Friday, December 3, 2010

Jewish-Muslim-Buddhist take on Xmas

Wisdom Quarterly (week long, day late, dollar short Channukkah Committee)
Jesus may have been Jewish, yet few Jews celebrate the founder of Christianity. Many Jews are fond of Buddhism. Why? Maybe like Jewish Jesus, they are drawn to deep Indian and Tibetan spirituality. It must go deeper than that, but certainly the tendency is very old. Jesus was affected by it, drawn as he was to the Buddhist Himalayas (in the vicinity of Hemis Gompa, pictured at left, from Elizabeth Clare Prophet's book).

Originally, Xmas was a feast for the Son of Isis (the god of Nature), not the Son of Mary. Then Xmas became a Roman party for Saturn (the god of Agriculture) called Saturnalia ( Then the Church, with ambitions of taking over the world, started the conquests. So where does that leave us on Xmas?

(Poor Jesus and his teachings got elbowed right out. The Councils saw to that. Go on, try to find them. All that's left is a handful of parables and this great line: "Oh never mind me because, hey, you know all that stuff written before me, I came to change not a jot or tittle of it."* All the changes were Church speculations, sectarian divisions, and ongoing arguments that make Christians long for those few parables).

The great holiday tradition of Hanukkah has nothing to do with Judaism's most famous son. If people knew what Yiddish had to say about German Christians, they might not think it funny. He may have taken bodhisattva vows (before heading back to Israel), but there are lots of stories about St. Issa floating around in December.

We are all connected. We take on the pains of one another. We undertake to help others. And our whole lives are helped by others, sometimes unseen, often unappreciated, rarely thanked.

One drunk says to the other, "You don't love me!" "Of course I love you," the other replies. "No, you don't. Because if you really did, you would know what hurts me." As explained by Kabbalah humorist Simcha Krause, we think love means doing for others, speaking nicely, giving gifts, and so on. These are expressions.

But real love, he credits Rabbi Akiva as explaining, is "loving others as yourself." Love yourself, and love others no less than that. An impatient man comes to Rabbi Hillel, Krause continues, asking to be taught the entire Torah standing on one foot. The Rabbi answers, "That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow. The rest is commentary; go and learn."

So what to do for Xmas? Eat Chinese, of course. (Happy Hanukkah).

What does Islam say about all our US Xmas excess? They join the party. But mainstream Islam considers the founder of Christianity a mortal human being albeit one divinely chosen to be a prophet.

Emphasizing the [common Hindu] notion of divine oneness (tawhīd) rather than the trinity notion early Christianity borrowed from the mystical East, Christ is often referred to in Muslim scripture as the "Son of Mary" (Ibn Maryam).

He is seen by Muslims as a precursor to Muhammad, believed to have foretold of the latter's coming. Islam does not believe the Christian story that Jesus actually died of crucifixion, instead affirming the Qur'anic view that he [left for India, where he has his tomb in Kashmir which anyone can visit, after being snuck out of Israel].

Some say Allah spared him the indignity of imperial Roman torture, leaving a substitute in his place. So no Xmas gifts as such, but more "Crusades" if the US and Israel insist on more holiday wars (Iran, Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, etc.).

*ST. NED FLANDERS explains: He actually says, "For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the Law [the Jewish Torah that preceded the Christian Bible] till all is fulfilled" (Matthew 5:18). This line has been taken to mean he had nothing new to teach people by way of developing themselves. It's as if he just came to offer God's new magic plan of bloody human sacrifice to replace the old Jewish [and Hindu] animal sacrifice method. The bodhisattva Issa had a great many things to teach, things he learned in the mystical East. Those teachings might still be found in the Apocrypha or the newfound gospels (of which there seem to be about 50), which Pagels and other scholars are bringing to light from the original mishmash (Aramaic, Hebrew, Gnostic, Coptic, Greek) that was once considered acceptable Christian teaching -- before the corrupted, greedy-for-power Church stepped in.

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