Notes on a Buddhist path

Happy Bodhisattva Jesus’s Birthday!

December 24, 2012 By | 4 Comments

“Maybe Christmas,” he thought, “doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas… perhaps… means a little bit more.” ~ Dr. Seuss

Since becoming a Buddhist many of the attachments and traditions that I thought defined me have been ever so slowly falling away. Of course, the Buddhist concept of a non-self kind of puts the kibosh on “me” anyway. Now that it’s Christmas time I’ve been taking stock of my yuletide cravings and checking them off my list.

One thing I did recently was have a dana, or generosity, potluck party. My friends came over with a yummy dish to eat and they left with my stuff. (More about this at Besides giving away books, CDs and art, I managed to whittle down my five boxes of Christmas decorations to just about one. Gone are the stockings, the wooden angels, the tree skirt and 100 plus ornaments. Instead of a gaudy evergreen taking over my living room, I have a simple black vase of cedar boughs sitting on my mantle, bedecked with the few ornaments I decided to keep. Sublime in its simplicity, it carries my childhood memories of growing up as well as some hand-painted glass beauties I’ve collected over the years. It’s perfection.

Then there’s the music. I gave away most of my Christmas CD’s at my party, but as December 25th crept closer I was feeling the urge to imbibe in a few sips of melodious wassail. I went to two holiday concerts this past weekend that embraced the religious and secular holiday music camps with equal verve. The first was a toe-tapping fiddling and singing extravaganza while the second was a choral repast that included a pure  reading of my favourite holiday story, Dylan Thomas’s “A Child’s Christmas in Wales” as the main course. I must say my leanings now are more to traditional and holy songs; “Santa Baby” has become a bit too disdainful. When you’re cravings extend to yachts, platinum mines, and sable fur coats, nibbana is sure to be a few dozen lifetimes down the road.

As much as I have embraced the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path, I must admit I still get all warm and fuzzy inside at this time of year. There’s the sense of nostalgia, I suppose, but also there’s a subtle expectancy laced with peace. Now that there is no tree set up as a placeholder for gifts, the expectations have slowed and settled more into present time rather than presents. There’s the sweet desserts of seeing friends, the white drifts of quiet that scent the nights, and the reels of gifts singing through the streets. Not in the sense of physical gifts, but in heavenly wings of dana that touch the homeless man by the video store as much as the parents watching their children in a Christmas pageant a few blocks away.

A new email friend of mine wrote to me the other day and wished me a Happy Bodhisattva Jesus’s Birthday. It was a wish as brilliant as the star of Bethlehem. Jesus was after all a true bodhisattva, a being on his way to enlightenment. What a delicious way to see Christmas through the eyes of a Buddhist.

So here’s to Bodhisattva Jesus, and to you. May the new year bring you joy, peace, and unfinished wings of heaven.


By Li-Young Lee

In the dark, a child might ask, What is the world?
just to hear his sister
promise, An unfinished wing of heaven,
just to hear his brother say,
A house inside a house,
but most of all to hear his mother answer,
One more song, then you go to sleep.

How could anyone in that bed guess
the question finds its beginning
in the answer long growing
inside the one who asked, that restless boy,
the night’s darling?

Later, a man lying awake,
he might ask it again,
just to hear the silence
charge him, This night
arching over your sleepless wondering,

this night, the near ground
ever reaching-out-to overreaches,

just to remind himself
out of what little earth and duration,
out of what immense good-bye,

each must make a safe place of his heart,
before so strange and wild a guest
as God approaches.

“Nativity” from Book of My Nights, by Li-Young Lee, BOA Editions Ltd, © 2001

Dr. Seuss quote from “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”, Random House Books for Young Readers, © 1957

Image Credit: © Tess Wixted, all rights reserved


  1. “My friends came over with a yummy dish to eat and they left with my stuff.”

    Wow! I do the same thing in reverse. I go home to my parents and get yummy home-cooked meals for a week, and I give them my stuff. It’s a good deal, no? But your way of doing it is more committed. 🙂

    I like the poem also! “One more song, then you go to sleep.”

    Blessings & Happy Christmas!


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