by David Spiekerman
LOSAR TASHI DELEK
On behalf of His Holiness Jigdal Dagchen Sakya, I would like to welcome all of you to our Losar celebration. We live in a time and place that encourages New Years celebrations among the diverse world cultures calling America their home. Today we celebrate Losar, the Tibetan New Year, the most important holiday in Tibet.
In ancient times, Tibetans celebrated Losar on the Winter Solstice when they performed their rituals of gratitude for the sacred nature of the internal and external elements of earth, water, fire, air, and space. After Buddhism came to Tibet and Tibetans adopted the Chinese lunar calendar and astrology, the modern form of Losar developed.
In Tibetan monasteries several days before Losar, monks perform Vajrakilaya and other protector diety pujas. On New Years day, special preparations for the Dharma protectors are offered. And traditionally, everyone wishes His Holiness Dalai Lama “ Good luck!” In other words, an auspicious state resulting from favorable outcomes.
The New Year is a natural occasion to wish everyone “Gook luck!” Of course, as good Buddhists, we strive to practice loving kindness, compassion, and wisdom at every moment. We are grateful that the New Years is a ripe opportunity to assess the condition of our wisdom. How we behave, in other words, how close we adhere to the Bodhisattva’s vow to put others before ourselves, will determine the measure of “Good luck” that we shall experience in the coming year.
The other day, I was fortunate to hear an interview on Public Radio with a Seattle nurse who has been to West Africa twice and is going back a third time to help people stricken with Ebola. The clarity and purity of her profound selflessness and her utterly true compassion in action were mind blowing and brought tears to my eyes.
We are all capable of such fearless selflessness. Although we all, due to present circumstances and karma, may not be now capable of such heroic activities as this Seattle nurse, we all can engage skillfully in smaller acts of kindness, which fostered over time in our daily lives and Dharma practices, will lead to the accumulation of significant merit. The New Year renews our precious opportunity to imbue our altruistic intentions with the greatest strength that we can muster.
I do not know if Lord Buddha taught about New Year celebrations. The concepts of New Year and old year have no ultimate meaning. However, it is obvious that human cultures need order and regularity in their lives to live harmoniously with one another and with Mother Nature, who passes through regular and annual natural cycles. Just as our bodies are made up of the physical elements, the five aggregates, our minds are a mirror image of space.
So it is fitting that once a year, we are happy to celebrate the annual passage of time, which manifests in our bodies as birth, sickness, old age and death. Recognizing this turns our mind to the Dharma.
As a community of Dharma practitioners, Losar affords us the precious opportunity to renew together our commitments to the Triple Gem. The happy in Happy New Year, as in all auspicious states, is rooted in our faithful practice and understanding of loving kindness, compassion, and wisdom. As we have Bodhisattvas in our midst here today, His Holiness Jigdal Dagchen Sakya, His Eminence Avikrita Rinpoche, His Eminence Asanga Rinpoche, His Eminence Abaya Rinpoche, the Khon lineage of Dunghseys, Her Eminence Dagmo Kusho, and our resident lamas, we are fortunate to have these human beings as our cherished teachers, who walk in the footsteps of Lord Buddha, the blessed one, who is an unsurpassed teacher.
May the New Year bring health, happiness, and holiness to our precious teachers and all sentient beings.