Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Can Buddhists Celebrate Christmas?


Buddhist Christmas



Bah Humbug!

Other non-Christian religions can get a bit uptight about Christmas, but Buddhism is fairly laid back.
 

A few years ago the city of Birmingham renamed Christmas to 'Winterval' as a result of protests by non-Christian faith communities, but as far as I'm aware it wasn't the Buddhists who were complaining. 

Of course, there are aspects of Christmas which a Buddhist might have reservations about - rampant consumerism and so on, but these are the same excesses that are often denounced by Christians who complain that in recent years the spiritual aspects of Christmas have been replaced by a credit card orgy.

But in general Buddhists are quite happy with Christmas and have no hangups about hanging up Christmas decorations and enlightening Christmas trees.



Presents under the Bodhi Tree


In the Simpsons episode She of Little Faith , where Lisa converts to Buddhism, Reverend Lovejoy tries to dissuade her by saying that she can't celebrate Christmas because "Santa doesn't leave presents under the Bodhi tree". Richard Gere puts things right by explaining that Buddhists believe that those religions that are founded on Love and Compassion are valid spiritual paths.




So you can eat your Christmas cake and still be a Buddhist, though of course you can never finally have the cake whether you eat it or not (all cakes are compound phenomena and thus subject to impermanence).

Excessive consumption of Christmas cake may also promote the realisation that there is no inherent difference between an object of attachment and an object of aversion. ("Can't you manage just one more slice? Look here's a nice piece with extra thick icing... What's the matter, aren't you feeling well?")





Was Jesus a Buddhist?
Many Buddhists believe that Jesus was a High Bodhisatva or manifestation of Enlightened Mind. There is also some evidence that in the 'lost years' Jesus travelled to the East and studied Buddhism - certainly you can't get any more Buddhist than the traditional Christmas message of 'Peace on Earth - Goodwill to All'. And who exactly were the Wise Men and where did they originate? Were they Buddhists?



A Buddhist Christmas Carol

Dickens' well-loved story A Christmas Carol sometimes upsets the more fundamentalist Christian evangelicals with its 'ghosts' (to an evangelical all such spirits are apparitions of Satan). But from a Buddhist perspective the story makes perfect sense:

Chains of attachment to money-boxes

Marley's miserliness has resulted in him becoming a Preta (ghost) after death. His attachment in life was to money, and in the Preta realm his attachment manifests as fetters to chains of money-boxes, keys, ledgers and heavy purses. 


In order to help purify his karma, Marley sets out to warn Scrooge that the same destiny awaits him. Marley is assisted in his task by two peaceful Buddhas (Christmas Past and Christmas Present - Buddhas can manifest in any form that is beneficial to sentient beings), and one wrathful Buddha ('Ghost of the Future!' I fear you more than any spectre I have seen'). 

Buddhas can appear in any beneficial form

The Buddhas take Scrooge through a sort of mini-Bardo experience, where he reviews his life from the perspective of what he has done to others, or not done for others, rather than what he has done for himself. He awakens into a state of mind transformed by compassion and generosity.



Ho Ho Ho ... Hotei! The Buddhist Santa Claus


I'm a mince pie junkie, so when it comes to the the annual Christmas Battle of the Bulge, I've long ago taken Langri Tangpa's advice and adopted the practice of 'accepting defeat and offering the victory'.

Unfortunately, this does have a slight problem with the self-generation visualisations. Most of the Buddhas are portrayed as young, slender and sitting upright, which means that those of us with a more Homeric appearance (in the Simpsonian sense) need rather vivid imaginations to 'bring the result into the path'.

So I was quite pleased when I discovered a Buddha with whom I could easily identify - Buddha Hotei - a manifestation of Buddha Maitreya with an amply proportioned physique (The Wikipedia article rather unkindly calls him 'fat').

