Monthly Archives: December 2014

The history of Christmas

The History of Christmas

I. When was Jesus born?

A. Popular myth puts his birth on December 25th in the year 1 C.E.

B. The New Testament gives no date or year for Jesus’ birth. The earliest gospel – St. Mark’s, written about 65 CE – begins with the baptism of an adult Jesus. This suggests that the earliest Christians lacked interest in or knowledge of Jesus’ birthdate.

C. The year of Jesus birth was determined by Dionysius Exiguus, a Scythian monk, “abbot of a Roman monastery. His calculation went as follows:

a. In the Roman, pre-Christian era, years were counted from ab urbe condita (“the founding of the City” [Rome]). Thus 1 AUC signifies the year Rome was founded, 5 AUC signifies the 5th year of Rome’s reign, etc.

b. Dionysius received a tradition that the Roman emperor Augustus reigned 43 years, and was followed by the emperor Tiberius.

c. Luke 3:1,23 indicates that when Jesus turned 30 years old, it was the 15th year of Tiberius reign.

d. If Jesus was 30 years old in Tiberius’ reign, then he lived 15 years under Augustus (placing Jesus birth in Augustus’ 28th year of reign).

e. Augustus took power in 727 AUC. Therefore, Dionysius put Jesus birth in 754 AUC.

f. However, Luke 1:5 places Jesus’ birth in the days of Herod, and Herod died in 750 AUC – four years before the year in which Dionysius places Jesus birth.

D. Joseph A. Fitzmyer – Professor Emeritus of Biblical Studies at the Catholic University of America, member of the Pontifical Biblical Commission, and former president of the Catholic Biblical Association – writing in the Catholic Church’s official commentary on the New Testament[1], writes about the date of Jesus’ birth, “Though the year [of Jesus birth is not reckoned with certainty, the birth did not occur in AD 1. The Christian era, supposed to have its starting point in the year of Jesus birth, is based on a miscalculation introduced ca. 533 by Dionysius Exiguus.”

E. The DePascha Computus, an anonymous document believed to have been written in North Africa around 243 CE, placed Jesus birth on March 28. Clement, a bishop of Alexandria (d. ca. 215 CE), thought Jesus was born on November 18. Based on historical records, Fitzmyer guesses that Jesus birth occurred on September 11, 3 BCE.

F. Luke 2:8 explains that when Christ was born, “there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.” Note that they were “abiding” in the field. This never happened in December. Both Ezra 10:9-13 and the Song of Solomon 2:11 show that winter was the rainy season and shepherds could not stay on cold, open fields at night.

II. How Did Christmas Come to Be Celebrated on December 25?

A. Roman pagans first introduced the holiday of Saturnalia, a week long period of lawlessness celebrated between December 17-25. During this period, Roman courts were closed, and Roman law dictated that no one could be punished for damaging property or injuring people during the weeklong celebration. The festival began when Roman authorities chose “an enemy of the Roman people” to represent the “Lord of Misrule.” Each Roman community selected a victim whom they forced to indulge in food and other physical pleasures throughout the week. At the festival’s conclusion, December 25th, Roman authorities believed they were destroying the forces of darkness by brutally murdering this innocent man or woman.

B. The ancient Greek writer poet and historian Lucian (in his dialogue entitled Saturnalia) describes the festival’s observance in his time. In addition to human sacrifice, he mentions these customs: widespread intoxication; going from house to house while singing naked; rape and other sexual license; and consuming human-shaped biscuits (still produced in some English and most German bakeries during the Christmas season).

C. In the 4th century CE, Christianity imported the Saturnalia festival hoping to take the pagan masses in with it. Christian leaders succeeded in converting to Christianity large numbers of pagans by promising them that they could continue to celebrate the Saturnalia as Christians.[2]

D. The problem was that there was nothing intrinsically Christian about Saturnalia. To remedy this, these Christian leaders named Saturnalia’s concluding day, December 25th, to be Jesus’ birthday.

