If we wish to use our life to benefit the world,
then we must become of the world.
– Barry Briggs, ‘Generosity and Transparency‘
Every year, at this time of year, I am re-drawn to, and re-connect with, the religious tradition of my personal and cultural heritage. I am glad of it and I welcome this amazing time to learn from others, because there is so much good stuff in Christianity that I can draw from and which can enliven my Buddhist practice, especially in the central Christmas image of the Nativity.
Because Buddhas are born kings, in palaces, sheltered from suffering, wheras Bodhisattvas, those beings that embody Love and Compassion, can take on any form. Bodhisattvas are closer to us, we can imagine them as shepherds or carpenters, with dirty robes and work-hardened hands, or as a baby born in the toughest of circumstances come to show us how to live.
I went to a carol service this week at the small Anglican church here in Bangkok, and in one of the teachings someone quoted a passage from a writer called Max Lucado setting the Nativity scene, which I later looked up. Lucado writes: “The stable stinks like all stables do. The stench of urine, dung, and sheep reeks pungently in the air. The ground is hard, the hay scarce.”
The beauty of the Christian message is, for me, this very real embodiment of the otherwise abstact notions of Wisdom and Compassion. How else are we to understand these ideas if not in our very lives? Jesus’ birth represents the unfailing possibility of love, kindness, and understanding right where we are. It’s always here, we simply have to wake up. As Max Lucando writes, “Those who missed His Majesty’s arrival that night missed it not because of evil acts or malice; no, they missed it because they simply weren’t looking.”
When is the time for love to be born?
The inn is full on the planet earth
And by greed and pride the sky is torn –
Yet Love still takes the risk of birth.
– Madeleine L’Engle
Happy Christmas to all you Christians, to all you Buddhists, to all you Bodhisattvas (and that’s all of you) everywhere!
– From everyone at Wake Up and Laugh!
The gorgeous image used here, with permission, is by the artist and Pastor John Stuart. His amazing art blog is well worth checking out: http://stushieart.wordpress.com/