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Is it wrong when Buddhist celebrate Christmas? I definitely shocked when I saw a monk facebook's status then he wrote that we do the wrong thing when we celebrate Christmas. Is that true?

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Whatever the monk said on Facebook needs to be looked in context and should not be taken at face value. You will get that context only from that monk and hence I will not comment on what he said.

Now coming to Christmas. It is the birth of a great saint Jesus Christ. Now one can surely celebrate the birthday of a saint, who gave the world a message of love, compassion and peace. Even he preached his followers 'Know Thyself'. So one should be mindful and instead of following the masses decide for oneself how to celebrate Christmas.

Listen to this video of S N Goenka to get an idea of how one can celebrate Christmas.

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If you are concerned about what a monk or another teacher of Buddhism has said, I find it is worth knowing about the wonderful Kalama Sutta from the Anguttara Nikaya. I do not read Pali and so have only read it in English. Here is an excerpt that might help with your question:

  1. The Kalamas who were inhabitants of Kesaputta sitting on one side said to the Blessed One: "There are some monks and brahmans, venerable sir, who visit Kesaputta. They expound and explain only their own doctrines; the doctrines of others they despise, revile, and pull to pieces. Some other monks and brahmans too, venerable sir, come to Kesaputta. They also expound and explain only their own doctrines; the doctrines of others they despise, revile, and pull to pieces. Venerable sir, there is doubt, there is uncertainty in us concerning them. Which of these reverend monks and brahmans spoke the truth and which falsehood?"

And later the Buddha responds by saying:

  1. "Come, Kalamas. Do not go upon what has been acquired by repeated hearing; nor upon tradition; nor upon rumour; nor upon what is in a scripture; nor upon surmise; nor upon an axiom; nor upon specious reasoning; nor upon a bias towards a notion that has been pondered over; nor upon another's seeming ability; nor upon the consideration, 'The monk is our teacher.' Kalamas, when you yourselves know: 'These things are good; these things are not blameable; these things are praised by the wise; undertaken and observed, these things lead to benefit and happiness,' enter on and abide in them.

The link for this Sutta in English is here:

Kalama Sutta

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Directly answering your question: Buddhist texts are more upset at following the wrong sort of Buddhism than for practicing two unrelated religions. Buddhist text tend to suggest that practicing other religions isn't bad per se, but useless as it won't solve the problem of suffering.

Now what to do about this day off in December?

For awhile I was interested in Asatru, which is the religion(s) of most of Europe before Christianity. As it turns out Yule & Christmas are pagan holidays updated to celebrate the birth of Christ. The timing and symbolic elements are all pagan.

So re-purposing Yule again is at least with precident.

The pre-Christians religions have a connection with Buddhism, too. For example, when Buddhism came along, a lot of the myths and gods of pre-Buddhist thought were incorporated into the religion and those gods had corresponces in the European system, i.e. Thor and Indra are essentially the same myth, just one migrated to Europe and one migrated to India. So celebrating mythical elements from Asatru is with precident, too.

One person has created a "Maha Santa Claus Sutra"-- I would have called Santa Claus a Dana King, since he's all about giving, an important paramita.

Anyhow, as a recent convert in a country where I don't get a day off on Rohatsu (Dec 8, the celebration day for Shakyamuni's Enlightenment in Japan), I feel I might as well celebrate it December 24 and 25.

I wish there were more Buddhist songs I could play on Dec-25-Rohatsu

4

It is probably best to leave other's opinions/beliefs to them unless it is useful to your practice or directly affects your life in some way. Also, it seems like Facebook has done its job.

It seems like your identification with Christmas has kicked in. Whatever positive/negative opinion I have about it and express it, it will probably affect you in some way.

A method of dealing with this is to rationally question the identity of the person who put up the status if it is possible, and also to check your reactions for yourself. Right Mindfulness is essential here.

I hope you are enjoying your Christmas celebrations. :)

1

Perhaps it depends on how and why we might celebrate.

The Pope himself doesn't seem to be entirely happy with how some people celebrate Christmas,

There are at least a couple of comments which I admire from Matthew's answer to the question, "how to explain what Buddhism is":

  • If there is food on the table, a comfortable place to sleep, and they have no complaints about their daily routine, then our jobs as Buddhists is to rejoice in their success (mudita).

    I interpreted this to mean that if my mum wants to 'celebrate Christmas' with her family and according to her traditions, I shouldn't want to put a stop to that.

  • The project is to solve the suffering of all sentient beings, which is achieved by working tirelessly to fix the mundane problems of the world (sickness, hunger), not so much with the aim of happiness but equanimity & peace

    Buddhists could use Christmas as a seasonal reminder to give presents (or volunteer their time): if "charity" is how to celebrate Christmas, it's hard to see that as necessarily doing a wrong thing.

