A Tibetan Buddhist New Year’s Message

by Vicki Garlock on January 6, 2016

Today’s blog post is a New Year’s message offered by Dorje Lopon Dr. Hun Lye, founder and spiritual leader of Urban Dharma in Asheville, NC. It was originally posted to their e-mail list on Jan. 1. I really enjoyed reading it, and he graciously agreed to let me re-post it here. Happy Epiphany! Merry Orthodox Christmas! And let the various New Years begin!

New Year Fireworks

New Year Fireworks
Photo: Andrés Aguiluz Rios

Once again, we are completing one cycle and beginning another. Life is but a mysterious series of simultaneous and sequential cycles — be they personal, universal, daily, annual, or something else altogether. These cycles move us from one system of accounting for the passage of time to another. This transition, from the so-called 2015 to the so-called 2016, is a major transition for many of us. And it’s becoming increasingly so even for many peoples and cultures that didn’t really care about this particular New Year only one hundred years ago. Nonetheless, this particular convention, this particular marking of the passage of time, has become an important one. So we acknowledge it. We celebrate it. In honor of that, I wish you a “Happy New Year,” and I pray that 2016 will be a year of growth blessed with wisdom, a year of prosperity partnered with generosity, a year of achieving goals of happiness for self and others.

In the spirit of celebrating this New Year of 2016, I also offer you two famous Japanese poems, two haikus for your reflection and enjoyment. The first is from Bashō who lived in the 17thcentury:

year’s end,
all corners of this floating world,

In the Buddhist cultures of East Asia, this world of ours is sometimes referred to as a “floating world” (浮世). Unstable, superficial, transient, fleeting, and fluid all fall nicely within the range of meanings for this word “floating.” That we are all living in a fleeting, unstable, transient world is something the Buddha pointedly taught. It’s part of the noble truths that he taught without mincing words. But this “floating world” isn’t just transient; transiency is the “half-empty” way of viewing it. This world is also fluid and free; it’s not as fixed and stuck as we might sometimes feel.

At the end of a year, at the end of a day, at the end of a breath, it’s “swept.” Clean. No dust. Swept of what? Swept of the ancient dust of confusion. Swept of the petty gossips in our heads. Swept of the endless aches and pangs in our hearts and guts. Swept of any “thing” – for all things, all experiences, all phenomena are simply floating, fluid and fluttering. No-thing ever remains and every-thing is always swept: clean and pure, pristine and clear. So every moment is both an end and a beginning. Everything is both old and new. Every corner and nook of our fluid lives is always as they are – always,


The second haiku comes from Issa who lived in the 18th century. Issa’s name literally means “single (cup of) tea.” Issa writes:

new year’s day –
everything’s blooming;
I feel about average.

What a relief to be reminded that we are fine feeling just “about average” even as everything around us is blooming and blossoming! This New Year might harken new hopes and new promises. This New Year might seem like the year where everything changes for the better, where everything will finally be perfect, when we’ll have what we want and want what we have. But no matter what the promise might seem to be, Issa tells us: go ahead and be comfortable about being “about average.” The “self” cannot be improved. It cannot be made better, newer. Any attempt to do that only brings more trouble. So just enjoy your single cup of tea. Just enjoy the blooms and blossoms of the New Year. And be about average. Be good to yourself. Be good to others. Be kind to your average-self. Be kind to others’ average-selves. Being about average is a fine place to be.

So this New Year, perhaps the “resolution” to make and to keep  – if you feel it’s the decent and expected thing to do, to make earnest resolutions like others do – is the resolution about simply remembering Bashō’s single word that puts an end to all needless words and worries.


Click here to read my 2014 interview with Hun Lye. 

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