(Photo below: Ananda staff and devotees at Swamiji's home in Gurgaon, India)
I could see why Swamiji enjoys that movie. Cinderella is quite a noble character. Her name has been dragged through the mud as the “Cinderella Syndrome,” meaning a woman who sits passively waiting to be rescued. But the “real” Cinderella lived in a very different way.
She was at the mercy of women who hated her: an ugly stepmother and stepsisters. She was maligned, abused, and scorned, a servant—virtually a prisoner—in her own home. Yet despite all of this, she sang happily and served selflessly. Denied any friendship from her own kind, she gave love to those who needed it and would accept it from her—in the story this is birds, mice, and other small creatures.
Help from Above
Cinderella responded nobly to the severe challenges life gave her. Consequently, she shines with goodness and beauty. If, instead, she had given in to the rage, anger, and bitterness many people would consider quite justified, given her lot in life, that darkness would have obscured her beauty. The Prince would never have fallen in love with her. In fact, the Fairy Godmother wouldn’t have come. The whole plot would have had to be different!
Against overwhelming odds, Cinderella chose love over hatred, joy over sorrow. “God’s chosen people have always been those who, with deep love, choose Him.” This is the truth we affirm every week in A Festival of Light. It is charming to have it illustrated by Walt Disney.
Although occasionally nowadays there is a light-filled movie, most of what is created now is darkening to one’s consciousness. Even entertainment allegedly meant for children rarely includes help from above and the promise of everlasting love, as Cinderella does. Cynical, worldly sounding actors often do voice-overs, plots can be crude, sexual, and too sophisticated, humor hurtful, language unrefined.
Of course, the idea of living “happily ever after” merely by getting married is too preposterous to take seriously. In my childhood, I didn’t know a single divorced family. Few children these days are so naïve. They know too much from firsthand experience.
Still, life does lead to bliss. That is the spiritual truth and the “happily ever after” to which we have dedicated our lives. It just has to be understood in the right way, not dismissed with a cynical sigh.
The Search for True Love
The heart longs for perfect, everlasting love. Cinderella pines for her Prince, but the refined beauty she expresses hints at much more. That was the genius of Walt Disney, an art that, alas, did not survive him, even in the studio that bears his name.
(Photo: At a wedding reception for Cecelia and Vivek, the couple holding hands on the right)
Watching the movie Cinderella with Swamiji no doubt elevated the experience to a higher dimension than I might have found all on my own! Still, in that beautifully crafted, charming story of human love—Cinderella’s very name has become a synonym for human romance—I was deeply moved by the promise of Divine Romance implied there.
Blessings and love,