How the Christian celebration of the birth of Jesus turned into a crass commercial event lasting forty to fifty days is not difficult to understand if you do a little historical research. Even the "date may have initially been chosen to correspond with one or more ancient polytheistic festivals." From Wikipedia.
But while O'Reilly and his Fox friends yammer on about their imaginary war, (their form of crass commercialism for personal gain) I want to offer an antidote that might be more useful.
A caveat here: the antidote is to be found in Eastern philosophy, specifically Buddhism. Now relax good Christians. Original Buddhism is not a religion, but a philosophy of life, the goal of which is to enhance the simple joy of living.
So this article (with excerpts in quotes from Stephen Batchelor) is my offering of certain basic Buddhist principles as Christmas gifts that might help restore that intended joy of life to the Christmas season.
The first principle is dependent origination, or we do not create ourselves. This is particularly difficult for the western mind, because individuality is a primary value in the West. But as I have written many times, individuality is an optical delusion of the ego.
The Buddha's awakening to the interconnected nature of life is foundational to the rest of his philosophy and can provide us much needed grounding in tempting times like these.
This awareness helps us to let go of grasping and craving, helps us not to reduce everything in the world to our own personal desires and fears, thereby justifying our acquisitive culture of consumption. Helps us deny our compulsion to waste the joy of the moment to acquire more and more of what we really don't need for the future. Helps stop our rushing headlong into the destruction of the web of life on this planet to exploit every ounce of our natural resources to produce trinkets and toys for our amusement. We can only do these things in the absence of awareness of how our lives are dependent on and interconnected to the rest of life on this planet.
Another principle is that we don't need to be "motivated by fear, attachment, hatred, jealousy, pride" because we are interconnected. We can celebrate the successes and mourn the losses of others. They are our successes and losses.
And the next principle is about action, "to bring into being a way in which you, as a member of this interconnectedness of life can think about, speak, act, work" to make it better for all: the real gift of Christmas.
Another useful teaching during the Christmas season is the "Buddha's emphasis on the cultivation of mindfulness regarding the specificity of experience. That's the aim of a kind of meditation. It is to be fully present to what is taking place right now." And what better reason than the realization that NOW is where your life is happening: Not in regrets about the past or worries about the future.
Only by paying attention to the now of what Christmas has become do we see the suffering it causes by promising happiness, peace and satisfaction with the acquisition of material goods.
Finally as Stephen Batchelor writes, "And yet today so often we find this emphasis on finding a teacher, becoming devoted to the teacher, somehow almost surrendering your autonomy in order -- as in the Tibetan schools would say -- to receive the blessings of the lama or the guru, which to me is totally alien to the originality of what the Buddha first presented."
We can find parallels in the commercialization of Christmas, in how we allow the retail industry, our culture of acquisition and our society of conformance to tell us how to celebrate this holiday.
May you resist the temptations and have the intended joy of life contained in the Christmas mythology.
Robert De Filippis