We’ve just had an interesting experience: our first Thanksgiving in Gurgaon, India. This holiday, so well known in America, is normally not celebrated in the rest of the world. Swami Kriyananda, in fact, felt that we should mount a campaign to get all countries to set aside a day each year to thank God for all He has given us.
The celebration here was, well, let’s just say “different,” from those of my childhood in Minnesota. It was our first Thanksgiving, for instance, where we had a meal of nut loaf and palaak paneer ending with pumpkin pie and kheer. And yet, much of the evening was also very familiar—sharing a long, loving meal with dear friends, feasting not only on food but also on friendship, laughter, and delight in one another’s company.
The main event of the evening was the installation of a statue, or murti, of Paramhansa Yogananda. It was placed, with a simple ceremony, in a special little shrine that had been built at the entrance to the ashram. This is the physical symbol that God dwells here, that this space is holy ground. Click here to watch the ceremony
Having the celebration here gave me a chance to see how often we miss the point of holidays that should be deeply “holy,” but have become obscured by cultural overlays. Reading news articles we would have to conclude that Thanksgiving is no longer primarily a time to express gratitude to God, but rather the frantic start of month-long shopping frenzy. Christmas is commercial and social, but far too rarely deeply spiritual. That is why Master started the tradition of having a spiritual Christmas, with an all-day meditation, as well as a social one. For all of us, who are trying to deepen our communion with God, it is important to re-spiritualize these holy times.
Patanjali listed “missing the point” as one of the obstacles in the quest for union with God. Re-spiritualizing sacred times might be a good place to start “getting the point.” We could start Swamiji’s campaign by making sure that we consciously make our holidays into holy-days.
Years ago I wrote an affirmation that I have often found very useful:
I am grateful for my life, exactly as it is.
I am thankful for this day.
I welcome every hour.
Thank you, God.
Thank you, God.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone, even if the wish is a little late and sent to you from far away.