Friday, December 26, 2014

Making Peace with Christmas ... WWBD?

When I first began practicing the teachings of Buddha, I wasn't sure how to reconcile my Christian roots. More specifically, I wasn't sure if I should celebrate Christmas. 

I grew up loving all the holiday traditions. I didn't want to give up decorating a tree or hanging the stockings by the chimney with care. On the other hand, I felt like a hypocrite celebrating a Christian holiday when I didn't believe in it the way that (many) Christians do. 

I like to think that I follow the teachings of Christ, just as I follow Buddha’s wisdom, but if don't call myself a Christian, should I celebrate Christ's birth? Am I just in it for the gifts?

Of course, there's a lot of holiday excess and bling that's not very Buddhist —or Christian, for that matter. Not to throw the Baby Jesus out with the bath waterbut the holiday has become one of our culture's ultimate expressions of attachment — and Buddhists consider attachment one of the Three Poisons (or delusions) that keep us trapped in suffering. 

We long for something, and we're dissatisfied because we don't have it. We spend a lot of time thinking about this longed-for thing or event. We forget to be present and grateful for all the gifts we already have. Then we get the gift (or relationship or job or possession) that we longed for, and we suffer when it (ultimately) goes away.

Is the answer to not to celebrate at all? No. In its purest form, Christmas is about spreading happiness and love,  peace on earth and good will to all. These intentions are at the core of Buddhist principles. So, when it comes to honoring the holidays, I need to consider, "What would Buddha do?" (WWBD?) 

Buddha would consider the facts. After more than 2000 years, Jesus teachings still encourage us to be our best selves. Sure there have been miscarriages of his wisdom, but there has been far more positive change in our world because of him. That 2.2 billion people aspire to follow Christ's teachings today—especially when there is so much suffering and delusion in the world — is a miracle. 

It's so easy to become polarized about our beliefs. But spiritual practices don't have to be mutually exclusive. It's not a competition. The Buddha certainly wouldn't care that Jesus has more followers or Facebook friends. From what I've read about the Buddha, he'd be the first person to "Like" Jesus. The Buddha would definitely celebrate Jesus' birth. Just because Jesus’ teachings are more popular, the Buddha wouldn’t pout like an Auburn fan after losing the 2014 Iron Bowl to Alabama. The Buddha would shout, "Go Jesus! Go!"

So this year, at 10 p.m. on Christmas Eve, Jack, Jason and I bundled up and walked three blocks to St. Andrew's Episcopal Church for their Christmas Eve service. When Jack made feint protest about attending, I heard myself say, "The whole reason we celebrate Christmas and have all these gifts under the tree is because Jesus was born."

Even my tenacious pre-teen couldn't argue with that logic.

"No matter what we believe, Jesus has inspired a lot of people to do a lot of good in this world," I said. "For that reason alone, we should honor his birth."

I'm still trying to define my own traditions, but for now I've resolved my holiday spirit. With renewed enthusiasm, I'll continue to celebrate the birth of Jesus, who brought us enlightened teachings about love, compassion and forgiveness and so much more. And I will continue to practice Buddhism, which encourages understanding, equanimity, meditation and mindfulness. And like the Buddha, I will say, “Go Jesus! Go! Enlighten the World! Happy Birthday! And Merry Christmas one and all— everyday of the year!”

No comments:

Post a Comment