THE MEANING AND SPIRITUAL SIGNIFICANCE OF THE CHRISTMAS
Chiman Patel and Ramananda Prasad
In the month of December, around Christmas time, people around the world buy and decorate the Christmas tree with lots of love and devotion. Every Christian family around the world spends a large sum of money during this festival, which is the festival of giving, caring, and sharing in the name of God to purify the heart. They also celebrate the birthday of Jesus Christ during this period. The entire atmosphere is charged with the energy of the Holy Spirit of Brahm (Father) during this period. Hindus respect the saints and sages of all religious beliefs and consider Jesus one of the yogic incarnations of God. Most Hindus in and outside India join this festival and celebrate in their own way without knowing the deeper and divine forgotten meaning of the Christmas tree.
Note: The word "Hindu" is not found in our major Holy Scriptures. Inhabitants near the river Sindhu were called Hindus. "The country lying between the Himalayan mountain and Bindu Sarovara (Cape Comorin sea) is known as Hindusthan by combination of the first letter `hi' of
`Himalaya' and the last compound letter `ndu' of the word `Bindu." SOURCE: Hinduism Today, April 1992.Persons in India, and around the world who know Sanatan Dharma ¾
the eternal relationship between the individual soul and the Supreme soul ¾
and have the following divine qualities: Humility, Integrity, Neutrality, Divinity, and Universality are known as Hindus.
Aim of the AMERICAN GITA SOCIETYÒ
is to break the barriers between faiths, and establish unity of races, religions castes, and creeds through the immortal non-sectarian teachings of the Vedas, Upanishads, Gita, Ramayana, as well as other major world scriptures such as the Dhammapada, the Bible, and the Koran; and to promote the Universal Brotherhood of Humankind. We want to put the teachings of the Holy Gita in every library, school, jail, home, hospital, hotel, and motel. People may end their religious and political bias if they understand and appreciate the spiritual meaning behind this festival of the Christmas tree.
There are several unanswered questions regarding the origin of the Christmas tree. The research department of the American Gita Society lead by yogi Chimanbhai has tried to answer the following questions:
1. How we, the Hindus, are related to this tree according to the Gita.
2. How this tree is related to the spiritual and material world
3. Is Christmas just a traditional winter festival? How does this tree relate to human life?
4. Does it represent a celebration of the birthday of Jesus Christ, or does it have any other significance?
5. Was Jesus, the son of Mary, born on the Christmas day?
6. How the Hindus should celebrate Christmas in the foreign land?
7. Was Christmas celebration meant to stimulate business during the winter?
8. Why all these festivals such as Hanukkah,
Gita Jayanti, Ramadan, and Christmas
have been celebrated during the month of
9. What is the spiritual meaning behind this age-old celebration?
All these and many other questions can be answered if we know who was the first person to describe this tree, and in which religious scripture this tree has been so beautifully described. This divine Christmas Tree is a manifestation of Lord, Father Krishna, who gave divinity, spiritual power, and God's covenant to Moses at Mt. Sinai.
According to our preliminary research, the Christmas tree is not described in the Holy Bible, or perhaps anywhere in the Christian literature. We believe that this festival originally came from India to Europe (Germany) where Christians adopted it. Then it came to England, and spread all over the world from England. It is also said that Jesus was not born on December 25. He might have been born on around April 20. Some books have been published at:
(Jesus in India by Holger Kersten, 1994, Element Books, Inc.)
Where the writer proved Jesus spent a part of his life, "The Lost and Last Years" in Kashmir, India. The Holy Bible was written 200 years after the death of Jesus.
The Bible says: I am the way; no one goes to Father except through me (John 14.06). Try to perfect yourself just as your Father in the heaven is perfect (Matthew 5.48).
Lord Krishna said: Whatever forms are produced in all different wombs, O Arjuna, the material Nature is their body-giving mother; and I am the life-giving Father. (Gita 14.04)
Over five thousand years ago, Lord Krishna described this divine tree to his devotee and friend Arjuna in the first five verses of Chapter 15 of the Holy Bhagavad-Gita. The person who achieves divine awareness through the teachings of Lord Krishna, as given in chapter 15 of the Gita, detaches from the material tree of the universe after knowing the true nature of the Self, the creator, and the creation; and attains salvation.
Even today in India the age-old ritual of worshipping the tree, or worshipping under the tree is celebrated with great faith. The worship under a live tree helps ecology and the environment. All over the world GITA DAY is celebrated by the Hindus on the eleventh day of MargaShirsha also known as Mokshada Ekadashi or the Gita Jayanti (Gita Day) according to Hindu Almanac. Gita Day is celebrated by the devotees who fast, read the Holy Gita, chant and sing the verses of the Gita, and attend discourses on the Gita for the whole day. Last year (1997) Gita Day was observed on 24th December. This year (1998) it will be celebrated on 29th November, because the Vedic calendar is based on the moon, where as western calendar is a solar calendar. Every four year two calendars coincide.
