of standing against King Narak’s practice of evil and wrongdoings. Such responsibility was even more demanding when the evil was conducted by a ruler than a mere citizen.

He gathered his people by his side and set for a mission to rescue the people from the wicked ruler. Prince Krsna invaded Pragjyotishapura and managed to kill King Narak.

Afterwards, Prince Krsna had to cleanse the mind and life of  the people consumed by vice. He taught and guided them back to the noble path, and to embrace the aathma – the inner light in them – as Veda teaches. It is this light – as is the light you illuminate in conjunction with Deepavali – that will illuminate human lives and eliminate evil thoughts, words and deeds.

Okay, now you have learnt that according to the Indian tradition, a lot of evil occurred due to the dimmed inner light of the soul, causing the evil desire to rule over the pure heart.

Can you then imagine how much worse it will be in the case of leadership and politics? Such a wicked leader’s heart would undoubtedly affect his leadership, political decision, and eventually, people under his ruling like you and all the youths out there.

The dimmed Deepavali season this year should encourage you to rekindle your inside light brighter. Let the triumph of good over evil persist. Let our leaders and politicians be selected (read: elected) among those who carry the noble morality and prioritise the people’s wellbeing over their selfish desire for wealth, fame, influence, and power.
Deepavali valthukkal!

Syuaib Supani

Syuaib, who works best from behind the scene, is Do Good’s Research and Publication Executive. A graduate with a double major in both religious study and biotechnology, he is also the Vice President of Malaysian Association of Youth Harmony, leading the movement of over 2,000 youths nationwide. He is also actively participating in other NGOs and engaging various civil society groups, holding the firm belief that a combination of universal values together with regular and social media engagements is the key for a better world.

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