16th December 2015
This year Santa is not buying into any more
Last weekend in Paris, world leaders successfully concluded their climate action summit, addressing how each nation can reduce their impact on our precious climate, and help relieve some of the effects created by our past unmindful actions. As we enter the holiday season here in Plum Village, the hundreds of guests who will come to celebrate with us may be surprised to see that the oak trees have not yet all let go of their leaves, and that the days are warm even in mid-December. Looking at the colors of the surrounding forests, it seems Fall has not yet left us and Winter has yet to blow its way in. But then again, perhaps those coming who are informed of what is happening all over our planet might not be surprised.
This holiday season, the energy of love and compassion is needed more than ever before – love for our precious planet, love for those in particularly vulnerable countries who are suffering due to climate change, and love for the many refugees forced to flee their country and who have not yet found a safe home and refuge elsewhere. The Pope has shared that this Christmas there is nothing to be joyous about, because there are so many among us choosing hate and violence instead of peace and love. Conflict in the Middle East is inextricably linked to many other causes and conditions in other parts of the world, including the fight to control fossil fuels, the displacement of people due to climate change, and the poverty of spirit that is a source of so much discontent and violence.
This season, we invite you to imagine a Santa Claus dressed in green. He bears an empty sack, with no material gifts, but only a gift of the heart, a gift of love. This Santa visits each home, not coming secretly down the chimney, but knocking overtly at the front door. He has nothing in his bag. He greets the family and embraces each child in his arms with a long hug, no matter what color their skin, or whether they live in broken-down huts or luxurious homes. He tells them that this Christmas, he is bringing them the gift of love and compassion, and not gifts wrapped in boxes, because it is this energy of love and compassion that the world is most in need of now.
Today, the image and concept of Santa Claus is inseparable from spending and material consumption. It has been used to induce people to spend money un-necessarily on more and more things that can never fulfil their desire. It is a product of our collective consumerist society. The image of the green Santa invokes awareness in us about the current “crisis of heart” that is raging in many parts of the world. What we need most at this moment is more understanding, tolerance and love, for our fellow human beings, and for our precious planet. They are crying out in need.
This holiday season, let us make this awareness part of our daily life by not spending our money on gifts and material things that we really do not need. Let us give a gift from our heart to our child or loved ones. We can make something from our own hands that symbolize our sincere care and concern for them. Thầy has many times shared with us that the greatest gift we can offer to someone is our true presence. We can write a letter of appreciation of their presence in our life. Let us be creative in celebrating the birth of a beautiful child who brought the message of love to the world. Let us remember also that his mother gave birth to him on the road fleeing without a home.
Our Mother Earth has given birth to us with all her love. She has given us water to drink, air to breathe, and food to nurture our body and mind. She loves us all unconditionally. Now is the time for us to show her and all our brothers and sisters this love as well, by the way we spend our time and money this holiday. It is our concrete way to express our awareness of what is happening in the world.
We can bring more mindfulness into our life, by being present for our loved ones, spending more time with nature, and enjoying our daily activities with joy and peace. We can show our love by the way we turn on the faucet, the way we drink a cup of orange juice, the way we make a gentle step on the earth. This restraint from spending will require training and deep looking. But through deep looking at what is happening in the present moment all over the world, we can empower ourself to act more mindfully.
We do not need to wait for our governments and corporations to do the right thing. With each moment in our daily life we can bring love and healing to our planet, to our loved ones and to those groups of people in need. How we act in the present moment contributes to a larger collective action, to a collective awakening, and to a future that is less destructive, with fewer conflicts, and filled more love, hope, compassion and understanding.
With trust and love,
Thay Phap Dung
Brother Phap Dung (meaning “Brother True Dharma Embrace”) was for many years the Abbot of Thich Nhat Hanh’s Deer Park Monastery in California and is now an elder brother in the Upper Hamlet. He grew up in Los Angeles, trained as an architect, and is now actively supporting our community in many aspects, including training young monastics, and supporting the Happy Farm, Wake Up Schools program, and Earth Holder initiatives.