Buddha Hotei is very popular in China and Japan. He's often portrayed sitting in a semi-reclining posture and laughing uproariously, while distributing presents to children out of an inexhaustible sack. The similarities with Santa are quite intriguing, see Hotei_1, Hotei_2,
Hotei 3





The winter solstice

Of course the origins of Christmas long pre-date Christianity. The majority of the world's religions originated in relatively low latitudes (around 30°N) where the difference in day length between Summer and Winter is not particularly noticeable. However, for us folks who live further from the equator, the long dark nights and short dull days of midwinter are definitely a big psychological issue. That is why the Winter solstice has always been of such importance to Northern Europeans. It symbolises, if not the rebirth, at least the conception of the new year. In the Celtic calendar Imbolc (Candlemas) was the actual birth of the New Year, with the appearance of the first lambs and green shoots.

The early church failed to suppress the solstice celebrations and instead adopted them (much as they planted churches on pagan sacred sites), overlaying the scarcely concealed Druidic symbolism with Christian attributes. There is actually no historical evidence that Jesus was born on the 25th December.


The Celtic annual cycle of Imbolc, Halloween and Winter Solstice offers a rich source of symbolism and analogy for the process of rebirth, life, death, bardo and conception that would not be as apparent in traditional Buddhist countries, which are mostly at lower latitudes. So it is likely that as Buddhism continues to spread in the Anglo-Celtic cultural areas, it will adopt some of the Winter Solstice customs. There is no reason for in not to do so, for it is often remarked that unlike most other religions, Buddhism is not tied to a particular culture. 


Because of its strong philosophical foundations, Buddhism is universal.   It is effective for any sentient being, anywhere, any time.






Christmas Eve at Vajralama Center Seattle





- Sean Robsville



Read more at Buddhist Philosophy




 



Related articles:

Buddhist New Year

Buddhist Halloween

Buddhist Candlemas


Celtic Buddhism - Buddhism in pre-Christian Britain


Why Beauty Matters - Spiritual Art versus the Cult of Ugliness

Cauldron, Chalice and Grail Symbolism in Buddhism and Celtic Wicca

Buddhist origins of Christianity


Numinous Symbolism - Pagan, Buddhist and Christian

Evolution is no Threat to Buddhism


C J Jung, Buddhism, Tantra and Alchemy


Thursday, 30 November 2017

Recipe - Winter Warmer Kale Soup with Optional Turmeric, suitable for vegetarians and vegans.


500g kale in 3 liter pan

Kale is one of the most nutritious vegetables, being a good source of vitamins, minerals, anti-oxidants and substances that protect eyesight, especially as we get older.  It is also a good source of calcium for vegans.

Unfortunately kale isn't the most exciting or appetizing vegetable in its own right, it needs to be combined with something else to make it more tasty and digestible. This is a recipe for a delicious and nutritious thick soup which is ideal as a winter warmer. In this recipe olive oil is used to solubilize the lutein and other lipophilic nutrients so that they can be taken up by the digestive system.


INGREDIENTS
- 500g fresh kale as whole leaves (avoid the ready-chopped kale stocked by some supermarkets as this is full of stalk and of uncertain freshness).

- Two medium onions

- Three cloves of garlic

- 350 g peeled chopped potatoes

- Extra virgin olive oil.

- Ground black pepper

- Stock cubes or bouillon powder sufficient for 1500ml of stock (typically seven vegetable Oxo cubes or five level teaspoons of Marigold vegetarian or vegan bouillon. Check the instructions on the packaging).

- Turmeric powder (optional)


UTENSILS
One 3 liter capacity pan
One 2 liter capacity pan
Frying pan
Spatula or wooden spoon
Hand-held blender

METHOD
Wash the kale leaves, then strip leaf portions from the central stalk, which should be discarded. Also discard any damaged or yellow patches of leaf.

Put 300ml of water and 40ml (2 tablespoons) of extra virgin olive oil into the 3 liter pan, then add the leaf portions. These are quite springy when uncooked and will need a lid on top to press them down (see picture above) until they wilt and soften in the rising steam.   When the pan begins to boil, press the kale down with the spatula and stir occasionally to ensure thorough cooking and contact with the oil/water. Simmer for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile...
Simmer the 350g chopped potatoes in 1 liter water till soft.

Chop two medium onions and three cloves of garlic and fry gently in 40ml (2 tablespoons) extra virgin oil till soft.

When all ingredients are cooked...
Add the crumbled stock cubes or bouillon powder to the simmering potatoes, remove from heat and stir well. 

Add 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. 

