This morning I sat in the dark listening to a CD of chants praising the coming Light. My thoughts kept wandering to my promise to host two “strangers” for the week after Christmas.
My daughter Sally’s Buddhist Center is sponsoring a week-long retreat for 30 people. They were scurrying to find housing for their guests so she asked if I’d host someone. That some one turned into two women billeting* here – an artist from Vancouver BC and a woman from Portland Oregon.
As I sat my thoughts wandered to seeing my home through the eyes of a stranger – the dust on the globe, the spatters on the kitchen widow. What will they think about me and my trailings – my tell-tale signs?
Sally had suggested that I don’t spend preparing for Christmas in a frenzy of deep cleaning. I laughed when she said “many of the places where we stay at retreat centers have a trail of mouse poo.” (So far I haven’t seen signs the local mice know that my cat died.)
Finally it struck me. This isn’t about me!
Christmas is about inviting the stranger in!
inside my front door
I began to wonder about Buddhism and hospitality and found chapter 11 from the book Hosting the Stranger:Between Religions. http://www.smith.edu/religion/documents/Rotman_buddhismhospitality.pdf by Andy Rotman titled “Expecting the Unexpected and Acting Virtously.”
“Accounts in these materials of Buddhist laymen and laywomen interacting with Buddhist monks, who all too often arrive unexpectedly and at what seems to be the wrong time, form a template for Buddhist hospitality more generally. Even today, among Indians of all faiths, there is a common saying, atithi devo bhavah, meaning “the atihi- the guest- is god.” One author, about the practice of Hindu worship, writes “the entire sequence… has one overall purpose: to make the god or goddess feel like a welcome guest.” ~Lawrence Babb
This is the Christmas Story!
Merry Christmas and may we all be blessed to entertain goddesses and gods, angels unaware, in the New Year!
1590s, “to assign quarters to,” earlier, as a noun, “official record or register” (Middle English), from Anglo-French billette “list, schedule,” diminutive of bille (see bill (n.1)) with -let. Related: Billeted; billeting.
- Gaulish *bilia tree trunk; compare Old Irish bile landmark tree) + -ette -ette
- Anglo-French, Middle French billette, equivalent. to bille log, tree trunk (
- late Middle English bylet, bel(l)et 1400–50