Mid-January marks the celebration of Mahayana Buddhist New Year celebration, although many Mahayana Buddhist such as Japenese Zen, celebrate the New Year on December 31st.
In Japan (and in Japan-like climes of Northeast Vermont) there will be a different kind of celebration. From 5:00 to 5:45 meditation. Nothing can surpass this as a testament to the New Year. Contemplating being; breathing, and unfolding into this moment.
Enter the fire ceremony. You write on a slip of paper, fold it, and wrap it with intention. This paper stands as a symbol. “I relinquish this karma, open myself to new possibility, and free myself in this moment. The folded slip of paper goes into the fire. Each participant goes up in turn, pauses, reflects and then drops the paper into the fire. The fire burns the karma.
At 10:13 PM the bell ringing ceremony begins. For 108 minutes, on the top of the minute, a bell is run marking the approach the midnight. At midnight, all the bells ring in celebration (to symbolize the 108 human sins in Buddhist belief, and to get rid of the 108 worldly desires regarding sense and feeling in every Japanese citizen). At midnight another celebration follows with tempura and udon noodles. In Japan, the monks may imbibe in sake. Happy New Year!
The New Year is a time to reflect, not that this should just happen once per year. But this is the big one and the most ambitious and, perhaps the most impermanent. Most of the resolutions will fade shortly after the New Year. Try to reflect on your life for the past year. What went well? What didn’t go well? Did you notice any patterns? Based on what you’ve noticed what are you’re intentions for the New Year? This is a way to move into the New Year with a modicum of awakening, and perhaps more.
Every moment holds the potential for awakening, every moment in every circumstance. Intention makes the difference. So, make your intentions for the New Year. Open to the sheer beauty and possibility of this moment.