January 1, 2015
The advent of the New Year is a joyous occasion that kindles hope, enthusiasm, and optimism in all hearts. Amma prays to the Paramatman that in the coming year both the world and each individual are filled with peace, harmony, and prosperity.
This past year bore witness to much sorrow and suffering. Thousands fell prey to the bullets of terrorists. The death toll in the African subcontinent from the Ebola virus was shocking; so too the recent mass shootings in Pakistan and Assam. Recovering from such tragedies is not easy.
One may ask, “How can one keep smiling amidst all this suffering?” It’s true, it’s not easy to be happy in the midst of such hardship. However, becoming unhappy and depressed is not a solution. If our hand is injured and we just keep crying about it, it’s never going to heal. It will only get infected. The practical thing to do is to tend to the wound by applying the medicine. Losing hope and optimism is like birds without wings. Like such birds, we will not be able to soar in the sky of life. We cannot allow ourselves to lose our mental strength. In reality, just like any other decision, happiness is also a decision. It is the firm decision, “Let whatever come my way, I will be happy. I will be courageous.”
Love for the goal gives us the inspiration to strive for it. Then, even if we experience pain, it will not cripple us. There will be sweetness even amidst the pain. A mother is ready to bear the weight of her baby and undergo all the pain of labor because of her love for her child and her desire to be united with it. It is our love for the goal that gives us the strength to face all obstacles.
At New Year’s, it’s common to hear people say, “The year went so quickly. It was gone before I knew it.” In truth, time goes neither quickly nor slowly. What makes it feel fast or slow is the situations we face and our attitude towards them. We may have been really busy, but we need to ask ourselves, “Why was I so busy? Was I trying to attain the ephemeral or the eternal?” The advent of the New Year is a good time to introspect and evaluate our spiritual progress. If we feel we have regressed, we need to take a resolution not to slip further. We should ensure that we move forward again.
New Year’s is also a subtle reminder that one more year of our time on earth has come to an end and our meeting with death is one year closer. No one can escape death. It can come at any time. We should ask ourselves, “If death were to come now, would I be able to face it with a smile? Or would I tremble with fear?” If we have truly understood spirituality, we will have no fear whatsoever. We will see everything in its proper place and not have an unintelligent attachment.
Life is like living in a rented house. We cannot live there permanently. One day or another, we will be asked to leave. If we are also building a more beautiful and spacious house of our own, we will not sorrow. On the contrary, we will be happy. But if we have failed to find a permanent place to live, we will always be worrying. Similarly, just as one moves from a rented house to one of his own, he should be prepared to shift from the rented house of his body to the realm of the Self, which is our true home.
Every attachment we create in the world further depletes our mental strength. Initially, we may feel it’s just a small attachment and there is nothing to fear. However, as the attachment grows, we find ourselves a slave to it. Soon, we become like a beggar. Then it becomes our master. Attachment to God is different. Faith in God helps us cultivate values like love and compassion, and helps us to speak good words and perform virtuous actions. Attachment to God or the Guru helps us detach from our dependence on the world and become Self-reliant.
In the olden days, New Year’s was seen as a holy day. People would visit places of worship and take part in prayers for their wellbeing, and pray for the strength to perform good actions. It was a day to feed the poor and other works of charity. Today, the ‘holy-ness’ of the holiday has disappeared. New Year’s has become a time to get drunk, dance, and celebrate. One doesn’t need to get drunk to celebrate. When people forget the true meaning behind a holiday and use it for an empty celebration, it’s like eating the peel and throwing away the fruit. We cannot lose the values that make us human beings.
“Does God exist or not?” is not the relevant question at this time. Ask yourself, “If there is suffering in the world, how can I remove it—both mine and others’? What can I do to put an end to it?” These are the questions we should be asking ourselves, especially on New Year’s.
Why do we find newness in a new year? Is there any real difference between the 31st of December and the 1st of January? It is our mind that creates this sense of newness and hope. If we are constantly engaged in actions that foster our own wellbeing and that of the world, we will find newness, vitality, and enthusiasm at every moment. If we use the present moment in this way, it is enough. We shouldn’t put off for later what needs to be done today. We should fully immerse ourselves in doing good deeds. We must strive to see the world with a loving and joyous outlook every single day.
All of us want the world to be filled with more goodness and beauty than it is at present. We must do our part to create that world:
A new year without war and terrorism…
A new year wherein no one experiences hunger or poverty…
A new year wherein everyone is given an equal opportunity to grow and develop…
A new year wherein there is mutual respect among everyone, regardless of sex, religion, or skin color…
A new year wherein human hearts unite in love and unity…
We can dream. To make that dream a reality, let us be willing to undergo self-sacrifice.
What fulfills the life of a plant is the sprouting, flowering, and bearing of fruit. When this happens, the plant lends goodness and beauty to the world. Even when it withers away, it nourishes the earth and future generations. Let us pray that our lives may be of similar benefit.
Whether the unique face God has given us expresses love or anger is up to us. If we smile, it will make others smile, too. If we have love and peace within, it will create such feelings in others as well. Then the whole environment will be filled with happiness. In this manner, in this coming year, may we be able to make our families, countries, and the world blossom more fully in love. Let us step into the New Year with this prayer. Amma wishes all of her children a very happy 2015.
Excerpts from Amma’s Teachings compiled by Team Amrita Yoga, Amritapuri