THE CREATION IS LIKE A TREE CREATED BY THE POWERS OF MAYA, THE COSMIC ENERGY OF THE LORD
Let us first examine the verses in the Gita that pertains to the subject matter under discussion.
Lord Krishna said: The universe (or the human body) may be compared to a colorful, ever-changing, eternal tree that has its origin in the Supreme Being and its branches below in the cosmos. The Vedic hymns are the leaves of this tree. One who understands this tree knows the Vedas. (Gita 15.01)
The branches of this eternal tree are spread all over the cosmos. The tree of life is nourished by the energy of material Nature; sense pleasures are its sprouts; and its roots of ego and desires stretch below in the human world causing Karmic bondage. (Gita 15.02)
The human body, a microcosmic universe or the world, may also be compared to a beginningless and endless tree. Karma is the seed, the countless desires are its roots, and the ten organs of perception and action are its sub-branches. Three modes of material Nature provide the nourishment, and sense pleasures are its sprouts. This tree is ever changing; but, eternal without beginning and end. Just as the leaves protect the tree, similarly, the rituals protect and perpetuate this tree. The one who truly understands this marvelous tree, its origin (or root), its nature and working, knows the Vedas in a true sense.
The five stars on the top of the Christmas tree are the five basic elements out of which the entire universe is created by mother Nature. These five basic elements ¾
the raw ingredients of material creation in subtle and gross form ¾
are: Ether, air, fire, water, and earth. Three light bulbs at the center of the star are the mind, intellect and the conception of individuality or ego.
HOW MATERIAL WORLD EXPANDED
Lord Krishna, the Supreme Being, is higher than both the Eternal Spirit (Akshar Brahm or Atma) and the Temporal Being (Adi Narayana or MahaVishnu). He is called the Father, Supreme Being or Paramatma. He expanded Himself by His own fractional energy as Lord Vishnu to create this material universe. Lord Vishnu expanded as Lord Brahmaa and Mahesha. This is the trinity of Brahmaa, Vishnu, and Mahesha ¾
the cycle of creation, maintenance, and dissolution. The space around us is called Brahmaand space and has been created by the kinetic energy of the Lord called Maya or the illusory power. Maya created mother Nature (Prakriti) for the purpose of creating the material world.
People knew this secret science after Lord Krishna described it in the Gita over 5,000 years ago. People around the world respect, worship, and adore the Holy tree of creation. In the Gita this tree is called "Ashvattha" tree, and is commonly known as the Holy fig tree in India. The meaning of this Sanskrit word "Ashvattha" is that which does not last even by tomorrow. We know that everything in the universe and in our own body is changing every second, and nothing is permanent.
Water is given at the root of the Christmas tree to keep it green. This water is called the water of Maya or MayaJal in Hindi. The creation is born and sustained by the energy of Maya. Maya is the energy of God or Lord Krishna. Dolls and animals are the 8.4 million different species of life on this planet. Small leaves are the unlimited material desires, and tiny thorns are the obstacles in the path of spiritual life. Two aspects of Eternal Being ¾
the divine Controller (Ishvara) and the controlled being (living entity, individual soul, Jiva) ¾
make their nest and reside on the same tree as a part of the cosmic drama. Virtue and vice are the glorious flowers of this tree; pleasure and pain are its sweet and sour fruits. The living entity, due to ignorance, eats these fruits; whereas the controller sits on the tree, watches, and guides the living entity. The living entities are like beautiful birds of various hues. No two birds on this tree are the same.
The light bulbs on the Holy tree are the stars and the universes. The electricity is the universal consciousness. Colored balls are the unlimited worlds. Santa Claus is a symbol of detachment, mercy, giving, charity, forgiveness, and sacrifice. He is Brahma, Deva, the guardian angel who provides us everything and fulfills all our material desires. The sound of Jingle Bell is Brahmanaad, the Anahat sound (Omkar) heard by yogis. The greeting cards give us the message of detachment from the material world, and remind us that it is time to fully understand the creator and the creation. Cards wish that Lord bless us all with mercy, love, forgiveness, and Self-knowledge. The packages of gift under the tree represent salvation that is possible by detachment from bodily and worldly mood and knowing the Father (or the root). At the end of the season the Christmas tree is recycled just as the entire visible creation is dissolved during dissolution (Gita 8.17) at the end of the creative cycle (or the day of Brahmaa) which is 4.32 billion solar years.
