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New Year’s Eve Ceremony

December 28, 2012

by Stephen Damon

Many of us are fortunate enough to be able to go to a Zen Center to celebrate New Year’s Eve. But if you are not able to do this, I have constructed a way of celebrating New Year’s Eve, based on some of the practices done at many Zen Centers. To do this, you will need a comfortable place to sit, a meditation bell, a piece of paper and pen, and if possible a fire in the fireplace.

First, sit down on a cushion or comfortable chair and acknowledge the truth of suffering caused by our own ignorant view of ourselves as separate from the world we inhabit by reciting the verse of atonement:
All my ancient twisted karma,
from beginningless greed, hate and delusion,
born through body, speech, and mind,
I now fully avow.

I have noticed that chanting this verse has a way of disturbing and unsettling my thoughts and feelings. In a sense, it cuts right to the heart of our practice. Reciting this ancient chant of repentance, we, in a sense, “repair” the past in order to prepare for the future. If we do not repair the past, if we continue to live in greed, hate, and delusion nothing is possible. In some traditions such as Islam, we wash ourselves before prayer. When we feel the cool water drip down our faces we must remember that we are washing away the “sins” of our ancient, twisted karma.

After we have avowed our greed, hate and delusion we renew our vows and intentions of our Bodhisattva practice. We rededicate ourselves to live in accord with our own original nature, undefiled and unperturbed. You may recite the sixteen Bodhisattva Precepts:
I take refuge in the Buddha
I take refuge in the Dharma
I take refuge in the Sangha

The Three Collective Pure Precepts
With purity of heart, I vow to abstain from what is unwholesome.
With purity of heart, I vow to do what is wholesome.
With purity of heart, I vow to live for the benefit of all beings.

The Ten Prohibitory Precepts
A follower of the Buddha abstains from the willful taking of life.
A follower of the Buddha abstains from taking what is not given.
A follower of the Buddha abstains from indulging in sensual desire.
A follower of the Buddha abstains from speaking deceptively.
A follower of the Buddha abstains from impairing self and others.
A follower of the Buddha abstains from condemning others.
A follower of the Buddha abstains from placing self above others.
A follower of the Buddha abstains from possessing anything selfishly.
A follower of the Buddha abstains from harboring hatred, and disharmony.
A follower of the Buddha abstains from abusing the Three Treasures.

After this we will ring our meditation bell 108 times. The number is very auspicious as it refers to the 108 defilements (see below) that must be overcome to become enlightened. It also refers to the 108 virtues that need to be cultivated. This ceremony is said to have originated in the Sung Dynasty (960-1279) as a Chinese custom and was then brought over to Japan later on. The understanding of the auspiciousness of the number, 108 dates back to Hinduism which says that there are 108 deities and 108 Upanishads.

Listening to the ringing of the bell gives us the opportunity to follow something as it appears out of emptiness and gradually disappears into emptiness. I have found that listening to the three bells before a sitting is a very helpful way for me to return to the deep silence that is behind all things. This return is only possible because of the growing intensity of our attention. As the sound disappears into silence one can experience oneself as a “wide open listening” to…everything. This kind of attention is necessary if we are to continue our practice wholeheartedly.

After the last bell, write down some of the more memorable events of the past year. These things can be “good” or “bad” or “neutral.” It does not matter. If you can remember them, chances are you have some attachment to them. It is the attachment that is important. Then, one at a time either rip them up or if you can, burn them. Try to pay attention to any thoughts or emotions that you have. When you are done, see if there is anything that you might have forgotten. If there is, repeat the same process.

Then return to your seat and pay attention to what it feels like to have “burned” all the twisted karma of the past year. If possible sit as long as you do in your morning sitting.

108 Defilements

abuse; aggression; ambition; anger; arrogance; baseness; blasphemy; calculation; callousness; capriciousness (unaccountable changes of mood or behavior); censoriousness (being severely critical of others); conceitedness; contempt; cruelty; cursing; debasement; deceit; deception; delusion; derision; desire for fame; dipsomania (alcoholism characterized by intermittent bouts of craving); discord; disrespect; disrespectfulness; dissatisfaction; dogmatism; dominance; eagerness for power; effrontery (insolent or impertinent behavior); egoism; enviousness; envy; excessiveness; faithlessness; falseness; furtiveness; gambling; garrulity (tediously talking about trivial matters); gluttony; greed; greed for money; grudge; hard-heartedness; hatred; haughtiness; high-handedness; hostility; humiliation; hurt; hypocrisy; ignorance; imperiousness (assuming power or authority without justification); imposture (pretending to be someone else in order to deceive); impudence; inattentiveness; indifference; ingratitude; insatiability; insidiousness; intolerance; intransigence (unwilling or refusing to change one’s views or to agree about something); irresponsibility; jealousy; know-it-all; lack of comprehension; lecherousness; lying; malignancy; manipulation; masochism; mercilessness; negativity; obsession; obstinacy; obstinacy; oppression; ostentatiousness; pessimism; prejudice; presumption; pretence; pride; prodigality (spending money or using resources freely and recklessly); quarrelsomeness; rage; rapacity (being aggressively greedy or grasping); ridicule; sadism; sarcasm; seducement; self-denial; self-hatred; sexual lust; shamelessness; stinginess; stubbornness; torment; tyranny; unkindness; unruliness; unyielding; vanity; vindictiveness; violence; violent temper; voluptuousness; wrath.

From → Zen Buddhism

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