Envisioning the New & Celebrating the Wisdom of Winter Solstice – Ep. 249
Tracing the cultural and mythological history of solstice celebrations across the globe, Robert Thurman in his annual holiday message shares his positive vision for thriving even in the darkest of seasons, times and situations.
Examining the common practice of cultures centering winter and end of year holidays around the moment the north pole is farthest from the sun, Thurman opens this episode with a teaching on the astronomical, etymological and spiritual history of winter solstices for those of all backgrounds, faiths and traditions..
Podcast includes: an introduction to “The Edge of History” by William Irwin Thompson founder of Lindisfarne Association; a short exploration of Albert Schweitzer’s perspective on human and animal souls; discussion of the connections between the wise men visiting Jesus in the New Testament and the nomadic cultures of Asia; and a personal reflection on the lure of holiday marketing, consumerism, messiahs and messianic movements
This week’s episode concludes with a special invitation to “Envisioning 2021: Celebrate the New Year with Dharma, Yoga, Music, Meditation, & Astrology” hosted by Tibet House US Menla Online happening Dec 29th, 2020 – Jan 3rd, 2021.
The Bob Thurman podcast is produced under a Creative Commons Non-Commercial, No Derivatives License through the generous support of its listening audience and the Tibet House US Menla membership community. To learn about the benefits of membership please visit: www.tibethouse.us.
The songs “Trance Tibet” & ‘Dancing Ling’ by Tenzin Choegyal from the album ‘Heart Sutra‘ (2004) by Ethno Super Lounge are used on the Bob Thurman Podcast with artist’s permission, all rights reserved.
Greetings everyone! Happy Hanukkah, Merry Christmas and Happy Solstice!
I am talking just at the moment of the solstice..approximately like right in the time when we were just beginning the re-arisal of the, of the light, you know, from the time where it had more or less disappeared.
And so it's a very auspicious time, all of the cultures on the world and the whole planet, and in the Northern hemisphere particularly they have special rituals at this time.
And also I happened to be doing something for dear friend who was a colleague of mine back in the eighties and nineties, uh, William Erwin Thompson, who wrote a wonderful book when he was at MIT, I called “The Edge of History” and then he organized something called the Lindisfarne Foundation, very much funded by Lawrence Rockefeller, a visionary member of the Rockefeller family
Bob Thurman 00:02:18 And, um, he, um, uh, the late Florence are a wonderful man and, uh, he, uh, he passed away and his son is offering his ashes to a river at this moment. Uh, you know, it's the time of the return of the light, you know, like as a symbol of his returning from the Bardo into another creative and wonderful life, son and daughter are doing the ritual like that. And they're just, they're making it up themselves. Wonderful. I think, and people all over the world who are in the Linda's foreign association, uh, Lindisfarne fellowship. So I sort of orbit are doing different things to celebrate bill Thompson, um, transcendence of course, whatever they think he's doing. I personally have been reading the book of the dead, uh, encouraging him in the, between state and the Bardo state to return in a good way and, um, and continue his pioneering effort to enter the, help us all enter the new age that we need. So in this time
Bob Thurman 00:03:26 Time of the renewal of the light, and then also the renewal of America. In government, perhaps, uh, we really must be thinking of how to, uh, rebalance our life on earth. And, um, you know, I, The one thing I used to love when
Bob Thurman 00:03:46 I was a child and still to even more so today, thanks to Buddhism. I appreciate Christianity even more than I did them. As my mother told me, I was always a little rebellious about the ministers and the pastors. And they said, you have to believe this place has had. And I always loved this Christmas time because I love baby Jesus. You know, everyone loves that story at the shepherd and the shepherds, you know, the three wise men coming. I was always wishing in those days, in my years for some wise men to come and discover me in the middle of New York city in the middle of what I considered somehow a strange culture, which I didn't know why I considered it strange, but I do now having rediscovered the Buddhist culture of Tibet and ancient India and Mongolia and president Mongolia and Tibet, and as battered as they have been in the last a hundred years now, almost 170 years, the case among all they're almost a hundred years.
