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Celebrating New Year’s With Fresh Resolve

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New Year’s Day marks the first day, the first month, the beginning of the year, and the start of spring.[1] A person who celebrates this day will accumulate virtue and be loved by all, just as the moon becomes full gradually, moving from west to east,[2] and as the sun shines more brightly, traveling from east to west.

“New Year’s Gosho,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 1137

New Year’s is a festive day in which we celebrate a fresh start. In various Eastern cultures, because New Year’s marks the start of a new day, a new month and a new year, it has been known as the day of “three beginnings.” In addition, according to the Japanese lunar calendar, New Year’s also signifies the first day of spring.

Hence, in the passage above, Nichiren Daishonin assures us that a person who practices Buddhism and celebrates this day will steadily “accumulate virtue and be loved by all, just as the moon becomes full gradually, moving from west to east, and as the sun shines more brightly, traveling from east to west” (WND-1, 1137).

Although the date this letter was written is unclear, its recipient was the wife of Omosu, who lived with her husband in Omosu Village in Fuji District of Suruga Province (part of present-day Shizuoka Prefecture). She is believed to be the elder sister of Nanjo Tokimitsu.

Nichiren wrote this letter to her, appreciating the offerings she sent to him at the beginning of the year.

In this letter, he affirms that by starting the new year with fresh resolve and continuing to renew our determinations, we can amass great benefit and gain the trust of those around us. Throughout his writings, Nichiren stresses the importance of making fresh beginnings, teaching us that renewing our resolve and vow helps us powerfully move our lives forward.
Regarding the idea of marking the start of something, in “The Blessings of the Lotus Sutra,” Nichiren emphasizes the character pronounced hajime in Japanese, which means “first,” “start” or “beginning.” He writes:

In this entire country of Japan, I am the only one who has been chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. I am like the single speck of dust that marks the beginning of Mount Sumeru[3] or the single drop of dew that spells the start of the great ocean.

(WND-1, 672)

Here, both the words “beginning” and “start” are expressed as the character for hajime. SGI President Ikeda comments on this, stating:

I can’t help but feel that the Daishonin’s use of this character conveys his impassioned spirit to stand alone and initiate an intense struggle for kosen-rufu.

In addition, he established for the first time the Gohonzon—the object of devotion for observing the mind. Embracing the Gohonzon itself constitutes “observing the mind,” or enlightenment.

In that sense, let us strive every day as we chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo resonantly before the Gohonzon to begin anew, powerfully bringing forth fresh life force from within us. The purpose of our Buddhist practice is to lead lives of complete fulfillment, with the spirit that every day is New Year’s Day and illuminated by the morning sun of time without beginning.

November 2014 Living Buddhism, p. 25

Some of us may still have some lingering goals from the previous year. Others may have ended the last year in complete victory. No matter the case, this is the best time to decide to make 2020 the most joyful, victorious and fulfilling year yet! WT


SGI President Ikeda’s Guidance

Make Every Day New Year’s Day

In this excerpt from an address SGI President Ikeda gave on Jan. 2, 2008, his 80th birthday, he recounts his discussions (in September 1994 and January 1995) with Anthony Marsella, professor emeritus of psychology at the University of Hawaii.

[Anthony Marsella] observed that, psychologically, the end of one year and the start of the next serves as a powerful motivation for people to make fresh resolutions. In the period right after New Year’s, he said, one finds that people the world over are intensely and profoundly conscious of time’s passing and turn their thoughts to life and its meaning . . .

Even the humblest goals can be seen as a manifestation of the larger human drive for rebirth and rejuvenation. The start of a new year imparts to each individual—no matter how hard their lives or how disappointed or discouraged they are by their own behavior patterns or actions—the feeling that they can make a fresh start and change themselves. In that respect, he concluded, New Year’s is a unique opportunity to take on the challenge of personal transformation.

From this perspective as well, our Soka Gakkai New Year’s Gongyo meetings, at which we pledge together to make fresh progress, have a very profound significance.

Many different events celebrating the achievements that we in the SGI have realized through the joint struggle of mentor and disciple are also being held in countries and cities around the world . . . It’s no exaggeration to say that the immense understanding, sympathy and trust won by SGI members across the globe, as good citizens in their respective communities, and by our Soka network for peace, culture and education based on Buddhism, are nothing short of miraculous. (Feb. 22, 2008, World Tribune, p. 2)

References

  1. According to the Japanese lunar calendar, New Year’s Day is marked by the beginning of spring, which on the Gregorian calendar falls somewhere between Jan. 21 and Feb. 19. ↩︎
  2. This refers to the fact that the new moon is first seen in the west just after sunset. On successive nights, as the moon grows fuller, it appears to have moved a little farther toward the east. ↩︎
  3. Mount Sumeru: In ancient Indian cosmology, the mountain that stands at the center of the world. ↩︎

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