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Posted on 12-02-2016
Lunar New Year Meets Zen: Wishing You a Forever Spring
By Hanh Tinh
Lunar new year?! What in the world is that and why would anyone celebrate a new year on a day other than the obvious January 1st? For most of my life, that was me, and I had no idea that for thousands of years a “new year” had been tracked based on moon cycles long before paper was around. Vietnamese New Year (celebrated on Feb. 8 this year) is one that is already rich in meaning, and yet when seen through the eyes of Zen, touches with an ultimate importance that is profound, beautiful, and inspiring at the same time.
Vietnamese lunar new year marks not only the beginning of a new lunar calendar year, but falls at a time considered to be the early cusp of spring. Signaled by the first flowering buds bursting forth directly from the branches of the hoa mai tree (similar to forsythia and flowering peach), it represents all the best that spring has to offer: re-birth from the colder months, recovery of color and warmth, and a symbol of hope after struggle. The same is true within each person; New Year brings a personal sense of renewal from the inside. Many Vietnamese use the opportunity to express their gratitude to others, and do an inner “spring cleaning” with reflection on the past year, seeing mistakes, and setting the goals to improve.
Most everyone appreciates the beauty and revitalizing energy of spring, especially after the winter’s challenges and we also accept that it will soon change again and be gone. But did we ever consider that there is a perfect, never-ending spring season right within ourselves, available every day of the year?
After I started coming to Universal Door Meditation Center, I found out that Zen takes the meaning of New Year to a whole new level! The true meaning of Zen is not about bonsai plants or nifty landscaping techniques; translated properly, Zen means to be Awake. The original, clear, stable, and unconditional Awake mind is, and always has been, within each person. It is a Forever Spring season that we never knew we had. The purpose of Zen is to realize that, and return to live with it as soon as possible.
Zen Master Thich Dieu Thien teaches that each person innately has pure, true love. But then because of their beliefs, perceptions, holdings, judgments, and so forth, there is a separation from that love, and it cannot fully blossom and express in the world. So on one hand it is always there, and we love, but then don’t love at the exact same time. Like with parents and children, there is an unconditional love right there, but they cannot live with that because of the conflicts that arise, and that brings a sense of loss or hopelessness at the seemingly continuous conflicts that play out in everyday life. She tells students not to think that you must resign yourself to that fate; true happiness is already within you, waiting. You just need to go back and live with it, and every joy will come back to your life. That is the real meaning of New Year, to discover the Forever Spring season within yourself.
It is ironic that we often go looking for some new object, a new purchase, a new relationship or activity to “refresh” our situation and provide a sense of newness to life. I have so many chapters of my life where I was chasing a new experience, a new love, or career opportunity, but despite whatever I forged, the pursuit of the next thing was a never-ending system loop. I kept adding more and more to what I already had that still did not make me truly happy, hoping that somehow just the right “one more thing” would do the trick. Whereas our Zen Master clearly points out that it is not one more new outside thing that answers our quest; it is one “old” thing that we already have, one thing that we just didn’t realize yet, that is always fresh and available, that can restore us completely. Unlike every flower that eventually fades out, the Forever Spring is always there for us. She guides students to go back to cultivate that seed waiting within, where the happiness is unconditional, and the love is true and expresses as pure compassion into the world. Furthermore, when that is realized, all the judging, blaming, and fighting will stop and we will understand ourselves and everyone else as well. For the New Year, the goal is to return to our “original” and live with it, and be truly happy with everyone around us, in any situation, disturbed by nothing. Doesn’t that sound like the very best New Year gift, ever?
With her guidance, my inner questions and meditation practice have developed, and I’ve had a chance to touch with the Awake within. It is a full and complete happiness unlike anything I had ever imagined or thought possible, hidden perfectly in the very last place I would have ever looked for it! I can now feel the possibility of living with the Forever Spring, which is far and away so vibrant and alive, compared to the temporary and fragile happiness of satisfaction that relied on things always going my way.
All the stress and conflicts in daily life are surely commonplace, but I have come to see that we do not have to stay stuck in those patterns anymore. Ever since I started to experience the benefits of Zen Meditation at Universal Door, I was so excited to share with others that there is a practical, real path toward genuine happiness and complete freedom, and encourage everyone to connect with it for themselves. Why take the transient benefits of this spring season to be our greatest goal when we can aim to realize the Forever Spring within ourselves? For this Lunar New Year, may you discover the Forever Spring and bring that as your gift everywhere you go and share it with everyone in your life.
All meditation classes, retreats, workshops, youth program, and other celebrations at Universal Door Meditation Center, founded by Zen Master Thich Dieu Thien, aim to help all people discover more about themselves and realize the Forever Spring within to be truly happy in everyday life. For questions about our Center, the Zen Master, or opportunities to connect with us, check out our website at www.universaldoor.org, our Facebook page, or by calling 281-565-9718. We hope to see you soon!
Thien Vien Pho Mon - Universal Door Meditation Center
2619 Charles Lane, Sugar Land, TX 77498
(281) 565-9718 - www.universaldoor.org
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