One spring morning, a friend visited the Spanish painter El Greco at his home. Upon entering, he saw El Greco sitting silently, with curtains drawn. “Come out and enjoy the sunshine,” said friend. “Not now,” whispered the painter, “It would disturb the light shining within me.”
Catholics usually devote the first days of November to commemorating their dearly departed and the saints who have been guiding lights of holiness. These heroes — who, it’s believed, have reached their heavenly home — were ordinary, yet exemplary.
Many critique our need to have heroes, glorify the dead, or venerate those who have lived holy lives. While there’s danger of uncritically hero-worshipping anyone — for too many self-styled saints and saviours have exposed their feet of clay — flesh-and-blood persons who tread the road less travelled, who refuse to say “it’s impossible” and who open up immense possibilities of superhuman living and giving, provide us moral compasses to map our jeevan yatra.
Holiness does not come from “doing” superhuman deeds but from “being” supremely humane.
Holiness grows not from controlling and commanding others to do what one desires, but from allowing the antarayami — the internal guide or governor — to guide and govern.
Saint Paul writes: “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” In his Confessions Saint Augustine speaks of his “inner teacher” as: “Higher than my highest and more inward than my innermost self.” The mystics and mahatmas who we commemorate and celebrate were in ceaseless communion with God, with all human beings, and with every single creature. Their presence was comforting to the disturbed and disturbing to those comfortably confined in their comfort-zones. They knew when to speak and when to stay silent, when to laugh and when to cry. They did not enter heaven at the end of their lives, but heaven entered our lives through theirs: here-and-now.
The diyas of Diwali have been doused. As November days grow shorter and darkness longer, let the memories of our dearly departed fill us with gratitude, and let’s rejoice with the many saints — dead and alive — who remind us to keep our inner light going and glowing.