Wishing You a Merry Krishnas
Posted December 24, 2010
It struck me the other day the astonishing similarity between the words Christmas and Krishna- Prabhupada once pointed out the similarity between the words Christ and Krishna, but when “mas” is added, and the “i” is shortened, the similarity becomes much stronger- one could even say to someone “krsnas tu bhagavan swayam” and they might respond “What was that about Christmas?”
We all know the magic and enchantment that the word “Christmas” had over us when we were young, as we knew that from this word, everything of our hearts’ desire would be manifest, and as we chanted the word, we would long for Christmas to come. It is not all that different when we chant the name of Krishna- from Him alone, all the gifts in the world are given. Like the personality of Christmas, Santa Claus, there is the personality of Krishna, who through mystic potency or magic, makes gifts for all the children of the world (such as rain, sunshine, fresh air, potent seed grains, our bodies and knowledge), via the help of His people who work on His behalf, the demigods and other devotees who are known as “desire trees”.
As we grew up, we learnt that gifts did not happen by magic alone, one had to work for them. It was a shock when we found out that Santa did not actually come personally to our homes, via the fireplace, but that we had to create the magic of Christmas ourselves through hard work and the spirit of giving, of generosity and good will. Of course, Santa still exists as Saint Nicholaus, but he has stepped aside for the little elves and selves of this world to do his work for him- he just “started the ball rolling”. Similarly, Krishna does not want to be the sole gift-giver and beneficiary of the living entities. He wants the elves and selves of this world to do that work, and thereby develop the mood of being desire-trees- working for the good of others. Sometimes He sends difficulties such as earthquakes, not just to reduce the karma of the world, but to evoke a spirit of compassion, of solidarity and brotherhood between living beings, to shock them out of complacency, security, self-centeredness, greed and other soul-killing qualities. Hearts open up, in times of disaster, much as they open up at Christmastime, but one is all magic, and the other, at best bitter-sweet. The difference is, that one spirit of giving is causeless, and the other causative. When generosity and well-wishing is there all the time, regardless of extremity of material causes, then it is simply joyful.
Another aspect and reason for Christmas cheer is that when we give at Christmastime, we do not present ourselves as the giver- it comes from Santa. This ego-less expression of generosity is exactly in the spirit of devotees, who never give credit to themselves as the reservoirs of knowledge which liberates, but all credit to the spiritual master, or God. Actually, it is a fact that we cannot give anything, be it spiritual knowledge or material gifts- everything comes from Krishna- but He has given us the ingredients for both types of gift making- and our intelligence. Through intelligence we can combine material elements, and spiritual concepts and vibrations, to help others. While material gifts bring only temporary joy, the spiritual gift is permanent and can help one at the most crucial and desperate points in one’s life- it can free the soul from all anxiety. Still, as Rupa Goswami pointed out, even the giving of ordinary gifts is a loving exchange between us, which fosters a vaisnava spirit. When we use our intelligence only for the good of others, and at the same time take no credit for ourselves, - we create Krishna’s magic- Christmas magic.
Children chant “Christmas” while devotees chant “Krishna” and preceding both is a word relating to the pleasure potency, “Hare”, or the word describing her- “Merry”. One word relates to He from whom all gifts become manifest, and one relates to the joyful part of His nature, personified in Radharani. Thus when devotees chant, they are open to all gifts as well as the joy of gift-giving. As the Lord does not want to be seen as the gift-giver- but wants all credit to go to the devotees, so the devotees do not want to be seen as gift-givers but that all credit should go to the Lord. It is a transcendental reciprocation, that is only spoilt when we actually do take credit for ourselves. We experienced thus, this loss of enchantment, when we started to believe that Santa did not exist, and that we had to give presents ourselves, that there was no magic, only an illusion of it. This so-called realization took the joy out of Christmas, which then became a begrudged social duty to perform, or at best, an appreciation of family and friends. While that is better than nothing, as devotees we have the full realization of Christmas enchantment, for we know as a philosophical or realized truth, that everything does actually emanate from the all-good Personality of Godhead- nothing comes from nothing. We know that we can at best be His instruments, and thus make generous and non-begrudging, wholly joyful gifts of charity that continue on long after we have departed the scene, passing on all credit to the Lord’s causeless mercy and the recipients’ causeless good fortune.
There are many other similarities between our traditions- the Christmas tree, like the desire tree, fulfills all one’s desires. It is self-effulgent, like the trees and other objects in the spiritual world. The gifts given are not immediately recognized as such, but need to be picked up and unwrapped. Similarly, the original Santa gives us many presentations which seem at first burdensome, such as needing to care for someone, or being required to go out on Harinama, but in due course, the joyful nature of selfless service becomes revealed as something that we were hankering for, but did not recognize where under the tree it was situated. Even the most distressful experience can become a source of great enlightenment in retrospect- nothing is as it seems. But trusting that the Lord is our well-wisher, we have all the enthusiasm of children under the tree at Christmastime, not knowing what will be unwrapped, but knowing that it will be good.
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