E. Christians had little success, however, refining the practices of Saturnalia. As Stephen Nissenbaum, professor history at the University of Massachussetts, Amherst, writes, “In return for ensuring massive observance of the anniversary of the Savior’s birth by assigning it to this resonant date, the Church for its part tacitly agreed to allow the holiday to be celebrated more or less the way it had always been.” The earliest Christmas holidays were celebrated by drinking, sexual indulgence, singing naked in the streets (a precursor of modern caroling), etc.

F. The Reverend Increase Mather of Boston observed in 1687 that “the early Christians who first observed the Nativity on December 25 did not do so thinking that Christ was born in that Month, but because the Heathens’ Saturnalia was at that time kept in Rome, and they were willing to have those Pagan Holidays metamorphosed into Christian ones.”[3] Because of its known pagan origin, Christmas was banned by the Puritans and its observance was illegal in Massachusetts between 1659 and 1681.[4] However, Christmas was and still is celebrated by most Christians.

G. Some of the most depraved customs of the Saturnalia carnival were intentionally revived by the Catholic Church in 1466 when Pope Paul II, for the amusement of his Roman citizens, forced Jews to race naked through the streets of the city. An eyewitness account reports, “Before they were to run, the Jews were richly fed, so as to make the race more difficult for them and at the same time more amusing for spectators. They ran… amid Rome’s taunting shrieks and peals of laughter, while the Holy Father stood upon a richly ornamented balcony and laughed heartily.”[5]

H. As part of the Saturnalia carnival throughout the 18th and 19th centuries CE, rabbis of the ghetto in Rome were forced to wear clownish outfits and march through the city streets to the jeers of the crowd, pelted by a variety of missiles. When the Jewish community of Rome sent a petition in1836 to Pope Gregory XVI begging him to stop the annual Saturnalia abuse of the Jewish community, he responded, “It is not opportune to make any innovation.”[6] On December 25, 1881, Christian leaders whipped the Polish masses into Antisemitic frenzies that led to riots across the country. In Warsaw 12 Jews were brutally murdered, huge numbers maimed, and many Jewish women were raped. Two million rubles worth of property was destroyed.

III. The Origins of Christmas Customs

A. The Origin of Christmas Tree
Just as early Christians recruited Roman pagans by associating Christmas with the Saturnalia, so too worshippers of the Asheira cult and its offshoots were recruited by the Church sanctioning “Christmas Trees”.[7] Pagans had long worshipped trees in the forest, or brought them into their homes and decorated them, and this observance was adopted and painted with a Christian veneer by the Church.

B. The Origin of Mistletoe
Norse mythology recounts how the god Balder was killed using a mistletoe arrow by his rival god Hoder while fighting for the female Nanna. Druid rituals use mistletoe to poison their human sacrificial victim.[8] The Christian custom of “kissing under the mistletoe” is a later synthesis of the sexual license of Saturnalia with the Druidic sacrificial cult.[9]

C. The Origin of Christmas Presents
In pre-Christian Rome, the emperors compelled their most despised citizens to bring offerings and gifts during the Saturnalia (in December) and Kalends (in January). Later, this ritual expanded to include gift-giving among the general populace. The Catholic Church gave this custom a Christian flavor by re-rooting it in the supposed gift-giving of Saint Nicholas (see below).[10]

D. The Origin of Santa Claus

a. Nicholas was born in Parara, Turkey in 270 CE and later became Bishop of Myra. He died in 345 CE on December 6th. He was only named a saint in the 19th century.

b. Nicholas was among the most senior bishops who convened the Council of Nicaea in 325 CE and created the New Testament. The text they produced portrayed Jews as “the children of the devil”[11] who sentenced Jesus to death.

