January 24th-27th marks the celebration of the Mahayana New Year. Although many Buddhists around the world celebrate alternative New Year dates, the January festivities are an important part of the Buddhist calendar. Typically this is the time when Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Indonesian, Mongolian and Vietnamese Buddhists welcome in a New Year.
The Mahayana New Year is celebrated for three days. Buddhists in Thailand, Burma, Sri Lanka, Cambodia and Lao unite to welcome the New Year in April, whilst Tibetans traditionally celebrate one month after the Mahayana New Year.
New Year celebration is a joyous activity that invites mindfulness and the discipline to practice it every day. As with all endings of a previous year, the annual celebration is a time for reflection and contemplation. Meditation plays an important part in Buddhist life and is included in the celebratory New Year festivities.
After meditation, contemplation and reflection it is time for the fire ceremony to take place. Fire is cleansing and it is used to symbolise the clearing of karma and negative energy. Many celebrations also include the ceremonial bathing of the statues of the Lord Buddha. Before worship, devotees will also surround the statues with sweet-smelling flowers and candles to create a sacred altar. The traditional ceremony ends with the ringing of bells in unison, at midnight.
Buddhism is a religion that was started by Lord Buddha. The faith’s eternal message is one of compassion and love. Devotees follow in the footsteps of Buddha, who as a Prince renounced the world to seek out the truth of life, by aspiring to live a life devoid of material possessions. Buddhists seek inner peace and enlightenment, and compassion for all.
Mahayana Buddhism calls for the seeking of enlightenment and the freedom from ‘samsara’, otherwise known as the liberation from the vicious cycle of birth, death and rebirth. It is believed that it is entirely possible to achieve the state of enlightenment by looking within.
Modern And Traditional Celebrations
Buddhists all over the world celebrate the cultural festival of the Mahayana Buddhist sect in a style that is fitting with local customs of the particular country and culture. For example, Mahayana Buddhists in New York will usually visit the grand Mahayana Buddhist Temple in Chinatown to pledge devotion to Buddha.
Mahayana Buddhists celebrate the New Year by cleaning their homes and releasing spiritual karma, before sharing traditional food with family and friends in their community. Ancient rituals and traditions are also honoured. The ceremony to drive out ghosts and negative spirits is performed by letting off firecrackers and offering a prayer for a peaceful New Year.
How To Celebrate At Home
You do not need to be a Buddhist in order to celebrate the Mahayana New Year at home. Welcoming in a New Year requires you to embrace mindfulness so that you can fully appreciate the Buddhist philosophy. Meditation and mindfulness form the foundation of this ancient spiritual practice and is the basis of all Buddhist teachings. To ignite the mind you must look within and vow to be more like Lord Buddha.
Unite with Buddhists all over the world by meditating, contemplating and reflecting on all that you have, during the 3-day celebrations. Let go of the things that no longer serve you. Accept that the beauty of life will bring you what you need so that you can connect with your true spirit and become one with, and like the Buddha.