T'is the time. Yes, it seems to come round right about now during the year, just as it is most needed. To anticipate for young and to remember for the old. A time of good tidings and joy. A time of year that 36 major celebrations are offered by various world religions.
For me the season begins with Ohigan, then Thanksgiving, Rohatsu, Christmas, and the new year both Western and Eastern. Right now, in the world, we are asked to hold on to health practices that reduce the impact of a pandemic as we await taking a vaccine that hopefully will reduce suffering even more, possibly by Hanamatsuri.
This is a lead-in to a remarkable story of boundless wisdom for this or any time- Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol. Each year I turn to the gospel (good news) for renewal. For all of the things we as Buddhist and Zen practitioners can be are available in the pages of this thin book. For example, it begins with death attested to by both a door-nail and a coroner. And, then ends with an awakening or rebirth as to what was always there.
You know the charters by heart and can probably recite many passages. Passages is the theme of the book is it not, yours and mine? But the focus of the book's attention, its passages, is folded and unfolded through the life of Ebenezer Scrooge. For many years I've ask what people think of when I say Dickens' Christmas Carol and the majority answer greed. So let us begin here.
Greed in Buddhist parlance is one of the three poisons of suffering, the other two being hate and delusion. Greed is hordding, a kind of supreme attachment or addiction, just ask King Midas. The absolute inability to connect with others for fear of their getting what one possess is delusion that then leads to hate, etc-cause and effect. But there is of course the passage of redemption,"...all my past and harmful karma I now fully avow." Other characters underscore and are counterpoints to this moment by moment condition and renewal, a kind of dark night of the soul.
Spirits come and go, memories explored. and a peek into the current lives of others, plus one possible future contemplated, examined in terms of karmic cause and effect. Ah tis a ponderous chain (events).
Now my favorite part of the story. The name Ebenezer means "stone of help (Old Testament: Samuel)." When "he" awakens on Christmas morning he is no longer Scrooge but referred to by his first name...his Christian name-Ebenezer. Thus shifting from ego to being a refuge for others as a result of his experience (Rohatsu-like). He becomes a bodhisattva. The light within Ebenezer shines through actions by which Dickens concludes his narrative. He became known as the best old man (such) in good ole London town and it was said that he did so (thus) by keeping the true meaning of Christmas alive in his heart all year round...practice, practice, practice.