c. In 1087, a group of sailors who idolized Nicholas moved his bones from Turkey to a sanctuary in Bari, Italy. There Nicholas supplanted a female boon-giving deity called The Grandmother, or Pasqua Epiphania, who used to fill the children’s stockings with her gifts. The Grandmother was ousted from her shrine at Bari, which became the center of the Nicholas cult. Members of this group gave each other gifts during a pageant they conducted annually on the anniversary of Nicholas’ death, December 6.

d. The Nicholas cult spread north until it was adopted by German and Celtic pagans. These groups worshipped a pantheon led by Woden –their chief god and the father of Thor, Balder, and Tiw. Woden had a long, white beard and rode a horse through the heavens one evening each Autumn. When Nicholas merged with Woden, he shed his Mediterranean appearance, grew a beard, mounted a flying horse, rescheduled his flight for December, and donned heavy winter clothing.

e. In a bid for pagan adherents in Northern Europe, the Catholic Church adopted the Nicholas cult and taught that he did (and they should) distribute gifts on December 25th instead of December 6th.

f. In 1809, the novelist Washington Irving (most famous his The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Rip Van Winkle) wrote a satire of Dutch culture entitled Knickerbocker History. The satire refers several times to the white bearded, flying-horse riding Saint Nicholas using his Dutch name, Santa Claus.

g. Dr. Clement Moore, a professor at Union Seminary, read Knickerbocker History, and in 1822 he published a poem based on the character Santa Claus: “Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse. The stockings were hung by the chimney with care, in the hope that Saint Nicholas soon would be there…” Moore innovated by portraying a Santa with eight reindeer who descended through chimneys.

h. The Bavarian illustrator Thomas Nast almost completed the modern picture of Santa Claus. From 1862 through 1886, based on Moore’s poem, Nast drew more than 2,200 cartoon images of Santa for Harper’s Weekly. Before Nast, Saint Nicholas had been pictured as everything from a stern looking bishop to a gnome-like figure in a frock. Nast also gave Santa a home at the North Pole, his workshop filled with elves, and his list of the good and bad children of the world. All Santa was missing was his red outfit.

i. In 1931, the Coca Cola Corporation contracted the Swedish commercial artist Haddon Sundblom to create a coke-drinking Santa. Sundblom modeled his Santa on his friend Lou Prentice, chosen for his cheerful, chubby face. The corporation insisted that Santa’s fur-trimmed suit be bright, Coca Cola red. And Santa was born – a blend of Christian crusader, pagan god, and commercial idol.

IV. The Christmas Challenge

· Christmas has always been a holiday celebrated carelessly. For millennia, pagans, Christians, and even Jews have been swept away in the season’s festivities, and very few people ever pause to consider the celebration’s intrinsic meaning, history, or origins.

· Christmas celebrates the birth of the Christian god who came to rescue mankind from the “curse of the Torah.” It is a 24-hour declaration that Judaism is no longer valid.

· Christmas is a lie. There is no Christian church with a tradition that Jesus was really born on December 25th.

· December 25 is a day on which Jews have been shamed, tortured, and murdered.

· Many of the most popular Christmas customs – including Christmas trees, mistletoe, Christmas presents, and Santa Claus – are modern incarnations of the most depraved pagan rituals ever practiced on earth.

Many who are excitedly preparing for their Christmas celebrations would prefer not knowing about the holiday’s real significance. If they do know the history, they often object that their celebration has nothing to do with the holiday’s monstrous history and meaning. “We are just having fun.”


Alternate sources – The Speaking tree

Shiva the Eternal Mystique

Q: Who is Shiva?

Sri Sri: I would ask the question what is not Shiva. Just now you heard the invocation. Is Shiva a form, is he someone sitting somewhere? Shiva is the one from where everything has come and in which everything is sustained, and into which everything dissolves. There is no way you can step out of Shiva. Shiva is Vishwa Rupa, the form of Shiva is the whole Universe, yet he is formless. Through Omkara you can know him. Go deep into the primordial sound of the Universe. How can you understand? Through the knowledge you hear in deep meditation – the shrutis. Only in the depth of wisdom, you can understand what Shiva is.

