We are going through that period that is the end of the last year and the beginning of the next, a Bardo, to use a Buddhist term. The Earth, our precious planet, has fully circled the Sun taking just over 365 days. It is a good time to reflect on the year just gone, what have we achieved and learnt in those days?
But before looking at that question there is another. Why have we decided that this point is the end/beginning of the year? It could be any day of those 365.
The reason we celebrate this time of year is from our collective, northern hemisphere past when the food that was grown or caught by us, became scarce and our supplies ran low. Starvation was a possibility. But we know that, from now onwards, brighter, warmer days are coming and food will become abundant again. So much to look forward to and a good time to learn from the past and how we can take that knowledge into the future.
There is another circular system that we often talk about in Triratna, the Wheel of Life, with its 6 realms and importantly the 12 links of conditionality. Like the 365 days of the year, we can take note, or be aware of the points around the circle. However, we need to take great interest in a particular point, like the start of a new year, the gap between feeling and craving.
Last year has shown how fragile our society actually is. It doesn’t take much, an illness, to stop us in our tracks and make life difficult. Our food supplies can dry up, the shops can be emptied in a matter of days, and all the things we rely upon to make our lives comfortable, can go.
Looking back at older civilisations, the Romans or the Aztecs for example. They had equally complex and apparently stable civilisations but are now long gone. History tells us that we should expect this civilisation to come to an end and another type of civilisation will emerge in the future. That is difficult to imagine. We have grown very comfortable in this current modern age, especially in the affluent west but as Buddhism tells us, even this is impermanent.
To live a full and meaningful life we really need to live as though today is the last day. To appreciate what we have in this moment and make the most of it, the future may not be as we would expect or even like.
That may sound gloomy, but thinking more in this way is really liberating. We can learn from the past but also leave it in the past, there is more to be explored and experienced in the future, or even in this present moment. Right here Right now, catch yourself, where is your mind as you read this sentence? Fully focusing on these words, or being totally aware of whatever is happening now; is the route to true happiness.
So this New Year presents us with a great, the greatest opportunity to fully live our lives. We can leave the Wheel of Life behind and climb the spiral path towards Enlightenment. It is a great journey with much to be enjoyed along the way, so much so that even the goal can seem to be here already.
As I mentioned above, the future is always uncertain. We have great events planned for January and beyond, including a weekend retreat at Vajrasana which it would be good to see you on. However, depending on restrictions that may all change, but we have learnt to adapt how we deliver the Dharma to you so keep an eye on the website for any changes.
Happy New Year