Truth and Santa Claus

We’re driving in the car the other evening, and my six-year old son says, “Mommy, is Santa Claus real?”

It’s a question that causes every parent to gasp. He’s my youngest, and I want him to believe as long as possible in the magic and mystery that is Santa. It’s pretty amazing how many thoughts ricocheted around in my head before I simply said, “Well, honey, what do you think?”

There was a momentary pause, and he began to laugh. “Well, OF COURSE,” he giggled. “Who do you think brings all that stuff, the Easter Bunny?”

Now, that is funny.

I must say I’ve always felt a little uneasy with the whole Santa Claus-Easter Bunny-Tooth Fairy thing. When my children were really small, I remember thinking how important it was to tell them the truth, to be the one person they could count on to lay down the unflinching reality of life. I didn’t want to cause harm or create fear, or give them information they could not absorb. I only wanted to state the facts as I knew them and saw them, so that they could trust me on every level.

In yoga, the Sanskrit word for truth is “satya.” It is one of the yamas, which in the classic eight-limbed system is the very first step in the yoga journey. “Yama” means control or abstention. And the yamas are very much like the Ten Commandments, except there are five, and they are way more strict.

The yamas are to be followed on three different but interconnected levels: thought, word and deed. You must not only decide and accept what the truth is, you must also speak it and allow your actions to convey that truth. Finally, all three levels must be balanced with the most important yama, non-violence. As Goswami Kriyananda clarifies in his book The Spiritual Science of Kriya Yoga, “Many people find it difficult to distinguish between truth and untruth. Whatever the ultimate solution is for each individual, the guiding factor should be mindfulness so that there is: (1) No intention to harm. (2) A true understanding of truth in your own mind, speech and actions as it relates to the whole of life.”

This guideline requires that you have a “true understanding of truth.” I struggle with this. What is truth? “Truth is one, but paths are many,” said Swami Satchidananda. Sometimes it seems to me that the path is one, and the truths are many. Maybe the answer comes from investigating truth on a much bigger, cosmic scale.

Which leads me back to the bearded man in the bright red suit.

What to tell the children about Santa? My choice, wise or not, has been to dodge, parry and spin. I’ve been known to say “who, me, Santa? Are you kidding? Do you think I could travel the world and give out toys and still be here in the morning to make you breakfast?”

But I also remind them it is important to believe in things they cannot see and science cannot verify. It is important to think about angels and fairies, magic and mysticism. To remember that because we can see something with our eyes doesn’t make it real and it doesn’t make it permanent.

The most real things in this world – love, faith, God, energy – are invisible to most of us. Believe in the power of that which you cannot see but can feel and sense. That belief alone can be enough to make it so.

But also . . . seek truth.



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