Tamo yoga gamaya- through penance and yoga you can experience. There is a beautiful story, once Brahma and Vishnu wanted to understand Shiva completely. Vishnu went down for thousands of years to find Shiva’s feet and Brahma went up to find Shiva’s head. Means there is no beginning and no end to Shiva.

Linga is simply a symbol. Shiva tattva is the most beautiful tattva and it is most difficult to talk about also. It can only be felt, beyond understanding. Still we make a little effort to understand it. When words go that close and returns, that is Shiva. Even mind cannot understand it. That is a big challenge to even talk about this most beautiful tattva.

Q: How can we experience Shiva every moment?

Sri Sri: The experiencer himself is Shiva. You simply have to be present in the moment and Shiva tattva is already there. We have waking, dreaming, and sleeping states of consciousness. The fourth state of consciousness is Shiva. When you are meditating, you are neither waking nor sleeping. That glimpse of the fourth state is Shiva tattva. It is so auspicious, there is no two, peace, that is what is your Self, that is worth knowing: that is what the Vedanta says. Who you think you are is not just a name, is not just a form, that scintillating consciousness in you is Shiva.

Q: Mrityunjaya mantra is supposed to give victory over death.

Sri Sri: Mrityunjaya mantra is one of the most reverent mantra in the Vedic tradition. Markandaya Rishi chanted this mantra. Mrtiyu means death. Jaya means victory over death. Victory for the soul or the body? Every moment the body is changing. Our body is a township. Like in a town new children are being born. Mrityunjaya means victory over the mind, the mind realizes that there is something in me that is not changing. Then there is no fear. Fear is one of the signs of death. You win over the fear. You win over the small mindedness of identification with the perishable and move to the imperishable. We are combination of both: our spirit is imperishable and the body is perishable.

There is a prayer : Let Shiva make me strong. Let him make me strong. Let him give me relief. Desire to be free from bondage takes you out from bondage.

Q: Why is Shiva depicted as Nataraja?

Sri Sri: The cosmos is not a journey to somewhere. Usually people ask what is the purpose of life. Creation is simple a display and play of consciousness. Like the dancer and dance cannot be separated, similarly the Creation and the Creator are not two separate things. This truth was depicted in the form of Nataraja. There is wind in one hand, deer depicts air, fire element, space element is depicted with a little conical drum (damru). The dance of consciousness is the whole Universe. This universe is celebrating everyday. This truth is brought out. One who does not know this, suffers. One who knows that this whole creation is a dance, is an expression of joy, that truth is Shiva tattva.

Q: Lord Shiva wears Vibhuti on his body. There is a song which expounds the importance of Vibhuti. Could you please explain the song?

Sri Sri: Shiva’s temple is the consciousness. Shiva is not in the stones, in temples, he is in the consciousness of the human beings. Our body all becomes ashes, ash is the last, the ultimate. Vibhuti does not mean the ashes one puts on the head. The devotee says you are the mantra and you are above all Gods, you are all wealth, you are everything. Vibhuti also means blessings that get bestowed, the great things, the ultimate things. The devotee always thinks bigger, he wears the ultimate. Shiva means in the consciousness of the Universe. That which encompasses the whole Universe, that something in which every life is. Reminding everyone of the unfathomable, incomprehensible, the mystical Shiva tattva.
Atma tvam – The stage comes when the realization comes – my intellect is Parvati, the Prana is all paraphernalia Gods or accompaniments. There are 5 pranas and 5 up-pranas. The Puranas give something for people at every level. You cannot give Quantum Physics knowledge to a child. Different levels of understanding exist in the society and the Puranas cater to every level.

A popular TV serial has come on Shiva. In TV, they dramatize a little more. It does not have a scriptural basis. Parvati keeps crying and Shiva has to please her. I told them and sent them a letter that you have not shown the mental state of Parvati properly. From Kashmir’s Shaivism to the South, there is very beautiful depiction of the Shiva Tattva.

