Dreaming Of A Right Christmas
“Children of Light, as ye go forth into the world,
seek to render gentle service to all that lives.”
- Egyptian Papyrus of Ani
I’m mostly a vegetarian, for ethical reasons, and have a growing passion for “the soul of things.” Reverence for life is something everyone understands, within reasonable limits.
I reluctantly “kill” a few carrots, tomatoes and salad greens every day. But I never was a Grinch about Christmas. Though I did oppose the roast turkey.
A friend reminds me that “Native Americans had reverence and gratitude as they sacrificed a deer for their food and clothing…it’s a matter of consciousness and attitude in what you do.”
“As long as we are imprisoned in this octave,” she says, “things will die to sustain us….look at the big picture.”
“It is the motive, and the motive alone,” H. P. Blavatsky wrote in Practical Occultism, “which makes any exercise of power become black, malignant, or white, beneficent Magic.” Lynn McTaggart thinks our intentions can change the world.
Maybe I’m a little weird. After all, even Buddhist monks have a bowl of rice every day. And, yes, “Hitler was a vegetarian.” The justification for my oddity is, at the very least, I am thinking about what I do! (My friend said, “Buddhists call that ‘mindfulness.’”)
This is how, Blavatsky admits, she understood the teaching of her Masters: “every plant without an exception feels and has a consciousness of its own.”
And, it is a axiom of The Secret Doctrine, that:
Everything in the Universe, throughout all its kingdoms, is conscious: i.e., endowed with a consciousness of its own kind and on its own plane of perception. (1:274)
“When we try to pick out anything by itself,” wrote John Muir, America’s most famous and influential naturalist and conservationist, “we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.”
Plastic didn’t seem very hitched. And I was increasingly uncomfortable with “factory farmed” Christmas trees. What then should I do?
WHEN IN ROME
Living in the country, I could decorate, like any good Pagan, some sacred evergreen growing nearby. Here in the city, one can buy a potted evergreen. We did once, a few years back.
But it was even more painful to watch a live tree, isolated from its forest companions, die a slow death inside a stuffy apartment. With nowhere to replant it outdoors, it just didn’t feel right.
Growing up with strong feelings for the sacredness of life, and with much of my early childhood spent out-of-doors, it was natural to be an advocate for Nature. Now, in desperation, two days before Christmas, I faced an agonizing decision.
EVERYTHING GOT WRONG
Bundled against the bitter New York City wind and icy sidewalks, at a corner where a recently bailed-out-bank ironically thrived, the deed was done. I killed a tree that day.
“It was just cut,” a woman representing a local Boy Scout Troop injected, as I admired one in particular. A six-foot spruce from nearby Pennsylvania. Indeed, the needles were firm and fragrant, its tapering trunk and welcoming branches a work of art.
Then, amidst the blare of car horns, the little tree lay unflinching as it received a swift and indifferent Coup de grâce from an eager 12-year old Scout. A “fresh cut” was sawed from the base of its sap-stained stump. I paid cash.
At that moment, Oppenheimer’s knee-jerk quote from the Bhagavad-Gita, uttered at the first atomic test in New Mexico in 1945, overtook my violated conscience: “I am become death, the destroyer of worlds.”
The Bhagavad-Gita is preeminently an ethical treatise. It inculcates teachings applicable to daily life, suited not only to the time in which it was written, but for all time. So it was consoling to recall a quite different passage from the Gita, where Krishna, the Higher Self, counsels his favorite disciple:
I accept and enjoy the offerings of the humble soul who in his worship with a pure heart offereth a leaf, a flower, or fruit, or water unto me. Whatever thou doest…whatever thou eatest, whatever thou sacrificest, whatever thou givest, whatever mortification thou performest, commit each unto me. Thus thou shalt be delivered from the good and evil experiences which are the bonds of action; and thy heart being joined to renunciation and to the practice of action, thou shalt come to me.
Holding these words daily in our heart, we are reborn every moment. Like the Teacher, we can become a Master of all seasons. Another of Blavatsky’s Masters in a similar vein, as quoted by her (see- Altruism in The Secret Doctrine):
He who does not practice altruism; he who is not prepared to share his last morsel with a weaker or poorer than himself; he who neglects to help his brother man, of whatever race, nation, or creed, whenever and wherever he meets suffering, and who turns a deaf ear to the cry of human misery; he who hears an innocent person slandered, whether a brother Theosophist or not, and does not undertake his defense as he would undertake his own — is no Theosophist.
FRAGRANCE OF THE GOOD
A question posed to a disciple in The Voice of the Silence: “Hast thou attuned thy being to Humanity’s great pain, 0 candidate for light?,” reminded me of a New York Times Op-Ed piece (N. Y. Times (12/22/08), “Hard Times, a Helping hand.”)
Writing about the Great Depression’s mysterious benefactor “B. Virdot,” contributor Ted Gup says: “He sought no credit for acts of conscience. He saw them as the debt we owe one another and ourselves.”
The Times article is a must read, worthy of The Laws of Manu (Manava-Dharma-Sastra), and a modern lesson which could have been taken straight out of the 2500 year old injunctions of The Buddha, embodied in “The Dhammapada,” (Ch. 4, 11-16.):
“[T]he fragrance of the good wafts even against the wind. The fragrance of the good man pervades all his ways. … From a heap of rubbish on the roadside, a lily blooms, fragrant and pleasing; from a mass of blinded mortals arises the disciple of the truly Wise One…”
“[S]piritual perfection and spiritual knowledge can only be reached on the spiritual plane,” Blavatsky writes in Theosophy Queries: Answer to a Letter. Achieved, she adds, “…only in that state in which all sense of separateness, all selfishness, all feeling of personal interest and desire, has been merged in the wider consciousness of the unity of Mankind.”
Universal ethics were pointed to by her at every opportunity, against whatever the odds or snickering of her critics. We quote in full:
Now it is a fundamental doctrine of Theosophy that the “separateness” which we feel between ourselves and the world of living beings around us is an illusion, not a reality. In very deed and truth, all men are one, not in a feeling of sentimental gush and hysterical enthusiasm, but in sober earnest. As all Eastern philosophy teaches, there is but ONE SELF in all the infinite Universe, and what we men call “self” is but the illusionary reflection of the ONE SELF in the heaving waters of earth.
True Occultism is the destruction of the false idea of Self, and therefore true spiritual perfection and knowledge are nothing else but the complete identification of our finite “selves” with the Great All. It follows, therefore, that no spiritual progress at all is possible except by and through the bulk of Humanity. It is only when the whole of Humanity has attained happiness that the individual can hope to become permanently happy — for the individual is an inseparable part of the Whole.
Hence there is no contradiction whatever between the altruistic maxims of Theosophy and its injunction to kill out all desire for material things, to strive after spiritual perfection. For spiritual perfection and spiritual knowledge can only be reached on the spiritual plane; in other words, only in that state in which all sense of separateness, all selfishness, all feeling of personal interest and desire, has been merged in the wider consciousness of the unity of Mankind.
This shows also that no blind submission to the commands of another can be demanded, or would be of any use. Each individual must learn for himself, through trial and suffering, to discriminate what is beneficial to Humanity; and in proportion as he develops spiritually, i.e., conquers all selfishness, his mind will open to receive the guidance of the Divine Monad within him, his Higher Self, for which there is neither Past nor Future, but only an eternal NOW.