As the commercialism of Christmas increasingly swamps its spirituality, the season has become for many of us an orgy of indulgence. Food, drink and wall to wall TV are the order of the day, with not much remembrance of the central point of the festival, Jesus Christ.
It is not just Christmas, of course, but holidays in general have largely lost their holiness and are now mostly about fun and more fun. Sadly, though, the satisfaction we seek remains ever more elusive when pursued only through bodily or mental gratification. As well as a bonanza for the shops, Christmas brings a flood of business for counselling help lines and all too often the emergency services as too many of us go right over the top.
Glutting our senses will never lead to the lasting happiness we crave, for the simple reason that we are spiritual beings different from the material bodies we inhabit. We are meant for spiritual happiness which is only achieved by connecting with the divine. Pascal spoke of a God-shaped hole in our consciousness and it can only be filled by God. No matter how much we cram ourselves with sensual pleasures we still hanker for something more.
But finding real happiness is easier than we think. It lies within us all if we only take the time and trouble to look. Every scripture tells us that practising spiritual life brings the greatest joy – far greater than any mundane enjoyment.
This Christmas then, instead of surrendering to another bacchanalian blow-out, why not use the time off to bring a little more spirituality into our lives? Remember the life and teachings of pure souls like Jesus Christ. Then we will surely have a truly happy, and perhaps rather less expensive, Christmas.
Krishna Dharma, Hare Krishna Temple, Aldenham
(Watford Observer 24/12/09)
If we have to take birth again in this world there are some places we might prefer over others. Ireland, for example, would be a good choice. In that fine land abortion is mostly illegal, giving you a fair chance of emerging from the womb in one piece. But not everyone is happy about that.
Recently three women went to the European Court of Human Rights to challenge Ireland’s 150 year old abortion laws. All three had been obliged to travel to England to terminate their unwanted pregnancies, an odyssey which they claim “stigmatized and humiliated” them. It is set to become a landmark case and some big hitters in the ‘pro-choice’ camp have rallied to their side, including the British Pregnancy Advisory Board (BPAS), whose spokesperson Patricia Lohr said, “There is never any moral justification for the law to place a barrier between women and medical care.”
“Medical care” is of course how the case is being presented; that without abortions many Irish women are risking their health and even their lives. The Irish government contests these claims, saying that where life and limb are at risk, abortions are allowed, but their main argument centres on the risk to the lives and limbs of unborn babies when abortion is freely permitted. In countries where abortion on demand is legal, social considerations far outweigh medical reasons. Mostly it is about undesired pregnancies where contraception has failed or love has gone sour. According to the Guttmacher Institute, the top three reasons for abortion are consistently cited as negative impact on the mother’s life, financial instability and relationship issues.
Women today want to choose whether or not the child they conceived can take birth, and huge numbers are choosing termination. Most estimates put the figure at around 50 million abortions performed each year worldwide. A figure that has steadily increased over the years and looks set to increase still more if Strasbourg sides with the ladies from Ireland.
Vedic teachings would of course go with the Irish government on this one. They say that the first duty of good government is to protect the weak and vulnerable. States which fail in this duty will be “destroyed to the root” according to the Mahabharata, a prominent Vedic text.
On an individual level it is also said that foeticide brings terrible karmic consequences. We get what we give and in our next birth we will find ourselves on the other end of the abortionist’s razor sharp curette. Life is sacred and we cannot whimsically kill others, especially those entirely dependent upon us, because they are “negatively impacting” on our lives.
Abortion is an attempt to ensure our own happiness without any care for the cost to others. It is born out of faithlessness. Every religion proscribes such killing and prescribes sanctified marriage. Have sex within marriage and take care of the children is the message of all faiths. Instead we want free sex, and when we find there is going to be an unwanted price we want to somehow rub it out.
The Vedas tell us that life is present from the moment of conception and the child in the womb certainly has rights, which it cannot defend. As Ronald Reagan said, “Abortion is advocated only by those who have themselves been born.” The mother may fear that her life opportunities are threatened by the impending birth, but what about the baby? He also desires happiness, but he faces a horrific fate, perhaps simply to enable his mother to further her career.
Killing human beings is usually considered murder and even abortionists will admit that unborn babies are humans. Dr. Arnold Halpern, former director of a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic in the US, said, “There is no difference between a first trimester, a second trimester, a third trimester abortion or infanticide. It’s all the same human being in different stages of development.”
Life and death are in God’s hands. No one has any power to breathe life into a dead object, nor has anyone the power to resist death when their time comes. Krishna is in control. Anxiety and suffering come when we forget this truth, when we think ourselves to be in control and we ignore divine direction. We then make whatever adjustments we imagine will bring about our happiness, such as killing our unwanted children. The result will be nothing but suffering—in this case 50 million terrible deaths each year, untold depression and trauma, and then comes the karma.
Let us hope then that in Strasbourg the muted screams of countless babies do not fall on deaf ears, that sense prevails and this grand scale moral and legal anomaly is not endorsed in the name of human rights. God save Ireland.