…The Divine Light, which shines upon us,
Illuminates and protects us continually and
Dispels the darkness of ignorance.
Buddhist Handbook for Shinshu Followers
Rev.Shoyu Hanayama. 1969.
Happy New Year! As 2022 comes to an end, we hope that the New Year will help clean the slate. Our past can only influence how well we live in 2023. No matter how encouraging or dismal 2022 was, we are assured of the ever-shining light of Amida Buddha’s endless compassion and wisdom.
Some of us have had to face many difficult situations, yet we survived them with hopefully, only minor sufferings. It is not a choice we ever want to face. We managed through our tribulations. Even though we would rather not face these circumstances, it can be a learning situation. How would we learn and truly appreciate what may come of the new year? Our experiences only make us stronger and wiser.
A New Year’s Eve service (Joya E) is a “last night gathering” of the old year. It is an observance to share gratitude for the past year and to reflect on the interdependency of all life. It is to share our thanks for all things that have made it possible to live this year. It does not matter if it was not up to our expectations, but it was a year in which we have lived the best we could. It is a tradition to close out the year in a quiet way of introspection of the events and to truly appreciate the many experiences and journeys we had.
Looking back on the year, has our transgressions or passions contributed to what and how 2022 was? These passions were created by ourselves and through our five senses with one addition and that is our consciousness. For each of the six senses, there is always a pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral feeling associated with them. These six senses with three feelings give us a total of 18. These 18 passions have an attachment to pleasure or detachment from pleasure and multiplied by these two attachments gives a total of 36. But wait, there is still more. Since these 36 passions always have a past, present, and future, the total is now 108 passions. We toll the bell 108 times on New Year’s Eve in erasing out the old and looking forward to a better year.
We can ring the bell; however, it is how we search within ourselves for the truth of who we truly are. We can live a virtuous life yet we are bound to slip up somewhere and sometime. Buddha’s compassion and wisdom teach us that we are only human and we may at one time fall from the path. Yet, it does not mean we quit trying but instead, grow stronger in thought and deeper in hearing. The Buddha’s teaching is a guide and it is our turn to listen within and to think.
A most difficult task is to hear and to give deep thought. We never stop just because it is a new year. We have a new year to continue with our search. We are always hearing with undiscriiminating thoughts, views, and words. When we do not understand, we can ask questions. This is Jodo Shinshu Buddhism and it is a New Year!
Have a sane and safe New Year and, remember, we are embraced in Amida Buddha’s light and life of compassion and wisdom.
Gassho, Rev. Seijo Naomi Nakano