Jesus & Buddha

Jesus says: Ask, and it shall be given. Buddha says: Ask not, and it shall be given. Jesus says: Seek, and ye shall find. Buddha says: Seek not, and ye shall find. Jesus says: Knock, and the doors shall be opened unto you. Buddha says: There is no need to knock; the doors are already open.
Why this difference between two enlightened persons? Both are awakened. The difference is because of the audience. Jesus is speaking to very ordinary people; Buddha is speaking to his commune – that is the difference. He can speak the highest truth without any compromise. Jesus cannot. Jesus has to compromise with the listeners.
Jesus lived without a commune. Yes, a few disciples he had, twelve disciples – and those twelve disciples are also not of much worth. Buddha had thousands of disciples and of tremendous value – because many of them became enlightened while Buddha was alive. In his commune there were at least one thousand enlightened people, of the same status as he himself was. He could talk in any possible way and it would not be misunderstood; there was no worry on his part about being misunderstood. Jesus had to be constantly on guard, and even then he was misunderstood and crucified.

~ Osho – Dhammapada Volume 8

The Art of Eating

Whenever you are half-hearted in anything, it lingers longer.
If you are sitting at your table and eating, and if you eat only half-heartedly and your hunger remains, then you will continue to think about food the whole day. You can try fasting and you will see: you will continuously think about food. But if you have eaten well – and when I say eaten well, I don’t mean only that you have stuffed your stomach. Then it is not necessarily so that you have eaten well. You could have stuffed yourself. But eating well is an art. It is not just stuffing. It is great art: to taste the food, to smell the food, to touch the food, to chew the food, to digest the food, and to digest it as divine. It is divine; it is a gift from the divine.
Hindus say, Anam Brahma – food is divine. So with deep respect you eat, and while eating you forget everything, because it is a prayer. It is an existential prayer. You are eating the divine and the divine is going to give you nourishment. It is a gift to be accepted with deep love and gratitude. And you don’t stuff the body, because stuffing the body is being anti-body. It is the other pole.
There are people who are obsessed with fasting, and there are people who are obsessed with stuffing themselves. Both are wrong because in both the ways the body loses balance. A real lover of the body eats only to the point where body feels perfectly quiet, balanced, tranquil; where body feels to be neither leaning to the left nor to the right, but just in the middle. It is an art to understand the language of the body, to understand the language of your stomach, to understand what is needed, to give only that which is needed, and to give that in an artistic way, in an aesthetic way.
Animals eat, man eats. Then what is the difference? Man makes a great aesthetic experience out of eating. What is the point of having a beautiful dining table? What is the point of having candles burning there? What is the point of incense? What is the point of asking friends to come and participate? It is to make it an art, not just stuffing. But these are outward signs of the art; the inward signs are to understand the language of your body, to listen to it, to be sensitive to its needs. And then you eat, and then the whole day you will not remember food at all. Only when the body is hungry again will the remembrance come. Then it is natural.

~ OSHO – The Beloved, Vol.1, Talk #4

Tantra !!!

