As a practicing Buddhist and cultural Christian, there are elements of the Christmas season that I embrace. Peace on earth, goodwill to all? Yes, please! Holiday lights, I love them. A good light display brings my not so inner child right to the surface. Small festive gatherings let’s do it. While my celebration is purely cultural, I am happy to support my friends who sincerely celebrate the birth of their savior. I also love to watch friends enjoy Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, the Winter Solstice, and other special days. But, today, I am focusing on Christmas, and most specifically A Christmas Carol. In Prose. Being a Ghost Story of Christmas by Charles Dickens (A Christmas Carol).
Growing up in a Christian family, my favorite Christmas stories were Miracle on 34th Street (the original version, please), and MOST versions of A Christmas Carol. Since its release in 1988, I have had a definite preference for Scrooged with Bill Murray. I also love How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (the 1966 version with Boris Karloff, thank you.) In a Miracle on 34th Street, a young girl’s unwavering belief in Santa Claus always brings a smile to my face, and joy to my heart. What can I say? I am a sucker for a happy ending. And in Dickens’s classic tale, Ebenezer Scrooge shows us that it is never too late for a happy ending.
As I have moved more deeply into my Buddhist practice, I see Ebenezer Scrooge from a new perspective. I see his story, as an expression of mindfulness and karma.
“Men’s courses will foreshadow certain ends, to which, if persevered in, they must lead. But if the courses are departed from, the ends will change.” – Ebenezer Scrooge, A Christmas Carol.
I do not believe that Charles Dickens intended his story to be about mindfulness and karma. I do believe that across our many global belief systems, we share some common themes. You could take the above quote and interpret it as:
“The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.” – 2. Corinthians 9:6
Or you could interpret it as an expression of karma. Your actions, past and present, shape your outcome. As stated below, you own your actions, your experience comes from your actions.
“Beings are owners of karma, heir to karma, born of karma, related through karma, and have karma as their arbitrator. Karma is what creates distinctions among beings in terms of coarseness & refinement…” MN 135
As we meet Ebenezer Scrooge, he is a miserable human being. He is selfish, and unkind, and believes that those who encounter misfortune do so because of their own human weaknesses. He does not express this in a caring or compassionate manner. He comes from a place of blame. If you are poor, it is your fault. Clearly, you did something wrong. While we all do live our decisions, karma is not about blame. Karma is not about punishment. It is simply about action. The actions we take, shape the life we live. It does not occur to Ebenezer that anything is wrong with his views, or his life. But most of us, understand him to be unhappy. And within his story, most find him to be disagreeable. Someone to avoid. Only his nephew views him with compassion, wisely observing:
“I am sorry for [Scrooge]. I couldn’t be angry with him if I tried. Who suffers by his ill whims? Himself always.” – Ebenezer Scrooge’s nephew, A Christmas Carol.
As his story continues, Ebenezer is confronted with his own life’s decisions. He is visited by the Ghost of Christmas Past, the Ghost of Christmas Present, and the Ghost of Christmas Future. He unwillingly journeys with each spirit, viewing his life as an outside observer. In this way, he learns how his past experiences have created who he is today, and he sees that now he faces a future that is looking extremely unpleasant. Or is it?
Mindfulness helps us to be with our current experience. In meditation, to be with the rising and falling of our emotions. Away from meditation, to be present with those who are with us, and to participate in the current moment. Karma shows us that our experience is shaped by our past, and present actions. We do not want to dwell in the past. But a good visit with our own Ghost of Christmas Past can help us to understand our current selves, and to resolve difficult emotions and trauma that prevent our current ability to practice right mindfulness and right concentration.
Does Ebenezer Scrooge face a bleak future Christmas? Will his nephew’s beloved son Tiny Tim suffer and die? When Ebenezer dies, will there be no one to mourn him? With the ripening of our own karma, we do not know what we will experience, or when. But, if like, Ebenezer Scrooge at the end of A Christmas Carol, we are mindful and seek out actions that are rooted in loving-kindness and compassion, we can influence the outcome.
Christmas Carol Quotes for this article were sourced from: https://kidadl.com/articles/best-ebenezer-scrooge-quotes-from-a-christmas-carol