TEXAS FAITH 36: Does materialism compromise the holiday season?
Dallas Morning News,
Each week we will post a question to a panel of about two dozen clergy, laity and theologians, all of whom are based in Texas or are from Texas. They will chime in with their responses to the question of the week. And you, readers, will be able to respond to their answers through the comment box.
North Texas has been talking this fall about "Tinsel," Hank Stuever's non-fiction account of Christmas in Frisco. The Washington Post writer spent three consecutive Christmases in Frisco, chronicling the way the townspeople celebrate Christmas - this, as a window into how contemporary Americans observe the holiday. What he records is to a great extent a people who have allowed consumerism and an addiction to spectacle to overshadow the spiritual heart of the holiday. This is a familiar critique of American life - which doesn't, of course, make it untrue.
In this holiday season, we ask to what extent materialism compromises the meaning of religious holiday observance here (Christmas, Hanukkah, whatever your own faith tradition or what you see of others' traditions).
In general there are various motivation one may a approach or pleasing God or a celebrating religious festival.
1) Bhaya -- out of fear.
2) Asha -- for satisfying material aspirations.
3) Kartavya-buddhi -- out of a sense of duty (literally, "a mentality of what should be done").
4) Räga -- out of genuine attraction for the Lord.
One Vaishnava saint, Bhaktivinode Thakura elaborates on these motivations: Those who take to worship of the Lord out of bhaya, äshä or kartavya- buddhi are not on such a pure level. Those who worship the Lord according to räga are real worshipers.... Bhaya o äshä nitästa heya -- Bhaya and äshä are extremely low in spiritual nature. When a practioner's intelligence becomes clear, he gives up bhaya and äshä, and kartavyabuddhi becomes his sole motive. As long as räga towards the Lord has not appeared, the devotee should not give up worship according to kartavya-buddhi.