A lotus flower can grow and be beautiful from a heap of rubbish
left by the side of the road and radiate its sweet fragrance,
in the same way the true disciple of Dhamma
can shine with beauty in the confusion of the world.
Dhammapada verse. 58 & 59.
Happy New Year.
Leaving the old life behind.
The ending of the old year and the beginning of the new one can be a special and symbolic moment for the spiritual seeker, or disciple of Dhamma. It is a time to reflect upon our life and our actions for the past twelve months, to re-inspire ourselves and to put down what we carry. To leave the past where it belongs – in the past.
Our difficulties come only from attachment, masquerading as fear and desire, grasping and rejecting, and these come from 'self'.
What we think that the world of unenlightenment thinks about us is ultimately of no consequence, only the view of the awakened heart has value.
For many years Henry and I were always able to mark this special moment during our Christmas and New Year Retreats in India.
At eleven thirty on the thirty first of December everyone participating in the retreat would gather again in the Dhamma Hall to meditate and enter the New Year with the feeling of peace and Loving Kindness. Of course, the silence of the retreat was still in effect and before the meditation began there was a short Dhamma talk and then a special time for everyone to be still and quietly reflect upon themselves.
How am I now, and what unwholesome qualities do I want to leave in the old year?
My anger? My fear? My jealousy? My doubt? My irritation? My impatience?
Everyone had a small piece of paper and a pen and the opportunity now to silently and mindfully write down whatever unwholesome qualities they thought that they would like to leave behind in the old year. The list was private and personal and the writing of it was a meditation in itself.
The formal meditation would then begin, and after twenty minutes of our traditional Vipassana practice, it would end with everyone offering unconditional and unlimited love to the world and the universe, whilst still gently holding their own private list of unwholesome qualities.
Just after midnight Henry would discreetly leave the Dhamma hall and light the big bonfire in the grounds of the International Meditation Centre in Budh Gaya. When the meditation was finished everyone could go to the fire (still in silence), drink a chai and reflect upon their list. When the moment was right they would gently drop the list into the flames and symbolically eradicate those unwholesome qualities from their life.
Leaving the past in the past! It was a beautiful moment, but it was symbolic!
Even if it showed the intention not to carry past feelings, emotions and habits into the New Year, the work of leaving these things in the past still had to be done.
And that is our Path. To raise the intention to be true to Dhamma and do that work. To live with Love, to be free from fear and to be aware. To no longer carry our past which colours each moment, and so immediately limits our perceptions of life, and to be open to the infinite possibilities of a new life without fear.
This is the Dhamma, and this is the possibility that this New Year offers.
I wish you only the best for you, your family, your friends and all beings.
May all beings be happy.
If you were not afraid, how would this moment be?
We are alone in meditation and we are alone in life. There is just us, responsible for all the pain and unhappiness we experience. No-one is to blame. We do it to ourselves.
Higher Than Happiness by Michael Kewley