HOW TO CUT THE TREE OF WORLDLY ATTACHMENT AND ATTAIN SALVATION BY TAKING REFUGE IN GOD
The beginning, the end, or the real form of this tree are not perceptible on the earth. Having cut the firm roots ¾
the desires ¾
of this tree by the mighty ax of Self-knowledge and detachment, one should seek that supreme abode reaching where one does not come back to the mortal world again. One should be always thinking: "In that very Supreme Being I take refuge from which this entire creation comes forth." (Gita 15.03-04)
The wise ones, who are free from pride and delusion, who have conquered the evil of attachment, who are constantly dwelling in the Supreme Being with all lust completely stilled, and who are free from dualities of pleasure and pain, reach My Supreme Abode (ParamaDham). (Gita 15.05)
The spiritual meaning and purpose of celebrating Christmas festival using the symbol of a tree is to realize the presence of Paramatma (Father) within all of us, and to remind us that the material universe has its root in our Lord, Father Krishna. The creation, symbolized by the Christmas tree, is very beautiful. And it reminds us that the creator must also be inconceivably beautiful and perfect. If we realize the true meaning of Christmas and the Christmas tree, the purpose of human life ¾
to know the relationship between the creator and the creation ¾
will be fulfilled.
GRACE OF THE GITA
Lord Krishna said: The one who shall propagate this supreme secret philosophy (of the Gita) amongst My devotees, shall be performing the highest devotional service to Me, and shall certainly come to Me. No other person shall do a more pleasing service to Me, and no one on the earth shall be more dear to Me. (Gita 18.68-69)
Reading the glory of the Gita ¾
as given in our scriptures and reproduced below ¾
generates faith and devotion in the heart, and is essential for reaping the benefits of the study of Gita.
One who is regular in the study of the Gita becomes divine, happy, peaceful, prosperous, and free from the bondage of Karma; though engaged in the performance of worldly duties. The one who studies even few verses of the Gita every day is not tainted by sin just as water does not stain a lotus leaf. The Gita is the best abode of Lord Krishna. The spiritual potency of the Lord abides in every verse of the Gita. The Bhagavad-Gita is the ocean of divine spiritual knowledge. Lord Krishna spoke this supreme science of Himself containing the essence of all the scriptures for the benefit of humanity. All the Upanishads are the cows; Arjuna is the calf; Lord Krishna is the milker; the nectar of the Gita is the milk; and the persons of purified intellects are the drinkers. One need not study any other scripture if he or she sincerely studies the Gita, contemplates on the meaning of the verses, and practices its teachings in one's daily life.
The affairs of the world run by the first commandment — the teachings of selfless service — of the creator so beautifully expounded in the Gita. The sacred knowledge of doing one's duty without looking for a reward is the original teaching that alone can lead us to salvation. The Gita is like a ship by which one can easily cross the ocean of transmigration, and attain liberation. It is said that wherever the Gita is chanted or read with love and devotion, Lord makes Himself present there to listen and enjoy the company of His devotees. Going to a place where Gita is regularly chanted or taught is like going to a Holy place of pilgrimage. Lord Himself comes to take the devotee to His Supreme Abode when one leaves the physical body contemplating on the knowledge of the Gita. The one who regularly reads, recites to others, hears, and follows the sacred knowledge of the Gita is sure to attain liberation (Nirvana) from the bondage of Karma, and attains ParaBhakti, the supreme devotion, of Lord Krishna.
Read the entire Gita on this auspicious Gita Day. If this is not possible, read few chapters, or just Chapter 15 on this Day. Sage Vyasa said in Mahabharata the gift of Self-knowledge is the best gift. Give this gift of knowledge to humanity and to your family and friends on this auspicious day. We should put a copy of the Gita and a chariot with Krishna and Arjuna under the Christmas tree together with other gifts for the family. If we know the divine meaning behind the Holy Tree of Christmas, this holiday season will bring everlasting peace, joy, and help reduce crime and other evils so prevalent in the society today, because we have forgotten the original message of the Lord.
OM SHANTIH SHANTIH SHANTIH OM
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"...Dr. Prasad's deft renderings are elegantly simple, easy to understand, and unencumbered by commentary. An ambitious work that will be appreciated by all who study the Gita.'' ¾
".....This translation is simply beautiful, because it is beautifully simple."
Rev. Phil Buzard, New York
".....Dr. Prasad brings the ancient wisdom and insights of divine message into modern applicability. A beautiful blend of melodic and compelling commentary......"
H. H. Swami Chidanand Sarasawati (Muniji), Rishikesh
Why Hinduism, which has more to offer than most religions, is only third in number of followers? This is a question that we must find a cause and a cure for. Your comments/thoughts will be appreciated.