CHRISTMAS AND SPIRITUAL LIFE
Christmas is fast approaching and many people, all over the world, are caught up in a frenzied activity to “prepare” for Christmas. This season has some sort of magic to make some people happy, in anticipation of family get-togethers, exchange of gifts, Christmas dinners, celebration of the birth of Jesus, etc. The same magical power also makes other people unhappy because of loss of loved ones, loneliness, poverty, illness, and those who dislike the frenzied activity, in the name of a significant religious event. It will be interesting to take a brief look at what Christmas is.
Christmas is, popularly, observed to celebrate the coming of Jesus to teach people a spiritual way of living. Essentially, his teaching is: “Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and all thy mind and all thy soul,” and “Love one another,” and “Love thy neighbour as thyself.” His teachings appear simple enough and anyone can understand them. However, observing the conditions prevailing in the world, it does not appear that people understand his simple teachings, and to live by them. If people truly loved God then they could not help but love one another, because we are all “children of God.” We should not bear any anger or animosity towards our own brothers and sisters, no matter to which religion, race or culture they belong. But how can people love a God whom they do not know? They are told that God dwells in heaven and the people do not know where heaven is. God, thus, becomes an abstract entity, that is not ever-present, and the most immediate power in the lives of his children. People are also told that God is vengeful or gets angry and will punish people in hell and with fire and brimstone. Basically, the people do not know God, nor do they know where God is. How can they then have a deep and abiding love for God with all their heart and mind and soul? Dr. Albert Schweitzer stated: “To make up to itself for the fact that it does so little to prove the reality of its spiritual and ethical nature, the Christianity of today cheats itself with the delusion that it is making its position as a church stronger year by year. It is accommodating itself to the spirit of the age by adopting a kind of modern worldliness. Like other organized bodies it is at work to make good, by ever stronger and more uniform organization, its claim to be a body justified by history and practical success. But just in proportion as it gains in external power, it loses in spiritual.” Such a strong statement from a devout Christian and humanitarian goes a long way in pointing out a certain deficiency in people who try to promote and practice the teachings of Jesus.
It becomes obvious that people who follow any religion, in the superficial way that most do, that their hearts and mind and soul are not in their practice. If people were truly religious, they would ‘love one another’, but in the world we see more like ‘hate one another’. Jesus taught: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”, which is the golden rule. But what do we see? It is more like, “Do unto others before they do unto you.” In other words, take advantage of people and situations so long as you can benefit yourself. Who really understands the teachings of Jesus?
Christians of all denominations comprise 2.4 billion people, or 33.5% of the world’s population. If they all put their hearts, wisdom and aspirations in the proper place, I am sure that the world will be a much happier place. But, instead, we see divisions and schisms among those who follow the teachings of Jesus. In one suburban yellow pages of the telephone book I counted forty denominations of the Christian church. I doubt that this book listed all the denominations in Christianity. How happy would Jesus be if he were to be on earth right now observing what is going on in his name? Certainly he would have been disillusioned and sad, but being a person of great spiritual stature and enlightenment, he would have imputed the situation to peoples’ spiritual ignorance or naiveté, and he would have regretted that people continued to remain ignorant, and do not make sincere efforts to be awakened spiritually.
As Christmas is approaching, it will be worthwhile for all people celebrating this event to reflect, truly, on the teachings of Jesus and to make those teachings a working part of their lives. He did not teach God to be somewhere in the abstract in a remote place. He said: “Know ye not that ye are gods and that the spirit of God dwelleth in thee,” and, “The kingdom of heaven is within.” If you realize that God dwells in you, you will also realize that God dwells in your brothers and sisters. Would this not be a marvelous realization? Would it not then truly make Jesus’ teaching meaningful to you? Would the world not then be a much happier, compassionate and loving place for all of us? Let the true spirit of Christmas be awakened in the hearts of all!
[I first wrote this article in December 1989, and I have updated it for this posting. Please note that I wrote this for Christmas, but similar ideas can be expressed for adherents of all religions.]
Dr. Jagessar Das
(In pursuit of Truth in spirituality)