Losar Tashi Delek! (Happy New Year! in Tibetan)

2017 Tashi Delek from Karmapa.jpg

Many of you know that I am a practicing Tibetan Buddhist.  My sangha (fellow practitioners) is Tara Mandala, and our teacher, Lama Tsultrim Allione, was one of the first Western women to be ordained a Tibetan Buddhist nun in the Karma Kagyu lineage by His Holiness the 16th Karmapa, Rangjung Rigpe Dorje (1924-1981).  The above greeting was recently issued by his successor, HH the 17th Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje (1985-).

HH the Dalai Lama has offered this translation of the traditional greeting, Tashi Delek:  "May you be happy here and now and achieve definite goodness."  He has spoken about the importance of this at this time of Losar and suggests that we strive to live a life of meaning and to focus on benefiting others.

In this year of the Fire Bird, which begins on Monday, February 27, 2017, here are a few ideas about what to expect (taken from articles published in the Elephant Journal):

"The Year of the Firebird will be especially exciting.  By its nature, the energy of the firebird holds the intense power for continual recreation.  It is the symbolic representation of awakening, similar to the Phoenix.

In Buddhism, we see the firebird as a tenacious animal, determined and built for hard work, but also impulsive and hotheaded in her demeanor.  Similar to most passionate individuals, they adore the fine art of connecting.  We open ourselves to a time of greater community involvement and socialization as we welcome this new year.  It said that this year combines discipline and vigilance with tenderness and courage.  As we work together on challenges, we are reminded to leave time for play and banter.

The female Firebird year is often seen as an energetic but scattered year.  There are many opportunities, but concentration is necessary in order to enjoy their fruits.  The fire element adds a rather daunting but pregnant-with-possibility mix:   Fire transmits a vital, brilliant, and transforming energy and enhances expression, extroversion, and the ability to make decisions."

You may wish to make some special preparations to welcome in this exciting year!  Here are a few suggestions from my local sangha teacher, Ellen Booth Church:

To symbolize making a fresh start and eliminating obstacles from the previous year, it is traditional to clean your house before Losar. The day before Losar is the traditional day for pre-Losar cleaning. If you have an altar, you take it apart, clean it and freshen all offerings. Add fresh flowers and a "sweet" for the New Year. To create auspicious connections with good health, long life, prosperity and abundance, offer fruit, cookies, candies, etc. on an attractive plate on your altar. This is also a good time to hang New Prayer flags.

Traditionally, Tibetan families wash their faces on Losar morning with "star water."  Star water is made by taking pure water and leaving it outside in an open container so it can become imbued with starlight. This is done the night before Losar, which will be Sunday, February 26th.  A glass, crystal or ceramic container is best.  Water which is left overnight under the stars on this night is considered to have great cleansing and rejuvenating benefits.  It is said that to wash with this water in the very early morning hours of Losar is an auspicious start for the New Year!

On Losar day, you can do some special meditations/prayers at home. It is considered auspicious to wear a new piece of clothing on Losar, if possible. You can light candles on an altar, offer fresh fruit and flowers, recite long life prayers for the Dalai Lama and other lamas and spiritual figures, and chant mantras and make aspiration prayers for the new year.  Be sure to remember to dedicate the merit of your offerings to go out to all beings, everywhere, without one exception.

May each of us "be happy here and now and achieve definite goodness"!  Losar Tashi Delek!