I was having a conversation with someone the other day and a very interesting discussion ensued. It started with the effects of global financial crisis on people’s lives, with no jobs, global economies; struggling to sustain themselves, governments around the world are finding it hard to keep the unemployment rate down… and so on and so forth.

A story we are all too familiar with,unfortunately. But then, the discussion lead to a point, that today on one hand, we see unemployment amongst youth isgrowing and on the other hand the universities and other tertiary institutes are churning out students with qualifications by the dozens each year promising them a bright future,etc. The result is that unfortunately, when the bright young workers enter the job market they find that there is no opportunity to express themselves. This then leads to 3 reactions. For a few lucky ones we see anexodus to other countries by those who can afford it; but for the majority, we find them becoming frustrated and depressed in the current state of affairs and are sometimes forced to turn to unproductivity or underutilization of their abilities or insome rare cases even to destruction.

The above discussion was purely based on observation of different global situations but it did have a feeling of closeness to what we see in our own communities and in some cases in our own household. This made me wonder is this situation something we have never seen before? I thought of my motherland,India, and how it has always been seen as a third world nation with unemployment, etc. as a common issues within its social fibre.

However, growing up we never felt threatened. This is not to say that there were no insecurities at all; but people in general seemed to find a positive way to deal with it. Everyone seemed to have a greater belief that no matter how bad the situation was, that it will all work out. In fact, Indians, even today, are one of the happiest people in the world, from the slum kid to the international student, we are full of joy, ever willing to express ourselves.

What is the secret of such positivity when the surroundings are not ‘perfect’? Is it their possessions? Or is it what’sunseen but inbuilt in all of them? This brought my mind to question, what gives people the strength to deal with the various vicissitudes of life? What is it that which keeps people moving in a positive direction when the forces around them are negative? What motivates a person to strive for something they believe in, when their self-belief is low? In short, what leads us to happiness and prosperity from the pits of despair?

The only thing I could really come to think of is, the Culture. Our common culture which comprises of the various religions, it’s philosophy, the many traditions and customs, etc. all of it together creates this mindset which helps us lift ourselves. Take the upcoming festival of Navaratri for example. A Festival seem to trigger awave of excitement in hearts of al lthose who celebrate it with enthusiasm. The social interaction is where people come together and share their life’s joys and sorrows with each other. So many people meet eachother only at such festive occasions. Hence, the social purpose of any festival is to connect people to one another.Then there are the religious stories which relate to the celebration from the Puranas and theItihasa, where there is the story of Ma Durga slaying the demon Mahishasura. It is also linked with the Mahabharat war when Kauravas, the evil cousins, were defeated in battle by the Pandavas and also in the Ramayan, these nine days are when Lord Ram, the incarnate of Lord Vishnu, defeats Ravana in battle.

These stories give people a simple message of conquest of good over evil - A message of Hope. Here evil is not an independent force from good, as their powers are derived from worshiping the good alone. But they are used for selfish aggrandizement; thus showing that good is inherent in all that is seen as evil as well.The cultural and traditional aspects are seen in the manner in which the festivals are celebrated indifferent parts of the country and the world. The dress, the food, the music and dance, etc. These are steeped in tradition, like the garbha anddandiya raas, etc. Such expressions only bring out the joy of the festival. Last but not the least, the philosophy of this festival is where we understand that these nine nights, are not about some victory of Goddess over some demonic form or anything, but this is a battle of our divine nature over our lower demonic impulses.

The first 3 nights are a battle over our impurities, hence we pray to Mother Durga, the Primodial Energy, Adi Shakti, for cleansing ourselves of all negative thinking… the next 3 nights is a prayer to Mother Lakshmi, the bestower of Wealth, to give the necessary divine qualities in our purified mind so that we are able to grow in the right direction. The last 3 nights are a prayer to Mother Saraswati, the Goddess of Knowledge, who enables us with Wisdom and Knowledge, necessary to transfer inner goodness to outer prosperity. Thus, with this spiritual understanding, we celebrate the festival and gain victory over our true enemies within.

This is signified by Vijayadashami, or Dussera. Hence, we see it is through our culture which has been preserved over generations, its spirit, lived in every household, lies the secret of our unity in diversity, our resiliencein adversity our faith in despair. It has kept a country of a billion people with infinite differences together in
spirit. Alas! This is fast eroding and will be forgotten unless we continue the spirit within us and shine in itsglory. Let us all start with Navaratri.On, behalf of Chinmaya Mission,I take the opportunity to wish everyone all the best wishes and prayers during the Navaratri festival.

Bramhachari Adarsh Chaitanya serves as the Resident Acharya of Chinmaya Mission Auckland  and conducts weekly spiritual classes for children, youth and adults. For more information about the Chinmaya Mission and Bramhachari Adarsh Chaitanya please follow this link:www.chinmaya.org.nz or contact him at 2756954