Eating, drinking and merrymaking have become traditions on Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah and other winter holidays. However, most faiths also warn against placing too much emphasis on the pleasures of overeating and overindulging in strong drink. This week’s clergy discuss how to refocus on the spirituality of the season by balancing merriment and moderation.
Pastor Diego Benitez
Suffolk County Iglesia Bautista De El Valle, Brentwood
We are living in a modern era with an immense diversity of cultures and desires. This lifestyle causes us to indulge in our pleasures, and, in turn, our pleasures take God’s place in our hearts. During the holiday season, families come together to share ambitions, accomplishments, good and bad times. The sharing of the sentiments is cause for celebration, and the outcome is overindulgence in the things that we don’t do day to day. Although this might be only once a year, it’s the cultural custom of not holding a high standard of self-discipline in moderation that causes the problem. Perhaps we should analyze our boundaries to not overextend ourselves. King David gave us a great example when he said, “That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither — whatever they do prospers.” (Psalm 1:3) We should be as a tree that we only indulge in moderation enough to bear our fruits. It’s difficult to go against what feels right in the holiday season, but one thing I urge you to ask yourself is, “Is it really necessary?” Jesus gave us an amazing opportunity in this life to uphold ourselves to his standards. We should always put our best foot forward, and the best way to accomplish that is to strive to overcome old habits.
Baha’is of Long Island
The question of overindulgence is interesting because it incorporates things such as excess eating, drinking and spending. Much has been said about the negative effects of overindulgence on the health of the body, the enforcement of laws associated with drinking and driving, the economic well-being of the family, and the constructive use of time. Actually, overindulgence can be related to a quest for happiness. Society reinforces the idea that happiness comes from gaining material things, so we engage in acts of consumerism and indulge in material pursuits in search of happiness. What we often miss is that, unlike spiritual happiness, material happiness is limited. The teachings of Bahá’u’lláh, the prophet-founder of the Baha’i faith, clarify many concepts and help us view this question in the larger context of bringing meaning to our lives. There is nothing wrong in seeking happiness. In fact, God wants us to be happy. However, we need to know that human happiness depends on spiritual behavior. Humans are created noble and are capable of continual spiritual growth. Our goal in life is to recognize our nobility and serve the well-being of humankind. We experience joy when we replace focus on self- centered cravings with a devotion to helping others. In cultivating virtues such as love, kindness, moderation, forgiveness and trustworthiness, we can make a positive difference in the world. We live a life designed to promote unity and peace. This is the path to lasting happiness.
Teacher, Global Harmony House,
Because our organization has individuals from many traditions, Brahma Kumaris respect and honor all holidays, especially the holidays that bring forth light. We light candles for Diwali, Hanukkah and Christmas. On all of the holidays, the Brahma Kumaris offer tokens of sweetness we call toli, which include sweets made with crushed nuts and sugar. The holiday and the intent behind the holiday are not a problem, but we encourage individuals to be moderate in their intake of all things, and we do not encourage extreme behavior in any way. It is suggested to be moderate in all things, but individuals with a sweet tooth can overindulge. To limit overindulging, it is important to realize that toli are spiritual sweets. Only one is needed and offered. If you can savor something, it’s just as good as devouring something that you don’t taste. The Brahma Kumaris, as a tradition, abstain from all alcohol, are vegetarians and choose a moderate path in what is consumed. It was my experience to be in a store on Veterans Day, where the music and the displays were for Christmas. I would like to include this type of consumer mindset as a part of overindulging by our society. We often feel the spiritual intent of these holidays is not respected, and the focus on consumerism is another form of overindulging, which is a problem for all of us.