Although not every Buddhist can give material presents, "The gift of the Dhamma excels all gifts". One of my nephews is someone who I only see about once a year (at Christmas). Last year he mentioned to me that he was interested in Buddhism, that he "couldn't hear enough" about it ... this year I gave him copies of eighteen books about Buddhism (which people recommended on this site), and it seemed that made him happy. Perhaps that's a form of celebration that even a monk may approve of.


It's an interesting question though. I sang in a choir, which gave a Christmas concert: and one of the songs for example was Gaudete, whose lyrics are literally telling people to rejoice because Christ is born. And I was trying to sing it well, to convey the message to the audience, "rejoice because Christ is born".

After the concert the audience and choir met for snacks in the village hall, and someone from the audience thanked me, saying, "Thank you, that creates joy." I had mixed feelings, partly I felt "well thanks for telling me, that's mission accomplished then, because joy was just what I was trying to convey"; but I also wondered if this manipulation of people's feelings was a kind of cheat.

There may be emotional baggage associated with Christmas, cultural and personal assumptions being made; however according to this answer ...

Preconceived ideas, assumptions, notions and habits are what we try to understand and do away with in Buddhism.

... and so at least to that extent the celebration of Christmas might be "doing the wrong thing", perhaps a useless or unhelpful ritual.

1

The Buddha explicitly states that it is not wrong to honour one's ancestral religious traditions in the context of Buddhism.

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    Really? Would be more than interesting to know more about this, Mr. Alexander Duncan. – Samana Johann Dec 30 '15 at 9:57
  • Yes, there is an explicit reference to this effect that I quote i one of my books. Im working for the next 2 days straight. I will find the reference and post the quotation when I can. – user4970 Dec 30 '15 at 14:30
  • Maybe Mr. Duncan speaks of the Sigalasutta and that a child has the obligation to maintain the family tradition? If there is such as "ancestral religious traditions" obligation, that would be interesting to know and Atma looks forward your generous share. – Samana Johann Dec 30 '15 at 14:36
  • DN 25.23. The passage is too long to quote. See Maurice Walshe, trans., The Long Discourses of the Buddha, pp.394f. – user4970 Dec 31 '15 at 0:24
  • Sadhu for your effort, Atma has not really access to such books. May a certain key sentence is found and no worry that it would not be trusted, Mr Duncan. – Samana Johann Dec 31 '15 at 0:41
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Mrs/Ms. Sherly, "we do the wrong thing when we celebrate Christmas", such a general statement would be not the message of the Buddha and should be rebuked.

Maybe you like to prove if he really told in such way or if it was just your assuming.

There is generally nothing wrong in celebrating, especially if it goes into the direction of gratitude or even remembering the goodness or merits of others. Even to recollect a god or similar, the merits having done to have reached this state is one of the beneficial recollections.

Atma guesses that most actions and livelihood of Jesus for example, is full of meritorious deeds and remembering such a person would be for sure not wrong.

Furthermore, Christmas has also native origins and is often not a 100% Christian celebration but also used to remember once ancestors which is also not wrong.

The generally intentions around of Christmas are nearly all in the frame of meritorious deeds like Dana, Serving, renunciation... and sitting under the Christmastree and sharing metta to the whole world, there is nothing wrong.

Personally Atma does not celebrate it any more since a long time, but even still in this spheres where it was usual, Atma always enjoyed the common practice and recollecting on good deeds even never have been a real believer in any God as creator and leader.

As a practicing Buddhist, one should normally find plenty of good reasons to join such, if ones such is usual in ones society and even to take of certain services in ones hometown church, thinking that there are not so many monasteries, could be of great benefit.

Even in Buddhist countries old traditions are not rejected. Such was never the strategy of the Buddha. If he came across a certain tradition, he gave it first a deeper reason and second leaded people beyond the possibilities of what they have with there means.

  • Thank you for detail explanation @Samana Johann . I found it on my facebook's timeline who written by one of the young monk from russia. I was very confused also sad that's why I need explanation here. Once again thank you for the wise answer. – sherly Dec 30 '15 at 10:21
  • Sadly young monks are often trained to opposite other religions in a very silly manner and its also usual that they are trained by very attached lay teacher and are seldom only a little informed about other religions and less educated. So such would be merely normal and is also a normal counteraction of Christian missionary in many Buddhist Countries. So when ever Ms @sherly comes across Asian monks, please asume that they have really not much knowledge about other religions and seldom even about their own, especially if they are young and on Facebook and such... – Samana Johann Dec 30 '15 at 10:48
  • Alright, I understood , thanks again @samana johann – sherly Dec 30 '15 at 11:31
  • @sherly In answer to another question, Samana Johann posted this publication if Ajahn Chah. In the Q&A section towards the end, it has a section about Christmas (which includes, "Similarly, if Christmas is an occasion where people make a particular effort to do what is good and kind and helpful to others in some way, that's important and wonderful, no matter what system you use to describe it."). – ChrisW Jan 1 '16 at 2:04

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