As we approach Christmas, many in the yoga community turn up our noses at the holiday. Certainly there are many issues with Christmas at least in the United States. One only needs to look at videos from Black Friday to realize the celebration of Jesus’ birth has been extremely perverted in US culture.
But yoga practitioners can find significant meaning in the celebration of Jesus’ birth once we get beyond the beyond the “more evolved than thou” sneer.
Let’s first consider Jesus’ fundamental message: love and compassion. This is no different from the message of the Dalai Lama. Even in death, Jesus remained steadfast in his commitment to non-violence, perhaps even to an extreme. Jesus lived, breathed, and taught many of the principals of yoga to which we all aspire. Many speculate that Jesus learned teachings of Buddhism while he traveled.
One does not have to believe the mysticism of Jesus in that he was considered both the son of God and also God himself, nor do you have to be accept the concept of a creator God in the Judeo-Christian traditions. In yogic tradition, we have the concept of the brahman, or an eternal, universal spirit, and the goal of yoga is to unite the self, the Atman, with the Brahman. The actions and kindness of Jesus demonstrated a man who had truly evolved. We do not need to accept the creationist beliefs to view Jesus as a man who had united himself with the eternal.
Finally, as many people around the world celebrate the birth of Jesus, they are not celebrating hope. They are celebrating the purity and the light in all of us that Jesus represented. According to the lore, the light of the North Star guided people to visit Jesus on his birth. As the Northern Hemisphere is in darkness, this is the perfect time to focus on our internal light and allow it to guide us.
Forget the marketing and the packaging, Christmas can be a time for reflection on hope for all of us. You don’t need to hang a stocking and fill yourself with egg nog, but just as an experiment, try contemplating some of the words of Jesus and find some meaning for yourself in them.
For me, I am working on the concept of loving my enemy. I have been reading some works of the Dalai Lama where he talks about extending compassion first to yourself, then to everyone you know, and finally to everyone else, including people who have harmed you. This is a truly difficult thing to do–to not only forgive people who have harmed you but to also extend compassion, or love your enemy. This time of year, as many celebrate Christmas in their own way, is the perfect time to attempt this extension of love and compassion, and to try to find our own light.