Vishnu Emani ’22 Shares His Faith, In Celebration of Diwali

“Today we continue a time-honored RL tradition of recognizing, and celebrating, the particular faith lives of members of our community,” began Headmaster Brennan in Hall on November 9. “We are a school that gathers all kinds of boys committed to understanding and celebrating differences, including differences of faith, that contribute to our whole. Knowing about various religions, and affirming the faith lives of one another, are both worthy pursuits, but it is also in hearing about and from the witnesses to these different faith traditions that our own journey toward meaning and fulfillment can be most hopefully informed.”

Honoring the Hindu celebration of Diwali, taking place in November, Vishnu Emani of Class I took to the lectern to share his experience of the Diwali holiday—its meaning and symbolism—and his experience of Hinduism, a faith tradition dating back more than 4,000 years and with 900 million followers today.

Vishnu began with the recitation of a Sanskrit prayer, which translates to: From ignorance, lead us to truth. From darkness, lead us to light. From death, lead us to eternal peace. “Amidst the chaos that surrounds us, we all strive to bring hope and light to the world,” continued Vishnu. “It is for this reason that we are gathered here today, in celebration of Diwali, one of the most deep-rooted and significant holidays in the Hindu tradition.”

Vishnu brought students and faculty on a journey through the mythological and ideological traditions of the holiday, with the aim of providing a better understanding of Hinduism. He explained how, unlike most world religions, Hindu is not actually an organized religion with a single founder, or a specific text for its followers to abide by.

“There are Hindus that view gods as physical beings, others that see divinity as a symbolic entity, and yet others that are practically atheists,” said Vishnu. “There are Hindus that chant Vedic prayers on a daily basis, and those who would prefer to meditate, sing a devotional song, or help those in need… That is the unique power of Hinduism: it is ultimately each individual that forges his or her own path to enlightenment.”

Despite the fact that Hindus spread across the 29 states and 700 languages and dialects spoken in India, they convene in spirit to celebrate this most cherished holiday, Vishnu explained. “Diwali is the Hindu festival of light, a symbol of hope, righteousness, and enlightenment. While Diwali originated as a holiday with mythological importance, it has become a day for spiritual reflection, music and dance, and festive celebration all around the world. Hindus, Sikhs, and Jains across the world gather to chant prayers, light candles, and celebrate with fireworks. Personally, Diwali is a time for self-reflection. One of the crucial concepts that I often contemplate is the Hindu precept of dharma. Loosely translated as ‘duty’ or ‘righteousness’, dharma encapsulates our obligations as humans towards justice, peace, and benevolence.”

Vishnu went on to share the story of King Ravana and Prince Rama, from the ancient epic The Ramayana, and the story of Hanuman, which he feels to be one of the most powerful in the Hindu mythology. These stories capture in different ways the struggles of good and evil, and Vishnu went on to share his interpretations of the meanings and importance of each.

“I chose to interpret the stories the way I do not because I believe my interpretation to be the truth, the correct way of understanding the text, but because it makes me a better person. For me, the purpose of religion is not to find an absolute truth. It is to find fulfillment. So, this Diwali, I urge you to find fulfillment by appreciating the goodness in others, no matter how evil they may seem, by using mistakes as a tool for self-reflection, and living your lives with bhakti.”