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New Year Message

doka sensei

In Hinotori An, the end of the old year and the beginning of the new year are celebrated in the same way year after year - the hermitage is cleaned, rituals and ceremonies are prepared and performed, the head is freshly shaved and the Samue is replaced with Koromo and Kesa. Practice, chanting, the sound of various bells, the smell of incense sticks, tea and freshly made ink, all woven into a fabric that maintains form but is also airy enough to allow flexibility.


For Zen Buddhists, every day and every moment of that day is the New Year, so one often wonders why this particular celebration? In fact, it presents just another reminder to let go of the “old” so that the “new” can be welcomed. It is an opportunity to remember the taste of Life when experienced with freshness of “the first time”.


And yet, this approach is available to everyone, not just Zen Buddhists. The only difference is that most people are unaware that the emotions, thoughts, and wishes that accompany the spirit of the New Year are rooted in the longing for a new beginning, for experiencing the "first time" and leaving the "old " behind.  Nevertheless, these subconscious aspirations will find ways to manifest themselves - through New Year's resolutions, prayers for the fulfillment of wishes, in tarot cards, or fortune-telling. But, even when the awareness of the real reasons for such New Year's rituals is not present the mental and emotional energy that is released into the sky, creates a spark that can ignite into a powerful flame.


The flame of New Year's Eve is a flame of joy, love, and kindness that is lit and renewed year after year and burns in the hearts of all people. And although sometimes it subsides, it continues to smolder even when New Year's resolutions are apparently forgotten or when Zen practice sinks back into "routine" and loses the spirit of "beginner's mind".


Without a "beginner's mind" it is impossible to experience every day as ordinary and extraordinary, auspicious, and holy, always fresh, and new, always good. But, for those who manage to maintain it, there is no such thing as the first or the last day, the old or the new year, as they are attuned to the transience and impermanence of Life. Thus, during the New Year celebration, they welcome with the same awe and gratitude not only the new year but also every new day to come.


One does not have to be Buddhist to approach each day with the spirit of the New Year, and the freshness of the virgin day. Indeed, by letting go of the “old” year and letting in the “new” year, everyone can, step by step, from year to year, also learn to let go of past mistakes, traumas, habits, and make room for countless new beginnings and new endings.


As Dogen Zenji said:

"Today is the beginning of a new year and also a day with three mornings."


With these words, he expressed multidimensional existence of new moments that opens when the perception shifts.  We realize that after the celebration, fireworks and the sounds of church and monastic bells have died down, we are greeted not only by the first morning of the new year, but also by the first morning of the new month and the new day.


Experiencing the morning in that spirit offers unlimited possibilities because it suggests that everything is attainable if we look at every part of the day, or even every hour, and every minute from that perspective. Once we reach the wisdom of such an approach, not only the new year will bring countless opportunities, but also a whole life that opens before us.


Such an approach to life is not limited to Zen Buddhists but becomes practice of “every- moment-Zen”, which turns common life into Zen Life and makes even Heaven accessible.


I wish you to live every day in 2024 with the freshness of the New Year's spirit.


Doka Sensei

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Happy New Year dear sensei. Thank you for you wise words. Happy January, and happy Today 🙏🏼

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The fresh day brings freshness even to old friendships 🌱


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Practice = Ritual 😌😊🙏😶


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Dear Sensei, I join in that wish that I receive with awe and respect. I wish you well in

Your New Year celebration and practice. A very meaningful practice indeed. 😌🙏🙂

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I am happy to see that my message reached your curious mind. Have a fruitful journey today, today, today...⛩️

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