One of the great obstacles in life to our spiritual progress is the difference between what we do or say on the outside and how we really are on the inside. Holika had performed certain austerities by which she was entitled to this boon from God. On the outside, she was pious. But, on the inside she was not pure. Prahlad, on the other hand, was a simple, pure, loving devotee of God. This is what saved him. This inner purity and inner piety is what truly save us, what truly make our lives divine.
So many of us go to temple, do the rituals, offer money to the priests, and chant a certain number of prayers. Then, we go out and act in selfish, impious, dishonest ways.
All the rituals and puja in the world cannot make up for the lack of piety, honesty and compassion. The goal of going to temple is not just to perform rituals; the goal is to become spiritual. God is happier with pure, innocent, devoted Prahlad than with all the austerities and rituals performed by his father and aunt.
On Holi we chant: Holi I, Holi I, Holi I…. However, let us not just chant this rhyme; rather, let us truly pray to God that on this day “I” may become holy.
Let us pray that “I” may become pious, pure and devoted as Prahlad. In that way our lives and our hearts and our souls will be forever protected, forever sheltered at His holy feet.
As we chant “Holi I, Holi I, Holi I….” let us also pray that our “eye” may become holy, that we may be granted the divine vision by which we behold Him in all whom we see.
Let us pray that through our holy eye, we never are led toward anger, greed, lust or jealousy.
Let this holi be a time when we change not only the color of our faces, but the color of our hearts.
Let us not only "play" holi, but let us become holy.
Let the only color that truly penetrates our beings, be the color of god.
Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji
H.H. Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji Maharaj is the President of Parmarth Niketan
(Source: Excerpts from a message delivered during Holi Festival in 2002)