Diwali is also known as Naraka Chaturdashi because Naraka requested that his death anniversary should be celebrated. Many people only realize their limitations at the moment of death. If they realize now, life could be improved. But most people wait till the last moment. Naraka is one of them. At the time of his death, he suddenly realized how he wasted his life and what he had been doing with it. So, he requested Krishna, “Today you are not killing only me, but all the wrongs that I did – this must be celebrated.” So you should not celebrate the killing of Naraka’s wrongs, you must celebrate the killing of all the wrongs within you. That is when a real Diwali happens. Otherwise, it is just a lot of expense, oil, and firecrackers.
Naraka came from a good background. The legend says he was the son of Vishnu. But this happened when Vishnu had taken the form of a wild boar, so he had certain tendencies. More than that, Naraka became friends with Mura, who later on became his general. Together they fought many battles and killed thousands of people. Krishna first killed Mura, since there was no way to deal with Naraka if both of them were together. The reason Krishna has the name Murari is because he slew Mura. In the legend, Mura was said to have magical powers in battle, which made him in such a way that nobody could stand against him. Once Mura was taken off, Naraka was more of a ceremony.
Naraka was put to death because Krishna saw that if you let him live, he will continue the same way. But if you bring him close to death, he is capable of realizing. Suddenly he realized he unnecessarily gathered too much nasty stuff. So he said, “You are not killing me, you are taking away all my bad stuff. This is a good thing you are doing to me. Everybody should know this. So they must all celebrate the death of all the negativity I gathered because this has brought new light to me and it should bring light to everyone.” So this became the festival of lights. The entire country goes up in light on this day, so you are supposed to burn all your stuff. It is good to do it now. For Naraka, Krishna told him “I am going to kill you.” But for you, no one may tell you – it may just happen.
This happened in Tennessee. A lady went to a gun shop. It is very common in Tennessee for people to go buy new guns periodically. So she went to the gun shop and said, “I want a revolver and a few bullets for my husband.” The shopkeeper asked, “What brand would he like?” She said, “I’ve not told him that I’m going to shoot him.”
When life gets you, it may not tell you. That is why Diwali is a reminder that you can die a conscious death and take on a conscious birth, rather than waiting for someone to shoot you. We don’t know whether a man, woman, bacteria, virus or your own cells will shoot you down. Someone will get us. Better make use of Naraka’s desire to remind everyone that, “I could have made myself into something but I gathered bad stuff and became like this.”
All of us are made of the same stuff but see how differently each one has become. The question is only what the hell are you gathering every day? Are you gathering and manufacturing poison within you or will you manufacture the fragrance of divine within you? This is the choice. This legend about Naraka being of good birth but going bad is significant. At the moment of death Naraka realized, the only difference between Krishna and him is what each had made out of themselves. Krishna made himself godlike, while Naraka made himself into a demon. Each of us has this choice. If we had no choices, then what is the use of those who have made themselves into shining examples? It is not because a person is lucky or they were born that way. It takes a lot of kneading and breaking to make oneself in a certain way.
Either you wait for life to whip you or you whip yourself into shape – this is the choice. So Naraka chose that Krishna should come and whip him. Krishna chose to whip himself into shape. That is a big difference. One gets worshipped as a god, another gets put down as a demon – this is all it is. Either you beat yourself into shape or life will one day beat you into shape – or out of shape, whichever way. Diwali is a reminder of this. Let’s light it up.