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Friday, December 07, 2007

Blending Christmas with Winter Solstice and Bodhi Day (Rohatsu).

First let me say Happy Bodhi Day to all. This is the day that we not only celebrate the enlightenment of Buddha but the birth of Buddhism as well. In the west it is a time dominated by the Christian holiday celebrating the birth of their savior, Jesus Christ. For many Western Buddhists this can be a time of isolation feeling disconnected from society which brings us suffering. Anytime that we feel we are not apart of all things (interconnection) we will most always feel some sort of emotional distress: depression/sadness, isolation, anxiety and even anger.

For many years I have felt anger during this time of year from feeling like I was left out and pushed aside but this year I have found a way to link myself to the season while staying true to my Buddhist beliefs. We bought a wreath which is traditionally a symbol of Christmas but is more neutral then other Christmas symbols as it is also a symbol of winter solstice which is celebrated the world over. As many know, the Christmas tree and wreath were both originally pagan symbols to celebrate the winter solstice but have since been incorporated into Christianity and Christmas.

The wreath is also a symbol of the circle of life which blends well into observance of Bodhi day. And as we know, Bodhi day celebrates the Buddha's enlightenment when he transcended that endless circle of life and death. After which he set the Dharma wheel in motion thus disseminating it throughout Asia and now the world, rolling over and crushing ignorance along the way. Thus, the circular wreath is also a symbol of the Dharma wheel for me so that whenever I look upon it I think of the precious Dharma that was so graciously given to us by Buddha.
In addition, the center of a circle in often seen in Buddhism as representing emptiness, the boundless openness of one's Buddha Nature. It represents that all things are empty of any inherent existence, that the space in the center can be the same space within a house or a cup. Inside the circle is the Universe. The idea that the wreath and all "things" are dependent upon other phenomena and elements for their existence. Thus, looking upon the wreath reminds me of that True Nature.

The circular wreath can also be seen as a symbol of completeness (containing all things) in Buddhism, Paganism and Christianity. It that regard I also see it as representing the world wide sangha, a giant circle to remind us all that we are interconnected and interdependent.

May we all find a way to make this time of year meaningful.

~Peace to all beings~

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18 comments:

Ginger said...

Yes, I often find myself being resentful of my not fully appreciating my favorite season, winter, because of my aversion of the holidays. This has been the case for a few years and I just began my path with Buddhism.

Anyway, I've found that after a few years of careful communication with friends and family I have finally come to a place where most of them accept my aversion, although I'm still often pitied and called the grinch. Yes, people feel sorry for me for not having the holiday spirit. I explain, a lot, that I do have holiday spirit, but I feel it's something that should be celebrated year round. The material aspects and decorations have nothing to do with that spirit as I see it.

So I find a way, as you are, to accept what is and move on. It's my karma I guess, otherwise it wouldn't be a challenge.
((bows))

Carla said...

James, I'm glad you're finding rituals that give you peace and have meaning for you. That is a healthy thing to do, well done. For myself, I don't find that Christmas bothers me very much. I just ignore it. The religious aspect is virtually nonexistent where I live anyway (England) and while the crass commercialism bothers me, I just don't participate. My husband and I have decided to wait until after Christmas is over entirely to get each other a little something. My friends already know we don't participate in Christmas. December will be over soon, anyway! A lotus to you, and enjoy that wreath!

David said...

I am a Buddhist and I love Christmas! I don't see any problem with celebrating Bodhi Day and Christmas each year. I love Buddhism because it is a nonexclusive religion. In fact, anyone can practice Buddhism and still follow another religion of their choice.

Happy Holidays!

Gary said...

This is way off subject, James, but I don't have your email address so I'll post it here. Forest Wisdom is changing its address this coming Friday (14/12) to:

http://forestwisdom.blogspot.com

Blogger.com will redirect to the present address, so you can change the link on the right side of The Buddhist Blog before Friday if you want to. (Unfortunately, it won't redirect the other way!)

Sorry for the inconvenience, James!

With metta,
Gary.

They call him James Ure said...

Ginger:

Sounds like you have handled your views regarding the season well. My family has finally come to terms with my feelings and beliefs as well. For the most part anyway.

And I couldn't agree more that we should celebrate the joy of the holidays all year round, in every moment. That's why I like the Dharma so much.

Carla:

Thank-you. I just finally had to do something to feel inclusive because I was getting too angry and bitter.

I still have a lot of anger in regards to the separation of church and state in regards to the Holidays but I hope to find more peace this year and in years to come.

I try and ignore being bashed over the head with Christmas too but sometimes I just feel like I have to fight back. I don't know if that is skillful or not but I don't feel that I should lie down and take it all the time from insulting people.

David:

I like the inclusive nature of Buddhism as well. I welcome all beliefs here. I often say that the different religions have more in common then not if we just look for the connections.

Gary:

Namaste.

Thanks for the heads up. I'll change my links accordingly.

Brian said...

Tantric teachers claim that most phenomena may be transformed into dharma, and maybe that includes Christmas.

- Brian

Abe said...

Hi! I just wanted to wish you a Happy Bodhi Day and thank you for your blog. I think its fantastic.

Tim said...

