Rinpoche’s New Year’s Resolution

28 February 2022

In a few days, one of the last of the cultural phenomena we call ‘new year’ will dawn — and this time it’s the Tibetan new year, Losar.

‘New year’ is one of myriad terms human beings have come up with for the sake of convenience — like, pen, eraser, notebook, shoelaces, hair pins and coat hangers. We also label intangible concepts, like ‘sky’ which, again for the sake of convenience, we slice up into four directions and insist that it has a middle — but how can it? We do exactly the same with time, conveniently dividing a day into 24 hours, an hour into 60 minutes and a minute into 60 seconds. And based on that illusion, the shenanigans we call ‘new year’ is born.

For kids, the new year is something to look forward to, like birthdays, whereas people of my age prefer to ignore it. But like it or not, cocooned in this shell of body, speech and mind, we are all subject to transformation, decay, sagging, drifting, fading and so on. As such, not even the myriad displays of uncertainty we are currently experiencing can prevent the new year from dawning.

There are just a few days left of what the Tibetans call the Ox year — a year that has been anything but easy. To our dismay, with the uncertainties of the pandemic still lingering, war has now broken out in Europe — yet another agonizing war on this beautiful planet of ours. And the followers of the Buddha have been further impoverished by the passing of too many eminent stakeholders — the banners of Dharma. Many of us have spent the past year eating our hearts out because so much has happened. Yet, before too long, we will feel waves of nostalgia for even this terrible year.

As always, with just a few days to go before we see in the year of the Tiger, many of us have started thinking about our new year’s resolutions — myself included. And although I am aware that by publicly declaring my own resolution I risk being accused of boastfulness, from my point of view, what I am doing is exposing my weaknesses.

So here goes. My new year’s resolution is to chant the seven-line prayer 1,000 times every day. I should add that I may not necessarily chant all 1,000 in one sitting or in a formal session (sitting with a straight back and so on). I may, for example, chant during conversations I have with other people, or as I browse the shelves in shopping malls, or as I surf the internet, watch YouTube videos, or catch the latest episode of an intriguing television series. To some of you, I know, this approach will sound a little scandalous — it is not the perfect way of accumulating prayers. But in this day and age, if someone like me can isolate my mouth for long enough to chant just one seven-line prayer, it can only be considered a very worthwhile activity. And it’s definitely better than doing nothing.

So if any of you feel you would like to make a similar resolution, please join me. You don’t have to promise to do 1,000 prayers a day — perhaps 100 would work better for you, or even 10. And, of course, if you prefer to sit with a straight back in a formal session away from distraction, be my guest. But if, like me, you are undisciplined and lethargic, instead of beating yourself up about how useless you are, encourage yourself. That’s what I do. Even the most undisciplined practice is far better than doing nothing.

Finally, to relieve myself of the burden of replying to any new year’s greetings I may receive, I will pre-empt them all by wishing everyone a very Happy New Year.

— Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse

Listen to Rinpoche chanting the seven-line prayer. Music by Tadi Yan.