Santa Claus Thinking

We want to emulate bodhisattvas beings. These heroes of Buddhism have achieved powerful levels of penetrating and clarifying their own nature. They break through and realign their understanding in the model of reality. Their sense of fantasy has been completely destroyed.

In a way, it’s like…when you were young, I am pretty sure you believed in Santa Claus. Nearly every American child believes in Santa Claus, even Jewish children. It comes as an important belief for children. You don’t have to be Christian to believe in Santa Claus.

When you were in grade school, I think you probably had strong faith in Santa Claus. You knew that through the efforts of Santa, all good things would flow if you just behaved yourself during November and especially December. Isn’t that so? Then some companion in the schoolyard or an older brother or sister whispered to you, “There is no Santa Claus.”

This would have arisen some kind of anger in your mind toward that person. They are blaspheming the one who brought you everything you wanted. This feeling comes very strong; perhaps you cried and not want to think about it anymore. Then you hear it again from someone else. There is NO Santa Claus.

Suddenly, you begin to get a doubt, but you can’t really admit it to yourself because if you do, the gifts will stop. So you continue to have a doubt simultaneously with having faith. Gradually or suddenly, your faith in Santa Claus is completely destroyed. In that way, no matter how much you love your mother and father who are giving you all these gifts, you can never go back to believing in Santa Claus.

Like that, spiritual practitioners begin with a doubt. We’re going to call it a holy doubt. In the fabric of their own personality, of their own theatrical event– they get a holy doubt that things are as they appear. This holy doubt begins to grow. And what does lama do but (slaps hands together) intensify your doubt. You begin to feel uncomfortable with the way things are. Your feelings of comfort begin to identify more with spiritual practice.

Eventually you will arrive at a position that allows you to make a breakthrough that will change your fundamental belief that things are the way they seem. This fundamental doubt grows as you mature in spiritual life, doing authentic practice that will produce the desired result. No benefit comes to just to shake yourself up for no reason. This is no use. It has to be done in a way that is going to lead to the correct result.

Bodhisattvas develop this holy doubt in them selves while they practice over a very long time. They persist until the time comes when they make a definitive break with fantasy. Once this process is complete, never again can you convince them that there is really a Santa Claus (permanent unchanging reality). You could participate in daily life and be successful and happy, but you don’t crave the goodies under the tree on a fundamental basis.

So exactly how do the enlightened move in the world? What does a bodhisattva do when they do not believe in the same foundational fantasy that ordinary people do? How do they comport themselves? How do ordinary people who admire bodhisattvas arrive at that point where they can make a breakthrough themselves? These are the issues that are important to discuss. We’ve really just begun to scratch the surface.

In order to know that something is worth doing, you have to understand that it has value. When the value begins to grow, that is when spiritual practice becomes more important than ordinary behavior.


  1. I look forward to hearing this discussion with you as I have been asking some of these same questions-
    I(We) so fortunate to read your blog site. I do not have views because I still have craving and cannot relate energetically to non craving, yet. I have had
    some experience of complete satisfaction after an em
    powerment or deep meditation...Is that a boddisattva

  2. I find that there are times like on retreat that the whole fluidity nature of this fantasy realm seems so clear and obvious. Then I return home and the "stability" of things returns and I fall back into the false fantasy thinking. I wonder how bodhsattvas maintain that correct view. It seems that the correct view it is tied strongly to the present momoment. When I fall into self cherishing or the just past moment looking at the present moment like you discussed yesterday, it is all lost, and I am lost again. I am tired of Santa Claus thinking but fearful of not getting the goodies.

  3. This is timely for me to hear, as I just listened to the teaching "Making a High Energy Transformation" today. In it, the premise is that everybody has many "Spiritual Experiences" and in order to make a transformation, one must develop strong spiritual retention. So if the mind is holding onto our egoic wants or past worldviews, we have no room to retain spiritual moments? I let go of my belief in Santa Claus farily quickly when I was young. Now it is more difficult to change my worldview because I am 30 and have had more life experiences to shape it. Nonetheless I want to change!


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