Reflecting Post-Xmas, on how Christmas can be more than the shiny lights and shopping..
Master Thay (Teacher in Vietnamese) is a Vietnamese Buddhist Monk, Nobel Peace Prize Winner. He suffered a stroke about 4 years ago, and has been recovering in the Plum Village community in Thailand.
Master Thay coined this phrase ‘Engaged Buddhism’. A reference to Buddhists who seek ways to apply the insights from meditation practice and dharma teachings to real situations of social, political, environmental, and economic suffering and injustice. To affect meaningful outcomes. Cos sometimes love and like do not make things better, action does.
Now he is unable to speak, the sangha of monks and sisters provide the weekly dharma talks (some of which you can view on Youtube).
I am writing this post my silent retreat something I do every year in the early part of the gregorian calendar, to consider my ‘engaged’ buddhism agenda. Also considering – what does the Xmas spirit mean in the busy busy red dot? And how might we continue it beyond the jolly fat man and fir trees?
One of the younger Plum Village monks, Brother Yap, has been to Singapore and noticed the 5Cs. You know them. Credit cards. Cash. Condo. Car. Country Club. Some of them have been updated (2017 Singapore Cleo magazine replaced Country Club with Career, Credit Card (cos everyone has them) with Charger). And even Cleo’s material self-acknowledgement came with the thought that something might be missing.
Brother Yap suggested another 5Cs for those who want happiness as the way. To be engaged, to live in the present, to find peace.
- Commitment – Commitment is necessary for any endeavor to succeed. We need it to cultivate goodness. It gives zest to life. We go about our effort with diligence. Happiness at work and other areas of life are usually found when you are committed to what you are doing. With commitment comes attachment, so we balance our goals with…
- Contentment – Are we happier when we are well off materially compared to those not so well off? Obviously, if we are poor, money helps us with a house, food. But as humans, sadly, contentment is not one of our traits. That one handbag turns to two, three, you get my drift. Learn to cherish every moment we have, good or bad, we are not here for that long. And we may begin to see life as a blessing, not a curse.
- Compassion – Compassion is one of the four Brahma-viharas or sublime states of mind. The other three are loving-kindness, sympathetic joy and equanimity. With compassion, you see and feel for the suffering of others and yourself. Without compassion, you continue to experience suffering, and often inflict it on others. Someone gets the promotion that was yours, park the jealousy, be kind to yourself in disappointment, and happy for the person who did get it. Your time will come. Through compassion, we create happiness for ourself and others.
- Calmness – Calmness gives us clarity, relieves stress. I have noticed that not much good comes from joining in an argument to ‘take sides’, to prove a point. ‘Smile, breath and go slowly’ is Master Thay’s wise advice. We do not have to have an opinion on everything. Work out what is important, and let the rest slide by with a smile on your face.
- Contemplation – Contemplation covers a wide spectrum of activities that help ‘clear’ the mind. Meditation is one. So is being mindful. Contemplation is the one action that distinguishes us from every other living being. Stop, consider, look at a different perspective before launching into action – an incredible gift to us. When we exercise it, we start making choices for a happier existence. W
Christmas for me makes me more conscious, aware. The sixth C. Spiritual teachers often say many of us are asleep to our true nature. Consciousness means we become aware we are more than our personality or ego selves. We lead busy lives and spend a great deal of time and resources taking care of physical things – body, cars, houses, families. Not much time being truly present, aware of each moment. When we do become aware of the importance of each moment, every connection we make, take responsibility for our life (rather than blame others), life gets immediately clearer – and happier.
Try it sometime, maybe start trying it now, as we move into the official Lunar New Year.
(Many thanks to the Plum Village group, Thich Nhat Hanh as the founder, whose wise interpretations of the dharma way have guided myself and my daughter through life).