Adventures in Advaita Vedanta, the philosophy and science of spirit. We are one you and I; are you curious why?..


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To Greet or Not To Greet...

Hari OM

Story-day is for cultural exploration, puraanas and parables and finding out about leading lights in spiritual philosophy.

There are a number of 'holidays' going on around the globe during this month… well the truth is each month of the year holds days of special-focus worship somewhere in the world. It is a joyous thing to share in festivals with which you are not familiar, as it will give a window onto a wider view of life as well as give scope to enrich and strengthen your own belief. What, of course, must be guarded against is seeing practices which differ from your own as being a threat. It is also a mistake, in celebrating one's own festivals, to seal them into a box and say 'this is mine, behave like me or leave'.

All who walk in pure spirit will embrace the differences, seek out the commonalities.

What is considered important, however, is that the true 'Holy' in these focus days is suitably acknowledged. So few people now know (or remember) that 'holiday' is just the corruption of language from Holy Day. As early as the 10th century it was recorded that, in respect to offices of a special day on the religious (Christian) calendar, everyone was expected to down tools and make activity devotional. As the centuries marched along and workforces formed guilds, the concept of taking a day from work purely for recreational purposes began to take hold. They were still on or around the Holy Days, but not always were the devotional aspects enforced; the Old English Dictionary reports holidays are  "days on which ordinary occupations, of individual or community, are suspended; a day of exemption or cessation from work; a day of festivity, recreation or amusement."
All bases covered then! 

It is also worth noting that the word is specific to English and, therefore, English-based societies. By default this means Christian, for it is purely within the Catholic tradition that the term (and practice of 'vacation' of work) arose. This does NOT mean that the Holy Days of other faiths are to be excluded from greetings! Certainly, if you know for sure that another is of the Christian faith, then dedicated Christmas blessings are apt. The modern trend to wish 'Happy Holidays' in December is, however, the most appropriate greeting when one is meeting strangers or others not of one's own cultural background. It must also be acknowledged that there are those who hold no religious faith at all, yet still seek to enjoy R&R with family and friends and have every right to be wished a peaceful and joyful time. That said, it is also notable that 'Merry Christmas' has entered the Western psyche to a similar extent that 'let's have a coffee' does not necessarily mean one must drink coffee - tea or herbal will do equally well - therefore umbrage ought not to be taken when greeted thus, even if it is not one's choice of festival.

In Hinduism, there are so many 'auspicious days', that the term holiday rather loses value. In effect, every day is considered Holy, but some are more sacred than others. Some are shared by the entire Hindu community, others are regional or differ according to which  मार्ग/maarg (path) is followed. For example, whether Vaishnavite or Shaivite. Then there are festivals, as in the West, related to seasonal change, harvest, calendar years and such like.

Not everyone, even in this most spiritually-infused culture, necessarily celebrates with Lord or Higher in mind. The 20th century saw a shift from the sacred to the secular at significant levels; in India this was slower to take hold, but (particularly in the highly cosmopolitan cities), it has become noticeable. Still there is much tradition upheld, but more and more it has become 'lip service'.

This is sad. In many respects, to sit in a place or ceremony of devotion without any focus or intention of truly worshipping, is one of the most profound hypocrisies; it is a corruption of the soul. Many who attend Christmas (or Easter) services, but no others throughout the year, might be seen as 'hedging their bets'! The "...well, just in case" justification is used. What a travesty. To have no clear conviction either way leaves one open to fear and doubt and all the other 'mines' which can destroy the balance of life. To attend mandir, synagogue or chapel without a level of surrender to the process therein surely blocks the possibility of relief. Some may attend because, at heart, they want to believe, they need to believe, but are hoping that they will be 'struck by lightening' and not have to make any effort in developing faith within.

If at all there is a desire to find a connection with the Higher, no matter what path appeals, each individual must make the first step themselves. One of the safest and simplest places to join the path is through the great festivals of the world. All it requires is an open heart (mind!), surrendered intellect (genuine curiosity) and an awareness of soul ("who am 'I' and why am 'I' here?").

The rest is between you and That. Wherever you are on the globe, wherever you are in your spiritual search, may this time of celebration bring you joy… 

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Hari OM
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