Bob Thurman 00:04:54 And, um, something about the Western culture, you know, it's militarism and it's consumerism, and somehow the sort of the backwardness of the European, uh, tribes in West Eurasia compared to the great civilizations of the India and China. And so on, always made me share that a little something, but anyway, this is our wonderful time. Do you log sort of some sort of pagan thing on which the birth of the savior is connected and it's wonderful that people feel saved by Jesus? I think it really, really is. I feel safe by cheese myself, but it's just that I don't agree that he's the only one who saved human beings. And also, I don't agree with the theology that animals don't have souls, unlike Albert Schweitzer, who was a good, very pious and good Christian and did wonderful, good works in Africa, as well as with his wonderful organ music, you know, in many cathedrals start Europe where he didn't know. Bob Thurman 00:06:02 So I agree with that theological thing coming from the middle East, that animals do not have souls. Of course they do animals have been humans in previous lives. I love the, the, um, uh, Indo Tibetan Buddhist thing about the beginning, less, less of the universe. We've all had infinite past lives and therefore we've all did every kind of animal sort of a Darwinian interconnection of all species and individuals more than Darwin because interconnection connection of the individual members of this business, as well as well. So that, um, that there's always a saving from death and horrible States like Hells and torture States have different kinds of different cultures have imagined in the world and the different beings do experience even in the, among the ones we see terrible life forms, where basically the suffering of life is accentuated dreadfully by others, you know, in case of others and humans.
Bob Thurman 00:07:04 Although we also suffer a lot, we are so privileged in connection to these more, much more dreadful States that we see even in the animal kingdom, not to speak out the health States and the Prater realms States, the hungry, hungry beings, you know, hunger and thirst being state sort of worse than insects you could say. And, um, and these are all available to biologically, to, to beings living beings and humans. We hoped in these, these kind of things could be them again, if we live in careless and destructive human life and, and a stupid one and a diluted one, you know, and, um, I'm very happy that that to me has enriched Christianity, my own Christianity enormously, which I was born in. So the Christmas thing we always with our children, we always celebrate, although we consider ourselves Buddhist, uh, but we don't consider it to be a kind of Buddhism that excludes other traditions.
Bob Thurman 00:08:05 We have a vision of Buddhism, which I have to give credit to his home is the 14th Dalai Lama for helping me develop where it incorporates all of the other religions, you know, and it reinforces them. And it, it, it, it loves their triumph actually, but not their exclusivism. It feels that the misunderstanding of the founders who had visions of the vastness of the divine energy in the universe, but of course filtered it into older tribal notions in general, um, which meant, you know, gives them an edge that of exclusivism because of tribal exclusivism that we do not agree with, but it doesn't mean that there couldn't be a particular rhythm of the individual, you know, where each individual has a particular way and path that they can choose. And they don't try to do everything at once that's okay. But then when it becomes a tribal thing, like our nation has this, this is our religion and it's not yours.
Bob Thurman 00:09:10 And only our people that have our religion are saved and yours aren't. And so on the young girl that even the young girl, I'm always taught that before religions had any sort of social power, when they were submerged under the religion of secularist, you could call it kind of ideology or religion of secularism. And he always spoke about the need for inclusivity. And even since I converted, I considered myself converted to Buddhism. I was not that receptive to it early on in the game, you know, with him. But I learned it. I learned it with him gradually over the years. So, but now is not the time to go into full-scale pluralistic multi-religious include, but inclusive as a theology, let's call it our food allergy, as I like to think of myself and not the time to choose that in any technical detail, but it's just a time to celebrate one and a half billion people on this planet feel somehow wish to touch.
Bob Thurman 00:10:15 And I think many of the so-called secularists have this little bit underlying idea in their own mind, she'll touch by the idea that his savior of the ultimate sort of power and energy of the universe is present for them. You know, it was born at a certain time, lived a certain life, showed the transcendence of death. Shouldn't focus on show the torture. It's not supplied by being killed by the Romans, but rather show it. And he was the Romans who killed them. It should be clear, not the Jews have the Romans, he was Jewish himself. And, uh, so the, you know, showed that transcendence of death by rising from God for form of death, uh, and, uh, blessing the world with an arisen form, which is the key to the tradition rather than gloomy is near, you know, like, like dwelling on the suffering and rubbing one's nose in the suffering, which the Romans like to do.
