celebrating the light: president obama’s diwali message

Happy Diwali, everyone! Light a candle and celebrate the Indian “festival of lights” with this inspirational message from President Obama. He even quotes one of the Upanishads:

Lead Us From the Unreal To the Real,
Lead Us From Darkness To Light,
Lead Us From Death To Immortality,
Aum (the universal sound of God)
Let There Be Peace Peace Peace. – Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 1.3.28

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  1. That’s great that our president is quoting the Upanishads, and that he knows what the Upanishads are.

    As you know, I would love to see more people read the Upanishads. It is the neglected jewel of Yoga, overshadowed by the Yoga Sutra and, to a lesser extent, by the Bhagavad Gita.

    The Yoga Sutra is a wonderful concise summary of Yoga technique, and I learn something new every time I read it. It fully deserves its exalted place in Yoga. But it is very limiting to study the Yoga Sutra to the exclusion of the Bhagavad Gita and the Upanishads.

    Perhaps the Yoga Sutra is more widely read because it is a comparatively secular text which barely mentions the more spiritual sounding subjects like God and oneness with the universe. I’m guessing the only reason the Yoga Sutra could be so concise is that the author probably assumed familiarity with, if not expertise in, the Gita and Upanishads (some of the Upanishads came later.)

    The Yoga Sutra is considered by some to be “easier” than the Gita and the Upanishads. But once one gets used to the rich metaphorical language of the Gita and the Upanishads, they can, surprisingly, be much more direct and instantly understandable than the often cryptic Yoga Sutra.

    All of the “big three” ancient Yoga texts are wonderful and inspiring. I hope the Upanishads starts to be more widely read. It’s really important to get a great translation and commentary. (See my recommendation at http://wp.me/PlUox-F )

    (Don’t know if this was the place for these ideas, but it’s what came to mind when I read your blog!)

    Bob Weisenberg

    • Thanks, Bob! The Upanishads have been on my reading list for a while. I’ll be sure to check out Easwaran’s translation.

  2. I posted a report on Indiamike.com about a backlash from India-Americans: http://news.rediff.com/special/2009/oct/14/obamas-diwali-observance-irks-indian-community.htm

    • This is an interesting article, though confusing and poorly written. When I first read your post, I was curious about what kind of backlash there could have been, since his speech was so respectful and innocuous. But this article was posted on Oct 14, the day before Obama made his speech, and it seems as though some of the “older generation” were expecting some kind of “diluted” observance. Though my understanding is that there was a ceremony, and this was the first time a president was actually present for it.

      I wonder what the community thought of his speech and ceremony. Hopefully, they were pleased with it…

  3. I have the same questions as girlwarrior. I think the backlash prior to the event is more from not being involved in the organization of the White House Diwali events or the lack of communication regarding what was planned. I commend Pres Obama’s comments and appreciate his open recognition and celebration of various faiths and traditions. His international upbringing is showing. Very impressed with his speech writers – the Upanishads rock!

  4. hi,

    i put a link to your blog on my blogroll!