Thursday, 8 December 2011

Always the Season to be Jolly

A Buddhist Christmas

always the season to be jolly 

Ngakma Nor'dzin Pamo

At Christmas time people seem to make an effort to be jolly. Strangers will greet you with a 'Merry Christmas' and generally there is an air of open-heartedness and goodwill. We all enjoy the sparkly decorations and coloured lights and are able to rediscover child-like pleasure in such simple things.

We can always live like this and not forget it just because Christmas is over. It is in fact possible to be warm towards one another throughout the year and continue to encourage the cheerfulness of spirit we discover at Christmas.

As Buddhist parents living in a primarily Christian society, we felt that it was important that our children joined in with Christmas celebrations and felt part of what was going on around them.

Carols have the most wonderful tunes and singing is a joyful experience that lifts our spirits. Christmas is often a time of creativity for children with nativity plays, the making of decorations and cards, and culinary creations.

As a family we have also joined in the tradition of giving presents. Loving parents would like to give the whole world to their children if they could – and there is no end to the desires of children. It is important to remember that ownership of the object of desire does not bring everlasting fulfilment. Once the object is owned, there will be another object that is wanted. So we should not feel pressurised as parents to buy our children more than we can afford or more than it is healthy for our children to receive.

Open appreciation is fulfilling and everlasting, and everything can be appreciated without being owned simply by enjoying it with our senses.

Christmas is a time for families. This can sometimes be slightly stressful when one is forced to spend a protracted period of time with rarely-seen members of the family who insist on treating you as they remember you 20 years ago. It is important to maintain a sense of humour and remember that apparent lack of consideration or irritating behaviour is merely our interpretation of that behaviour, and our opinion should not be taken too seriously. If we keep a light heart and a sense of humour we will find that we can enjoy the eccentricities of our families.

The ancient festival at this time of year was the winter solstice – recognising the death of the old year and celebrating the birth of the new year. Impermanence is a key teaching in Buddhism, so it is useful to be reminded of this.
The past cannot be changed or revisited however much we might wish to.
The future cannot be predicted or foreseen.
All we can ever know and enjoy is the present moment and present moments are infinite.
If we can learn to live in the present moment and appreciate everything it has to offer we will discover happiness and contentment.

There is much to enjoy about the winter –
the iridescence of a snow-swept landscape with rainbows glistening in ice crystals;
the stark beauty of naked trees silhouetted against a clear cold sky;
snuggling in front of a warming winter fire;
tucking into hot soups and stews;
hearing the laughter of children playing in the snow;
deciphering the tracks of creatures that have traversed the garden;
enjoying the softness of winter woollies and cosy hats and gloves.

I hope that you enjoy the Christmas season and appreciate every moment of it.
I wish you a happy and peaceful new year.
Whatever happens next year will happen.
If we approach all that happens with an open heart, a sense of appreciation and the intention to be warm and kind toward others, we will discover peace and contentment and help others to discover this as well.

Merry Christmas.


This article was originally written for — and broadcast on — The Way of the Toddler Hour

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