Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Why I Believe in Santa Claus--and so does Patanjali from the Yoga Sutras!

In Paramhansa Yogananda's commentary on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, specifically the yamas and niyamas (the "do's" and the "don'ts"), he emphasizes the consciousness underlying the precept and not merely its literal application to daily life. Not surprisingly, therefore, his foremost public service teaching disciple, Swami Kriyananda (founder of Ananda's worldwide work), carries this theme into his now classic text, The Art and Science of Raja Yoga. 

So, for example, in the yama of non-lying (satya), Yogananda asked the question (pertinent to his lifetime) that if you were living in Germany and hiding Jews from the Gestapo, would it be dharmic (righteous) to tell the Gestapo who show up at your door that "Oh, yes, I've been hiding them.....look behind that wall"? The obvious answer is NO! Thus, he would explain that to be truthful can't always be applied literally.

Swami Kriyananda gave the additional example that it can be a dharmic application of the yama of ahimsa (non-violence) to act in either self-defense (including a just war) or for the defense of others for whom you have the duty of protection to even have to kill another person. Self-defense in a just cause does not presume or require one to hate, he would add. To be harmless is to be devoid of the impulse, desire or tendency to get revenge, to hurt other people whom you don't like, to gossip or be judgmental. To be truthful includes ridding oneself of the tendency to wish things were different than they are, or to dwell in merely imaginary wishful thinking, or holding on to the past, which cannot be changed. And so on through the different yamas.

Patanjali was speaking therefore of a state of consciousness and to the reality that we need only to step away from false identifications and impulses to realize or become what we are already when we are centered not in things or sense experience but in the Self within: kind, truthful, and appropriate in thought and deed.

Swami Kriyananda told the story that, as a small boy, he asked his father whether Santa Claus was real. His father was more literal in his application of being truthful and confessed that "No, Santa Claus is not real." Swamiji (then, little Donald) was crushed. Later in his own life, indeed as an elderly man, Swamiji in telling that story would add, with an appropriate twinkle in his eye, "I still believe in Santa Claus."

Who is Santa Claus? We read stories of St. Nicholas, taking different names and with variations on the story of his compassion and charity, from different cultures. His story and persona persist Christmas after Christmas despite all reason, all facts, all knowledge about sleighs, reindeer, and chimneys. "A fact is not a truth." Truth is beneficial; it is healing; it connects with a greater and broader truth.

Is not Santa Claus the ideal and the embodiment, indeed, the human incarnation of generosity, compassion, kindness and everything good and jolly about him?

Can we not say, therefore, on the basis of a higher truth, that "Yes, Santa Claus exists." He is in you and me. He lives in us to the degree we express his lovable qualities of kindness, humor, self-giving and so on. Therefore, he lives on!

So next time your son or daughter, niece or nephew, or a small child anywhere asks, "Is Santa Claus real" or "Do you believe in Santa Claus" you can say YES, and, if helpful, quote Patanjali.

Ho, ho, ho.......Merry Christmas, and to all goodwill and peace on earth!

Swami Hrimananda!