Add the fried onion and any remaining oil from the frying pan and liquidize.

Add the kale gradually (in five or six batches) and liquidize. Adding the kale in small portions avoids clogging the liquidizer.

Add and mix the oil/water that the kale has been cooked in as this contains nutrients.

Finally check for taste and add more pepper or stock if necessary.

The soup can be frozen as portions in suitable microwaveable containers and reheated as required.

 
THE TURMERIC OPTION
You can supercharge this soup with anti-oxidants by adding two level tablespoons of turmeric  and mixing well just before adding the stock powder to the potatoes.  This will give the recommended daily dose of 1 teaspoon of turmeric per 250ml  portion of soup.  However, be aware that some people need to be cautious about taking turmeric, and it does affect the taste of the soup in a way that may not  be to everyone's liking. So turmeric is probably best left out if you're preparing the soup as part of a meal for guests.

SEE ALSO Secondary Metabolites



Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Why are our minds repeatedly trapped in the bodies of animals and humans?




Sow a thought, reap an action
Sow an action, reap a habit
Sow a habit, reap a character
Sow a character, reap a destiny


 
Why are the minds of samsaric beings repeatedly drawn into the bodies of animals and humans?  If the mind is capable of existing independently of the body, then why doesn't it do so?   What drives it to biological rebirth? 

Why can't we debiologize ourselves once and for all?
 
If there is a path to enlightenment which leads out of this continual cycle of birth, aging, sickness and death, why doesn't everybody take it?   If we all have Buddha nature, why do we always end up in such a mess? Why do we seem to take a perverse delight in spiritual self-harm?

The reason for this endless cycle of suffering is that we always have 'something on our mind'; and that something is karma.  The true nature of our mind is clarity, but that clarity is obscured, distorted and weighed down by the imprints of millions of nasty, brutish and usually violently short lifetimes. 


Our minds are deluded into thinking that happiness can be found in samsara, and though it has never worked in the past, this time we'll finally get it right. So after death we are drawn into another rebirth in the biological realms.

Fortunately, we can accomplish a karmic detox of all this accumulated delusional crap, and bring about long-term mental peace and clarity, leading to release from samsaric rebirth for ourselves and others.


More at Buddhist Philosophy

Thursday, 14 September 2017

The truth about the situation in Myanmar




The OIC-financed dhimmi MSM are full of jihadist taqiyya and kuffarophobic agitprop about the situation in Myanmar.
Learn the truth here and here

See also No Future for Buddhism

Understanding  Islam

Thursday, 13 July 2017

Understanding the minds and motivations of the Muslim bombers

'I have been made victorious with terror!'


UPDATE HALLOWEEN 2017.
ANOTHER ATTACK, THIS TIME VEHICULAR JIHAD RATHER THAN A BOMBING,  WITH A TRUCK AIMED AT A SCHOOL BUS, BUT THE SAME ARGUMENTS APPLY...


I wrote this original analysis of Islamic terrorism as a contagious mental illness  four years ago.   The situation has continued to deteriorate since then, with the attacks becoming ever more frequent, and the latest one specifically targeting children, leaving little girls killed, maimed, mutilated and disfigured for life, with faces ripped apart by shrapnel deliberately added to the bomb for that purpose.  Ever since the Beslan attack, the jihadists have been particularly keen to murder and maim infidel children. with more attacks planned for the future.   (For an explanation of the Islamic attitude to child murder/abuse/rape read this)

 
Saffie Roussos, youngest victim of Islamic human sacrifice

The well-intentioned but dangerous delusion of the 'Religion of Peace'
It is dangerous and deluded wishful thinking, no matter how well-intentioned,  to claim that every major world religion, including Islam,  advocates peace, love and compassion at the heart of its teachings, and that all violent manifestations are a corruption of the original faith. 

- It is wishful thinking, because we non-Muslims ('kuffars' as they call us) are vainly wishing that all the jihadists, and their supporters and enablers, are mistaken about the true nature of their faith. 

- It is deluded, because half-an-hour's investigation of the teachings of Islam, the character of its founder, and the history of its expansion, will demonstrate that the jihadists are correct. The ideology is indeed powered by hatred, intolerance, ignorance and aggression. Islam is an arrogant, expansionist, totalitarian and supremacist faith, commanded to world domination. It always has been and always will be.

