Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Merry What????

The holiday season. Why are there so many holidays crammed into such a short amount of time (in the US, anyway)? And how many blogs are written about this time of year? And how many of those are going to offer coping mechanisms about how to deal with family members, how not to gain weight, and any number of other topics that one might infer that the holiday season is to be dreaded rather than celebrated?

There are any number of holidays both secular & religious, and sometimes a combination of both, that a "Buddhist" might feel a little left out of. We are not exactly endowed with many "holidays" in general, let alone at this time of year. Some of us celebrate Bodhi Day (AKA Rohatsu) on or around December 8, marking the awakening of the Buddha 'neath the Bodhi tree. There's Vesak, which combines Birth, Awakening and Paranirvana (death) of the Buddha celebrated in may countries. And rolling three potential holidays into one is not a great way to get time off from work.

Thanksgiving should theoretically be a no-brainer for a Buddhist, but with all the conspicuous consumption, over-indulgence, family confrontations, and potential the prevalence of booze, might make it a little rough. Christmas in a religious sense may not hold any special meaning, and the secular version is not quite what a renunciant, eschewing attachment, desire, and clinging, might really feel too comfortable with either.

But I'd really like to offer a less cynical, less resentful, less dualistic approach to the Holiday Season:

There is the practice the Perfection of dana (generosity) which doesn't necessarily mean giving your nephew a video game that was last year's model, and not being a gamer, you can't understand the look of disappointment and the forced "Thanks." It could mean being generous with one's time, going to the yet another get-together even if deep-down you'd really rather not.

The Four Immeasuables come to mind also--metta (lovingkindness), karuna (compassion), mudita (sympathetic joy or empathy) and upekkha (patience and equanimity). I'll let you figure out how to implement each of them, since they will be subject to your situation, causes and conditions. And if it offers any solace, holidays are impermanent as anything else.

So go ahead and say Merry Christmas, it might mean that you justthismuchless attached to your identity as a "Buddhist."

And if that's all not working for you, get on the cushion and ask “Who is this that's feeling uncomfortable?” and see if you can answer the huatou.

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, May All Beings Be Happy, including during the holidays.