Friday, November 27, 2009

Buddhist Christmas


Over at the seanrobsville blog, where they successfully deconstructed Halloween last month, they have now deconstructed Christmas with equal success, and provided something I never thought I would see: A Christmas Carol as Dickens could have written it, were he a Buddhist --
"Marley's miserliness has resulted in him becoming a Preta (ghost) after death. His attachment in life was to money, and in the Preta realm his attachment manifests as fetters to chains of money-boxes, keys, ledgers and heavy purses.

"In order to help purify his karma, Marley sets out to warn Scrooge that the same destiny awaits him. Marley is assisted in his task by two peaceful Buddhas (Christmas Past and Christmas Present - Buddhas can manifest in any form that is beneficial to sentient beings), and one wrathful Buddha ('Ghost of the Future!' I fear you more than any spectre I have seen').

"The Buddhas take Scrooge through a sort of mini-Bardo experience, where he reviews his life from the perspective of what he has done to others, or not done for others, rather than what he has done for himself. He awakens into a state of mind transformed by compassion and generosity."
I really enjoyed that, and I really approve of the entire approach.

Since we live in America, I do not see anything wrong with incorporating culturally specific symbols into our offerings. For example: at Halloween and Thanksgiving, I like to make a traditional cornucopia, with gourds, Indian corn, and so forth, and then offer that. For Christmas, I like to offer pine wreaths. A Christmas tree is a kind of mandala, if you stop and think about it, and I don't see anything wrong with that. Similarly, it is always fun to give gifts to people, and practice material generosity.

In the West, I recognize that there are some people who became Buddhists primarily because they  detest Christianity. Their Buddhism is a sort of conversion reaction to something they find  absolutely distasteful; yet, in the process, they become as extreme as the brand of Christianity they despise. At Christmas, they can even break with their Christian family members, and refuse to participate in friendly celebrations.

I have seen people do this.

However, from a broader perspective, one really should try to make Christian family members or friends happy by attending events with them, even if these events have Christian themes or take place in churches, and so forth.

A midnight Mass here or there never killed anybody that I know of, and if you can't manage that, you can always task NetFlix to send Life of Brian, then pop some corn, or roast some chestnuts, and sit around feeling smug.


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4 reader comments:

Moriah said...

I love "A Christmas Carol" and I especially love this beautiful retelling. I would adore it if someone wrote it as a brightly colored children's book!

As for the conversion reaction phenomenon, I have noticed it too--I converted from Christianity to eclectic Neopaganism as a teen because of something church members were repeatedly saying about Queers. (I am pansexual.) For a time, I hated all things Christian, but as I matured, I realized my hate was inappropriate. Eventually, I was able to embrace Jesus and Mary once again. They blend harmoniously with my ecletic Neopaganism.

I believe many people who have a similar reaction may be reacting out of self-hatred, as I was.

Anonymous said...

I know of Christians who are so sensitive that they interpret any action as an anti-Christian act. For instance, I have registered for the 100 Million recitations of the Om Mani Padme Hum mantra event in Singapore. It starts on CHRISTMAS day and ends on Dec 27, 2009. I hope that will not be interpreted as an anti-Christian act. And then there are Christians who hope against hope that any friendly gesture on your part may indicate a possible signal of the return of the prodigal son to his father's house, that is, a return to Christianity.

Explorer said...

When a Buddhist attends Christian events, can he join in those prayers and hymns in which Christ is declared as one's savour ? If he avoids such things during such events , will he be offending Christians ?

mr frodo said...

i like this article very much, thank you.
my mother is catholic, i always sit by her and participate in her custom of reciting the rosary on christmas eve (family custom), as well as helping decorate her 'creche' and "Child Jesus" altar/shrine.