- And it is dangerous wishful thinking, similar to the well-intentioned 1930's propaganda that the Nazis wanted 'Peace in our time', which lulled the civilised world into complacency, and allowed the forces of evil to gather strength. Hitler could have been stopped much earlier, and with far less bloodshed, if the appeasers had not deluded themselves, and most of the gullible public, about the true nature of his ideology.  


Malware of the Mind
Perhaps if we were to reclassify militant Islam from being a religion, to being a contagious form of insanity, we might find better ways of dealing with it.  Maybe if we regarded jihadism as a public health problem, we could use some of the epidemiological approaches to eradicating it that have been so successful against other contagious scourges of humanity, such as smallpox and polio. 

Using the public health analogy, we could employ immunization. We could deliberately spread the metameme (a meme about memes) to give immunity to more pernicious Islamic memes by stimulating critical thinking in Muslims, much like the harmless cowpox virus can block out the lethal smallpox virus by stimulating the immune system.

The mental infection of jihadism is transmitted by a collection of memes (mind-viruses), which when they come together in an organized, mutually-reinforcing system such as Islam are known as a memeplex.  A malignant memeplex takes over the normal mental processes of its host, just like a virus takes over the normal biochemical processes of the body to ensure its own reproduction and spread, even if it means destroying its host in the process.

As Nobel-prize winning author V.S. Naipaul pointed out, hatred of non-Muslims is the pivot of Islamic existence, and this is the central meme around which all the other components of the jihadist memeplex revolve.   The hatred is so psychopathically intense that the host will destroy himself in order to further the purposes of the memes.  

Islam, like Nazism, is what political scientists classify as an 'otherising' ideology. Both Nazism and Islam derive their energy from dividing the world into them versus us. For Nazism this conflict is Untermenschen versus Ubermenschen, for Islam it is Kuffars versus Ummah. Despite the differences in terminology, the results are very much the same.  This divisiveness leads to the classical liberal dilemma of tolerance of the intolerant, or how do you avoid otherising people who insist on otherising you from themselves?

This isn't to say that all Muslims (and especially pseudo-Muslims such as Ahmadiyyas and Sufis) automatically hate us. It's just that 'Kill the unbelievers wherever you find them' is the pivotal commandment of the Koran, with the phrase 'wherever you find them' presumably including children's concerts.   The Islamic hostility towards kuffars is obsessive, about one third of the Koran consists of fulminations against unbelievers!

So the devout Muslim will always have this genocidal commandment ticking away at the back of his mind, ready to explode into Sudden Jihad Syndrome as soon as he becomes mentally unstable.   

For mentally unstable people who have been brought up in Christian, Jewish, Buddhist or Hindu cultures, the internalized commandment 'Thou shalt not kill' may have a restraining influence.    But for the mentally disturbed Muslim, the commandment 'Thou shalt kill!' has the opposite effect. 

This seething hatred of all infidels, whether men, women or children, provides much of the motivation and justification for the jihadist rape gangs and pedophile networks who harass women and girls in Europe's cities. As with the Islamic State, the relevant verses in the Koran and hadiths are quoted to justify their sadisticly depraved and perverted lusts, but that's another story.

From the Buddhist point of view, jihadists such as the Manchester bombers deserve compassion just as much as their victims, for their lives are also being ruined by this contagious viral memeplex of self-reinforcing delusions. A rabid dog suffers from the rabies virus just as much as the people he bites. 

And perhaps Buddhism might offer some hope of treatment for potential jihadists. It may be possible to use Buddhist meditation techniques to cut through delusions and weed out malignant memes even after they have become established ( more here)

And finally, another intellectual weapon against the ideology of jihadism is the theory of evolution itself (from which memetics and the metameme derive).  Islam is incompatible with evolution. If evolution is true then the Koran is false, and consequently all its incitements to violence are revealed as nothing but the rantings and ravings of a psychopath, rather than the commandments of God.   

Of course evolution is no threat to Buddhism, though Darwinism does raise some interesting questions about what experiences our body censors from our mind. 

See also Malignant memes, memeplexes and the metameme.
and   ISLAM AND BUDDHISM