“Om Shanti!” That was the greeting of peace I received when I attended the Nov. 11 Diwali celebration and spiritual meditation service that was held at the Brahma Kumaris Meditation Center (BKMC) in SF (I attended as Bishop Marc Andrus’ representative and as Vice President of the SF Interfaith Council Board).
Per the PBS News Hour: “Diwali is the most important festival of the year in India — and for Hindus in particular. It is celebrated across faiths by more than a billion people in the world’s most populous nation and the diaspora. Over five days, people take part in festive gatherings, fireworks displays, feasts and prayer. Diwali is derived from the word “Deepavali,” which means “a row of lights.” Celebrants light rows of traditional clay oil lamps outside their homes to symbolize the victory of light over darkness and knowledge over ignorance.”
The BKMC celebration began with candle lighting and prayers offered by myself, a few other interfaith ministers, and then the BKMC ministers. All our prayers from our various faith traditions gave glory to God as Light and Peace, which is the theme of Diwali. The teaching offered by a BKMC elder minister was that each of us contains a soul that is a point of light from God, who is the Source of Light, Peace/Shanti, Truth, and Love. When we pray, and especially when we meditate, we connect with God and reignite the light within us. And when we pray together, the light is brighter and spreads further beyond us.
Here is the Diwali prayer I offered:
Most magnificent and omnipotent God, you created the Earth and also the Sun, Moon, and Stars that illumine the heavens.
You are the Source of Life and the Light of the World. Your Light is the True Light that shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot overcome it.
We, who you created in your image, are enjoined to let our light shine before others, like lanterns on lampstands, so that others may see our good works as reflections of the goodness of God and give you glory.
O gracious and glorious Light, pure brightness of our ever-living Father in Heaven, continue to illumine our way to become closer and closer like your Son Jesus Christ.
Christ taught us to spread your love, healing, and light in this imperfect world, that is fraught now with so much suffering, fear, hunger, injustice, distrust, hatred, and war.
With the encouragement of your Holy Spirit, strengthen our resolve to be your light-bearers in the world and to spread your love, truth, healing, peace, and salvation to all. Amen/Om Shanti!
PS– Recent demographic studies show that Indian immigrants and persons of Indian descent are the fastest-growing Asian populations in the Bay Area, especially in Alameda and Santa Clara Counties.