Christmas Dharma

By Lama Thubten Yeshe
Kopan Monastery, Nepal 1971 (Archive #085)

This teaching came from Silent Mind, Holy Mind, a collection of talks given by Lama Yeshe at Kopan Monastery at the end of one of the month-long Kopan Meditation Courses. Western students had gathered on Christmas Eve, feeling a little out of place and unsure of what to do with their feelings of "missing out on Christmas." Lama, sensing their confused feelings, had them gather in the meditation hall where he gave these talks about Christmas and Buddhist practice.

These talks were recorded and later became the book published by Wisdom Publications, which is now out of print. You can order a PDF of the original book here.

Lama Yeshe at Kopan Monastery, Nepal, 1971.

When we see each other again on Christmas Eve for the celebration of Holy Jesus' birth, let us do so in peace and with a good vibration and a happy mind. I think it would be wonderful. To attend the celebration with an angry disposition would be so sad. Come instead with a beautiful motivation and much love. Have no discrimination, but see everything as a golden flower, even your worst enemy. Then Christmas, which so often produces an agitated mind, will become so beautiful.

When you change your mental attitude, the external vision also changes. This is a true turning of the mind. There is no doubt about this. I am not special, but I have had experience of doing this, and it works. You people are so intelligent, so you can understand how the mind has this ability to change itself and its environment. There is no reason why this change cannot be for the better.

Some of you might think, "Oh, I want to have nothing to do with Jesus, nothing to do with the Bible." This is a very angry, emotional attitude to have towards Christianity. If you really understood, you would recognize that what Jesus taught was, "Love!" It is as simple and as profound as that. If you had true love within you, I am sure you would feel much more peaceful than you do now.

How do you normally think of love? Be honest. It is always involved with discriminations, isn't it? Just look around this room and see if anyone here is an object of your love. Why do you discriminate so sharply between friend and enemy? Why do you see such a big difference between yourself and others?

In the Buddhist teaching, this falsely discriminating attitude is called dualism. Jesus said that such an attitude is the opposite of true love. Therefore, is there any one of us who has the pure love that Jesus was talking about? If we do not, we should not criticize his teachings or feel they are irrelevent to us. We are the ones who have misunderstood, perhaps knowing the words of his teachings, but never acting upon them.

There are so many beautiful sentences in the Bible, but I do not recall reading that Jesus ever said that without your doing anything whatsoever—without preparing yourself in some way—the Holy Spirit would descend upon you, whoosh! If you do not act the way He said you should act, there is no Holy Spirit existent anywhere for you.

What I have read in the Bible has the same connotation as the Buddhist teachings on equilibrium, compassion and changing one's ego-attachment into love for others. It may not be immediately obvious how to train your mind to develop these attitudes, but it is certainly possible to do so. Only our selfishness and closed-mindedness prevent us.

With true realizations, the mind is no longer egotistically concerned with its own salvation. With true love, one no longer behaves dualistically; feeling very attached to some people, distant from others and totally indifferent to the rest. It is so simple. In the ordinary personality, the mind is always divided against itself, always fighting and disturbing its own peace.

The teachings on love are very practical. Do not put religion somewhere up in the sky and feel you are stuck down here on earth. If the actions of body, speech and mind are in accordance with loving kindness, you automatically become a truly religious person. To be religious does not mean that you attend certain teachings. If you listen to teachings and misinterpret them, you are in fact, the opposite of religious. And it is only because you do not understand a certain teaching that you abuse religion.

Lack of deep understanding leads to partisanship. The ego feels, "I am a Buddhist, therefore Christianity must be all wrong." This is very harmful to true religious feeling. You do not destroy a religion with bombs, but with hatred. More importantly, you destroy the peacefulness of your own mind. It does not matter if you express your hatred with words or not. The mere thoughts of hatred automatically destroys your peace.

Similarly, true love does not depend on physical expression. You should realize this. True love is a feeling deep within you. It is not just a matter of wearing a smile on your face and looking happy. Rather, it arises from a heartfelt understanding of every other being's suffering and radiates out to them indiscriminately. It does not favor a chosen few to the exclusion of everyone else.

Furthermore, if someone hits you and you react with anger or great alarm, crying, "What has happened to me?" this also has nothing to do with a mind knowing the meaning of true love. It is just the ignorant preoccupation of the ego with its own welfare. How much wiser it is to realize, "Being hit does not really harm me. My delusion of hatred is an enemy that harms me much more than this." Reflecting like this allows true love to grow.