Bob Thurman 00:11:15 I feel like they liked it. They wanted the Jewish people to do it. And later when they became big empire, they wanted a bigger empire. They wanted their own subjects to have their nose rubbed in suffering. In fact, while they were living it up in their policies, you know, in their, in their licentiousness as one, the Roman empire misusing and abusing Christianity, Christ's great teaching. So anyway, now his attempt to celebrate the advent of love and compassion and in something inconceivable that you know, that the universe is, the universe loves all the beings. The universe wants to good outcome, the happy ending for life. In fact, invented positive life, happy life, plus for life, for all beings, not just the human ones and not just the Christian runs all of them or the Jewish ones or the Muslim ones or the Buddhist ones or the Hindu ones or the Dallas ones or the sick, or the, the high ones or whichever ones it is, but all of them and not just, you know, absolutely.
Bob Thurman 00:12:28 And that's a wonderful vision and that's the vision we need now too much. So societies terrorize their subjects of the authorities, either religious or political and make them feel that the world is bad. You know, the secular receive in your nature is red in tooth and claw. So be scared of the wild animals, be scared of the viruses, be scared of death. Be scared of violence. Nature is violent and we have a very tenuous place and it's, we have to go around and shoot everybody, shoot all the other animals and pave it all over and make a parking lot out of it. Crazy sense of being isolated alienated from nature that we have in the Western Europe, Western Eurasia was the desert societies of the middle East and the rather poor societies of the temperate climate Europe, where there weren't so many rich river valleys, where there was heavy warfare all the time and tribalism, you know, Vikings and Saxons and angles.
Bob Thurman 00:13:36 And people collaborates over the head with stone axes and really tried quite dreadful compared to the great illusional civilizations for Persia, China, and India and Egypt, Africa, and Nigeria in ancient times, quite dreadful. And probably the agents, the Americans were also more gentle. So we are still products of that legacy. We made a world empire about our out of our violence, and we still threatening the world with our nuclear weapons and things like that. The Russians are really like us. They're like the same YT Western European Viking lineages, you know, out to conquer everybody cause they're being scared of everybody. So this comes from vision of the universe being hostile and somehow as hopeless as it is to fight off an infinite other tree, even it involves kind of pretending that it's not infinite. And so we can kind of conquer everybody. Somehow our God, our God will help us conquer everybody.
Bob Thurman 00:14:43 That's really silly. And so moments like Christmas moments, like where they light all the candles and they burned for days and days and it's inconceivable and miraculous, whereas sort of the power of something inconceivable and beyond our notions of power, the power of the infinite, you could even say, we call it, we can call it the divine if you like, but it's somehow the power of the infinite can come in and reinforce a frightened little finite being like a human being, a member of that tribe. And it can somehow make us safe and secure and happy. Cause it doesn't seem like the world wants to make us happy. You see? So, but when there's an idea that the infant comes in and sends a, sends a Messiah, a saver, a savior saving being, uh, not just even in the form of one of the original means of Messiah, which is a saving King who makes the tribe triumphant over the neighboring tribes, but also the idea of a saving King of the unit.
Bob Thurman 00:15:52 It makes the individual connects to that savior. It makes the individual able to feel they can fend off the universe. That's much more inconceivable than just a political savior, although they kind of mix once it's tribalized, it gets kind of mixed. So this is a moment of thinking that little baby choosers in the manger out there with the animals being born with the star stars, even trembling and signing over him and the angels and the wise men from the ancient more ancient cultures of the East and more knowledgeable, close risk of further East of the wealthy river valleys, you know, Tigris, Euphrates, and Indus and a Ganga and Yammer. And then the great, uh, yellow river, the young theater of Asia may call supporting greater agricultural surplus than could be done in the desert or in Europe in those days will Daniel was pretty strong in his day.
Bob Thurman 00:17:01 Anyway, this is the time of celebrating that the university loves you. And if you have to think of that, that the universe only sends Jesus to love you. It's all right. It's only for you can be only there only if you take the only as yourself as an individual and try not to make only your tribe of different, think of other tribes as doomed as cannon fodder for your own sort of relative insecurity around you. And then distort cheeses is liberating. Teaching of love, the enemy as I self of altruism and love and compassion as the strong force of the universe, distort that. And the thinking that that makes you triumphalist over others who don't, who don't know about him as their savior, have a different state of the figures themselves. So instead think of the divine, infinite power as being able to save in many other ways, everyone, and therefore you have your way and others have their way and they should be respected.
