During the Holiday season I was invited a few times by friends from different spiritual traditions to celebrate Christmas. In the area where I live there is a tradition of Kirtan and it was the heart of many Christmas get togethers.
Kirtan is a form of devotional chanting which comes from ancient India. It exists mainly in the Hindu tradition, but can also be found in other religious traditions including some forms of Buddhism. It is based on the idea that people can cast aside the heavy burdens of ritual and caste, and the subtle complexities of philosophy, and simply express their overwhelming love for God through music, song and chanting.
I enjoyed joining my friends. It was a heart opening spiritual experience. Some of the songs and chants were about Jesus, some about gods from the Hindu traditions and some even about enlightened beings from the Buddhist tradition like Tara, Avalokiteshvara and Amitabha.
I found it especially inspiring to listen to the songs and prayers from the Christian tradition. It seemed to me that if we look at the bigger picture, the main message is not so different. Instead of seeing Christ as a person we can see him as a quality or aspect of our divine nature. Maybe the true meaning of the birth of Christ can be compared to the personal experience of our true nature in Buddhism. Isn’t the essence Buddhism about awakening our inherent wisdom, love and compassion?
So I joined in the prayers with the wish that the gentle loving presence of enlightened awareness be born within me. It worked well for me. I am sure Jesus wouldn’t mind. My friends certainly didn’t!