Have Yourself a Merry Civil Holiday Season!
In the Christmas Truce of WWI, Allied and German soldiers put down their guns, came out of their respective foxholes and exchanged Christmas greetings, shared photos of their respective families, and played some soccer. And, at the end of the day, they returned to their foxholes to resume the battle.
What was the point?
Despite the arguing about land and resources, rooted in the Three Poisons –
- Ignorance of the fact that there really is enough to go around
- That we are attached to a worldview fearful of scarcity and us not getting our fair share and
- That the only way to get what we want or need is to do battle with those who we think stand in the way
That there was a wish – very common human wish rooted in our Basic Goodness or Loving Nature – to live with civility in harmony
In The Bodhisattva’s Way of Life, the Buddhist teacher, Shantideva, explains that ALL of our own worst tendencies – pride, greed, excessive desire, reflexive reaction, avarice, and anger are distortions of our true nature, founded upon our Loving Nature.
But, with a lack of understanding and fixating on what or how a desired outcome will be possible, we become insistent, dogmatic, fanatical, tyrannical. We do harmful things to ourselves and each other.
And we know it. We do know better. Even those who seem smug or defiant in what has caused harm know better.
And our bodies and minds tell us so in
- deranged ideations
- digestive complaints
- heightened irritability
- need for drink or medication
- desire to do even more harm to numb the feelings of guilt and inner conflict – a cause of some the torture we inflict upon others – all rooted in self-loathing
I recently read an article by HH17th Karmapa Thaye Dorje that said that all this is actually good news. WHY? Because our bodies and minds are teaching us that none of what we do against ourselves, our neighbors, who we think are our enemies, or nature is Natural. It is habitual. And habits, even long standing ones can be changed.
Understand that some habits we have are more ingrained than other. Some can change overnight, some over lifetime, perhaps some over several lifetimes, but, they are changeable, whereas our loving nature in a universe of love is unending.
So, here we are for the holidays – where we are with either in person or virtually those with whom we have acted on, learned, or developed habit patterns, some useful, some not.
All wounds are re-opened, patterns you thought you grown beyond are reactivated. And you, the independent, strong minded successful person that you are now just the son, the daughter, the baby sister or brother, – just part of the brood, stirring once again in your familiar brood stew.
Mindfulness and all the wisdom and compassion you can muster is what you need to summon. If there was ever a time that taught you these skills are useful, if not necessary, this is it.
At the same time, many of the Rules of Civility that George Washington lived by may come in handy.
So here are just a few you may want to consider as you sit around the festive table or share the Zoom room.
#13 “Kill no Vermin as fleas, lice, ticks, etc. in the Sight of Others. If you See any filth or thick Spittle put your foot Dexterously upon it. If it be upon the Cloths of your Companions, Put it off privately, and if it be upon your own Cloths, return Thanks to him who puts it off.”
Commentary: There are appearances on oneself or companions or in the immediate environment that you are in that can be uplifting or degrading. And thus while it is true that beauty is relative and purity or beauty of thought, speech, and conduct is far more important, to keep beauty in mind in all ways can accentuate their affects. To have it in mind not to offend, to go out of your way to tend to another or to the circumstance so that they do not offend, and if another attends to you similarly – if done in a spirit of cordiality – can be quite sublime.
22. (I have shared this one before, but think of this in the context of loved ones and some of the gossip that often comes up in the holidays…)
“Show not yourself glad at the Misfortune of another, though he were your enemy.”
Commentary: If we truly believe that we are all basically good and that we are all doing the best based on what we know, we must understand that as misguided as we may think others are in what they say and do, they think the same as us. This is the predicament of conditioned existence. And in whatever conflict we face, whether it is a personal conflict or an all-out conflagration consuming continent, to rejoice in the pain and suffering of others shows a shallow understanding of humanity and life in general.
In the tradition of honorable warfare, the Ven. Chogyam Trungpa said that on the battlefield, after striking down a foe, a noble soldier would sit with his defeated adversary and pray with him, as he would drift into death.
Thus civility holds no quarter for those who seek revenge or take pleasure in the demise of others. Such an attitude can only diminish us as individuals and in the end, leave us prey to the same. As the Welsh saying goes, “:If you plan revenge, dig two graves.”