Bob Thurman 00:18:09 Like you are happy when they respect you or that's where we need to be. Okay. Even at Christmas, I can be that theological or illogical to usher in a new age in the world, religions have true pluralism where they can accept that each other, each one saves and therefore they don't need to convert and conquer the others to some sort of nominal conversion. Everyone should convert themselves to the vision of the positive universe, loving that the loving universe and the force. And once they convert themselves to that, to whichever cultural mode, whichever save your figure. Avalokiteshvara, you know, in the case of the Tibetan Buddhists and Mrs. Avalokiteshvara Tara females, and then whatever other, there are in every other culture. And that's what we can celebrate that we have ours. We Christians, you know, from in the West that Jesus came and he came in a harsh environment, which wouldn't tolerate his teaching a lot actually.
Bob Thurman 00:19:19 And the conqueror who were dominating his actually more gentle culture, that wonderful Abrahamic culture of the Jews, which was actually more gentle than the kind of more violent Roman gods, you know, operating under their sort of Zeus and Athena and Mar is, you know, more gentle on the, a more gentle, you know, monotheistic idea of the invisible dat that was beyond any tribe. It was beyond any city state. It was beyond any idol that couldn't be owned, therefore by some sort of, you know, urban polity, an emperor type person. That was the great Abrahamic breakthrough from which Jewish Jesus came and for Judaism. And then Jesus has a great rabbi, but then Judaism came, but that gentleness was not shared by the Romans and therefore the Romans corrupted it with their violence. Like they killed them instead of letting him have 30, 40 years to share his teaching of life.
Bob Thurman 00:20:25 No, who says it was so great that he could only teach for four years. He should have been been given tenure a room and the Jerusalem sponsored Academy to teach people the power of law. Yeah. What is this idolizing a particular history? No way that's idolatry. We don't need that. We really don't, but that's a theological step that will still perhaps take some generations. No, whatever. Anyway, the point is, this is Merry Christmas. And think of it as everybody's in the Northern hemisphere is renewal of the light and you log the different, the fire of the tree. There was a tree takes the energy of the sun, codifies it into a thing. We're going to have a little sun in a higher place. You know, the sun's energy seems to be, have been going away for six months now, and now it starts to come back.
Bob Thurman 00:21:34 But then lightning and thunder, also the energy of the sun and the CIC, Vedic India. They had the idea of the three fires, which were the fire of the sun itself and fire of the lighting, uh, the Thunderbolt, and then the fire of fire place, which there was the offering fire, which was the channel, therefore back to the sun, it was like kindling, a little mini sun, you know, and to show the benevolence of the, of flame, actually the benevolence of the element of heat, of m aking life possible for the centered being sensitive, being like a human being. And so that's what we celebrate today. And then the such the greatest son, the, the, the energy and the flame that is more powerful actually than physical burning hydrogen or nuclear fission or fusion, nuclear fusion, even, you know, however many millions of degrees, the more powerful fires, the fire of love, the fire of beings, caring for other beings and beings hooking up with him through empathy, to feeling their feelings and therefore being gentle and not harmful and creating more love like the female being the form among the humans that is more alert to that interconnectedness of us.
Bob Thurman 00:23:00 And, uh, so Mary is part of the, part of the message, not just Jesus, like the Shakina is part of the grace of God, not just, but just God all or like a bachelor. Okay. So that's it. So Merry Christmas, happy Hanukkah, happy. However, the Muslims celebrate this time for, I must admit my ignorance in that, but everybody does some way of celebrating the solstice in the Northern hemisphere anyway, and we should join in that. Okay. And, and bill Thompson, may your next life be a theologian who helps transcend the, of tribalism
Bob Thurman 00:23:46 And deep, deep faith in the loving, the triumph of the loving energy of the universe, which is what we all need to, to be able to embrace in order to be loved, truly loving, feeling, safe, to be truly loving and compassionate ourselves!
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Celebrating Winter Solstice with Robert A.F. Thurman
A Special Video holiday message from Bob Thurman and invitation to “Envisioning 2021: Celebrate the New Year with Dharma, Yoga, Music, Meditation, & Astrology” hosted by Tibet House US Menla Online happening Dec 29th, 2020 – Jan 3rd, 2021.[more]