Mahayana New Year – January 7, 2023
Mahayana New Year is celebrated on different days in different countries and traditions according to the Buddhist calendar 2023. In Mahayana Buddhist countries, the New Year starts on the first full moon day in January.
Buddhism is a religious tradition with a complicated history that has expanded and evolved over the centuries. Buddha teachings, called the dharma, spread over Asia and developed into three basic traditions: Theravada, Mahayana, and Vajrayana. Mahayana Buddhism evolved about 400 years after the birth of Buddhism. Unlike other Buddhists, Mahayana followers aspire to not only liberate themselves from suffering but also lead other people toward liberation and enlightenment.
In 2023 Mahayana New Year will be celebrated on Saturday, January 7.
Mahayana is the name of one of the two primary branches of Buddhism. The word is formulated from the Sanskrit “mahā,” meaning great or large, and “yāna,” meaning vehicle. Taken together, the term can be translated as the Great Vehicle. Mahāyāna is the most popular type of Buddhism in the world today.
Mahayana Buddhism began to take shape in the first century BCE. This religious movement then rapidly developed in several different places in and around what is now India, the birthplace of Buddhism. Buddhism itself started sometime in the fifth century BCE. We now think that the Buddha, who founded the religion, died sometime in the year 400 BCE.
Mahayana Buddhists strive to copy the life of the Buddha and replicate it infinitely. That effort was the origin of the bodhisattva ideal. A bodhisattva is a person who wants to become a Buddha by setting out in a great way. This meant that Mahayana Buddhists were allegedly motivated by greater compassion than the normal kind of Buddhists and aimed for a complete understanding of reality and greater wisdom.
The Mahayana initially developed in India but then spread to Central Asia, Tibet, and China. From China it spread to Korea, Vietnam, and Japan, bringing most of East Asia under its influence.
Suggested Read: Theravada New Year
Mahayana New Year Tradition
Mahayana Buddhists believe Nirvana lies in imitating the life of the Buddha. Mahayana Buddhists place greater emphasis on the Buddha’s teaching by example, stressing, for example, the importance of compassion. Mahayana Buddhism is not a single group but a collection of Buddhist traditions: Zen Buddhism, Pure Land Buddhism, and Tibetan Buddhism are all forms of Mahayana Buddhism.
Mahayana Buddhists believe enlightenment can be acquired during one’s lifetime. They also believe that not only nuns and monks can achieve it, but also ordinary Buddhists.
Mahayana Buddhists celebrate the new year by honoring and praying for Buddha and other deities. Every Buddhist is expected to visit a nearby temple to light candles which are believed to bring happiness and good luck for the commencing year. Songs are sung as an offering to deities while statues of Buddha are washed as a sign of respect.
On this day, Buddhists meditate and reflect on their life in the previous years with the objective of identifying and correcting any wrongs they may have done as a new year’s resolution. As a belief, they also buy new clothes, decorate the home, and give gifts to beckon good luck. With the festivities, one can never miss sweets and the ceremonial fireworks at midnight.
Suggested Read: Buddhist Festival