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Archive for December, 2007

Father Christmas… Who is he?

Christmas is traditionally a time, for most, of family, food, and good will to all men.  Shopping centers and town halls have queues leading down the street with eager children and irritated parents waiting to see numerous Santa Clause.  The season of good will is made into a frenzy of toy advertisements in the media and almost unprecedented demand by kids for the latest toy. Children are kept in almost mortal fear of not being visited by Father Christmas, and yet are expected to go to bed on time.  Why!?  From a fathers point of view, I am encouraged to tell my son that if he is naughty, Father Christmas won’t leave any presents for him.  What makes matters worse is the fact we don’t have a chimney in our house, so I have make the excuse that he comes through the letter box…  How preposterous!  I realise that I’m starting to sound like a Grinch but hear me out.

By following the Buddhist moral code (set out in the “What I’m doing and why” page), I am encouraged not to lie.  These are not hard and fast rules like the ten commandments, I won’t be damned for eternity if I break it, although I will suffer the consequences later due to Karma.  So why is it we’re encouraged to lie to our children every year like clock work until we deem them old enough to know the reality?  Surely this is violating the precept of false speech.  Moreover, what happens when our children learn the truth?  They’ve been told for years that a jolly man with a large belly (if you adopt the classical image) comes into their homes creeps around for a while, eats their food then leave them a little present.  Then one day, they’re either told or find out by other means that it was actually their parents who were doing this.  I can’t imagine the crushing blow this must be.  That’s because I don’t remember rigidly believing in Father Christmas.  I accepted his existence, but didn’t await him in the lounge Christmas Eve night.  I don’t remember having that crushing blow that Father Christmas was made up to make me behave. I just seamed to know…  Whether it was because my parents never forced it on me, or if because I was just wise to the scheme, I don’t know.

So here I am, caught in a dilemma it seams: Lie to my three year old’s fragile, flowering ego, or ignore the parental tradition and let my son be oblivious to it all.  Fortunately, neither.  My son seams to be as wise as his father (the apple never falls far from the tree).  Several weeks ago, we went to the local Christmas fair.  My father in law was playing Father Christmas, and we were expected to visit him.  We queued up with the rest of the parents and restless children.  It was then that my son made me proud: “We’re going to see Granddad, aren’t we daddy!” he said at the top of his voice.  He already knew that this wasn’t the real deal.  What makes it better is that he knew last year when he was two and a half year old!  He walked in to Santa’s Grotto looked at the man sat royally in his chair clad in red and white. “Hello Grandad” he said.  I don’t know how he knows, but he does.  It seems my job is made that little bit easier…

In reality,  I don’t think this is going to have bad repercussions Karma wise.  I think if we take the innocence of Childhood away, they grow up to early.  So we have decided that if our son mentions Father Christmas, we will not dismiss it.  However, if he realises that it is not so, we will let him believe that too.  After all, he may be 3, but he is his own person.  I’d like to wish you all a very merry Christmas, or as they say in the US, Happy Holidays!

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            This was a phrase repeated about ten times in a single minute by Geshe Soepa at the Jamyang Buddhist centre on Wednesday night, talking about compassion.Wednesday 28th of November was “Just this day”, a day dedicated to stillness.  It asked everyone to be still, meditate, pray or just stop for a moment to feel the energy of the world taking a breather.  Jamyang were participating, and being one of my rare nights off when they were ‘preaching’, I decided to join.Geshe-la was talking about compassion, and I will do my best to repeat what he said.  He started by saying that everyone has compassion for someone or something.  The difficulty is extending this compassion to everyone, even our enemies.  The reason why people become our enemies, is because we make them our enemies (more on that later).  If they do something that annoys us, it is only because they are trying to find happiness, however misdirected, for them selves.  And after all, aren’t we all?  Everything we do, we do because we believe it will, in some little way, make us happy.  This is unfortunately why some people are in so much debt, because they buy things that don’t satisfy their happiness, so they buy more things, try new diets, find other partners, or try different drugs.  This is why the Buddha said “You will not find happiness on the outside.  True happiness is found within”.  In other words, we could scour the globe trying to find the perfect man, woman, car, house or even drug, but eventually, the novelty will ware off.  How many of us have seen children overjoyed to receive the latest fad toy, only to leave it discarded several months later?  This is why we should feel sorry for the office bully, because after all, they are only trying to be happy, however misguided their attempt.  They just don’t see (or don’t care) that they are making others unhappy.  Therefore, there should not be one-sided compassion (as in being compassionate only to the ones we love and care for), it should be equal.  Geshe Soepa gave the analogy that if we have a hundred beggars in front of us, we should not give the first £3, the second £2, the third £5, we should give them all the same amount (and if you can afford to give these hundred beggars equal amounts of money, then I salute you). I hope this little snippet of Geshe Soepa’s teaching makes sense.  When I can remember, I’ll write up the rest.

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