Hey Brother James! Love the wreath!
....The power of the World always works in circles, and everything tries to be round.Everything the Power of the World does is done in a circle. The sky is round, and I have heard that the earth is round like a ball, and so are all the stars. The wind, in its greatest power, whirls. Birds make their nests in circles, for theirs is the same religion as ours. The sun comes forth and goes down again in a circle. The moon does the same, and both are round. Even the seasons form a great circle in their changing, and always come back again to where the were. The life of a man is a circle from childhood to childhood, and so it is in everything where power moves.
Black Elk

Kay said...

Beautifully written post James. Your interpretation of the wreath really moved me.

I love Christmas. I don't get too caught up in the commercial aspects of it anymore, but I love the feeling of the holiday nonetheless.

larmsterpoet said...

I love the winter holidays. I am pagan myself, but celebrate and recognize all the spiritual days around this time of year. I did not know about bodhi day, even though i have buddhist friends. I linked to you on my website and wrote about bodhi day on my blog

Happy Holidays!

Shovel Bum said...

I don't mean to rain on anyone's parade (nor do I know if this link will rain on parades). In any event, in light of the seeming domination of Christmas I thought you might be interested in some of the current activities of the House of Reps.

http://www.govtrack.us/congress/billtext.xpd?bill=hr110-847

I felt the need to share. I thank you, because once again, your blog comes as a breath of fresh air and acceptance.

AngelaFerreira said...

Very lovely writtings always James...
x
Angela

brian said...

We Westerners are culturally Judeo-Christian-Hellenic and we aren't going to get away from that too easily. We are going to look ridiculous as wannabee Tibetans or Japanese.

Which is just as well, since Buddhism isn't a culture. It is a transcultural philosophy and spiritual psychology valid for all sentient beings, from all cultures, at all times, in all places. If the Dharma is going to spread in the West then it has got to work with the grain of the surrounding culture and civilisation, rather than against it.

H.H. the Dalai Lama, too, has expressed concern...

"I believe that the French, who are Christian by culture and ancestry, should remain Christian," he told a Swiss weekly, during a visit to Switzerland two years ago.

Without "mature" reflection on whether Buddhism is the proper religious path, the Dalai Lama added, "it is better to stick to your own traditional values."

http://www.wwrn.org/article.php?idd=14098&sec=52&con=2

Anonymous said...

Is it OK to despise only Christian holidays or can I get enraged over those of other faiths as well. To present the anger and resentment expressed as Buddist is hardly fair to the Buddha or Buddhism. I linked to this blogger through one of the more often offending websites of "Buddhist" intolerance, the Tricycle Editors Blog, and I invite all of you to stop calling yourselves Buddhists when you do this stuff.

They call him James Ure said...

Brian:

Great point of view and article. Thanks!!

Abe:

Thank-you deeply. I wish you a Happy (belated) Bodhi Day as well. And the best of the season.

Tim:

Brother Tim!! Good to see you as always. Thank-you for the further insight into the power of circles.

It and the triangle are my favorite shapes.

Kay:

I appreciate your words. I'm glad that you could relate and find inspiration in this post. I am exited to be embracing the season more fully.

Larmster Poet:

Welcome!! I am glad to have people of all faiths (and no faith) comment here. I find so much in the Earth traditions such as Paganism that I relate to. I am very much a nature lover. Always have been and always will be.

Shovel Bum:

It is disappointing to see our tax dollars and government buildings being used for such non-sense.

Angela:

Thank-you kindly.

Brian:

Which is just as well, since Buddhism isn't a culture. It is a transcultural philosophy and spiritual psychology valid for all sentient beings, from all cultures, at all times, in all places. If the Dharma is going to spread in the West then it has got to work with the grain of the surrounding culture and civilisation, rather than against it.

I couldn't say it better myself. That is exactly how I feel in regards to the spread of Buddhism to the west. Especially here in my home country of America.

Annoymous:

I wasn't trying to beat up on Christmas at all. I was trying to write about how I am working toward finding common ground and peace with the Christian holiday.

Albert | UrbanMonk.Net said...

I personally don't see anything wrong with spending Xmas alone (as I probably will be doing heh heh) - It's all in how you interpret it. For example, I look forward to spending Xmas alone, gives me some time to rest.

I really enjoy this blog, keep up the good work!

Cheers,
Albert | UrbanMonk.Net
Modern personal development, entwined with ancient spirituality.

Professional Troll said...

Anonymous said:
"Is it OK to despise only Christian holidays or can I get enraged over those of other faiths as well. To present the anger and resentment expressed as Buddist is hardly fair to the Buddha or Buddhism. I linked to this blogger through one of the more often offending websites of "Buddhist" intolerance, the Tricycle Editors Blog, and I invite all of you to stop calling yourselves Buddhists when you do this stuff."

Anon - Could you please give links to these examples of Buddhist anger and Buddhist intolerance so that I can go and troll them in the Aspect of a former Druid Marxist Anglican Archbishop (Oxford graduate proficient in Greek, Latin, Ancient Welsh, Hebrew and Sanskrit) who has recently converted to Quakerism.

They call him James Ure said...

Albert:

Perspective is so important to peace and tranquility. So true and thanks for the compliment. You are kind.

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