Question – How is it that great masters like Chogyam Trungpa get so drunk on occasional festivities that they have to be carried home? Can the use of alcohol for enjoyment disturb a certain awareness of seekers?
Osho – Who told you that this man is a Master? He belongs to a tradition in which many Masters have existed, but he carries just the dead load. And this is the trouble because in the tradition to which he belongs there have been men like Marpa, Milarepa, Naropa, Tilopa — great siddhas — and they all used to drink, now this is delicate, but they never got drunk. They used to drink, but they never got drunk.
That is one of the ways of tantra, a method: one has to go on increasing the amount of alcohol and getting attuned to it, but remaining conscious. Hmm?… first you take just one teaspoonful. you remain conscious; then two; then three; then you go on. Then you drink the whole bottle. But now you are so attuned your consciousness is not disturbed; then alcohol won’t do. Then you move to more dangerous drugs.
There came a time in the tradition of tantra when snakes, poisonous snakes, were used because a man became so attuned to all types of drugs. Then the last test was the snake cobra. Then the cobra was forced to bite the man on the tongue — then too he remained conscious.
This was a secret test and a growth: now you have achieved to such crystallization of consciousness that the whole body is filled with alcohol but it doesn’t affect you. This was a point in tantra to go beyond the body; this is going beyond the body — for tantra.
This man comes from that tradition, so he has the permission from the tradition to drink, but if he gets drunk then he has missed the whole point; he not a Master; he is not aware. But in America everything is possible now. Not knowing the old tradition. this man can say to people, “Even our own Masters have been drinking.” In tantra all those things that are ordinarily prohibited are allowed. A tantric is allowed to eat meat — ordinarily it is prohibited; he is allowed to drink ordinarily it is prohibited; he is allowed to have sex — ordinarily for a seeker it is prohibited. Everything that is prohibited ordinarily, is allowed in tantra, but allowed with such conditions that if you forget the conditions you forget the whole thing.
One should go in sex, but there should be no ejaculation. If ejaculation happens, then it is ordinary sex; then it is not tantra. If you make love and no ejaculation happens, for hours you are together with the woman and no ejaculation happens, this is tantra. This is an attainment. Drinking is allowed, but getting drunk is not allowed. If you get drunk you are an ordinary drunkard — no need to bring tantra in.
Meat is allowed, but you have to eat meat — even sometimes human meat, human flesh, from dead bodies — but you should remain indifferent. You should remain unperturbed — not even a flicker in your consciousness that “something wrong….”
Tantra says that every bondage has to be transcended, and the last bondage is morality — that too has to be transcended. Unless you transcend morality you have not transcended the world. So in a country like India where vegetarianism has gone to the very deep core of Indian consciousness, meat-eating was allowed, but it was not allowed in the way that meat-eaters eat. A man has to prepare his whole life for it. He was to be a vegetarian; as a seeker he was to be a vegetarian.
Years will pass — ten years, twelve years he has remained a vegetarian, he has not made love to any woman, he has not drunk anything alcoholic, and he has not taken any other drugs. Then after twelve years, fifteen years, even twenty years, the Master will allow him, now, to move into sex, but to move with a woman with such respect that the woman is almost a goddess; it is not carnal. And the man who is moving with the woman has to worship her, touch her feet. And if even a slight sexual desire arises he is disqualified; then he is not ready for it.
It was a great preparation and a great test — greatest that has ever been created for man. With no desire, with no lust, he has to feel towards the woman as if she is his mother. If the Master says, and sees, that he is right — now he is like a child entering the woman, not like a man, and like a child he remains inside the woman with no sexuality arising: his breathing is not affected his body energy is not affected; for hours he remains together with the woman, there is no ejaculation; a deep silence pervades — it is a deep meditation.
For twenty years remaining a vegetarian and then suddenly you are offered meat to eat: your whole being will feel repulsed. Hmm?… if you feel repulsion then tantra says, “You are rejected. Now go beyond it. Now whatsoever is offered, accept it in deep gratitude.” You must know if you have remained a vegetarian even for one year and suddenly meat is offered, you will start feeling nausea, vomiting. If that comes that means the man is still living in the thoughts — because it is only a thought that this is meat and this is vegetable. Vegetable is also meat, because it comes from the body of the tree; and meat is also vegetable, because it comes from the tree of a man’s body or an animal’s body. This is the transcendence of morality.
And then he is prepared to drink strong drugs. If he has really become alert then whatsoever is given will change the chemistry of the body but not his consciousness; his consciousness will remain floating on the chemistry of the body. Gurdjieff used to drink as much as you can imagine — but was never unconscious, never drunk. He was a tantric Master. If you want to look in the West towards somebody, then he is George Gurdjieff, not Tibetan refugees.

~ OSHO – “Yoga: The Alpha and the Omega, Vol5″