What are our aspirations for the coming year? Can we, as symbolized by an Ox, be positive, honest and bring good energy to our life? Working hard, yet slow and with clear awareness?
We are welcoming Losar, the Tibetan New Year, with everyone around the world. Wishing all sentient begins to be free from obstacles, feel our interconnectedness and open our hearts.
Year of the Iron Ox
The Tibetan calendar follows the lunar calendar. It is ruled by a twelve year cycle with one animal and one element ruling each year. Each element is in place for two years, before it changes to a new element. The animals in order are: Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep, Monkey, Bird, Dog, Pig, Mouse, Ox and Tiger. The elements are Wood, Fire, Earth, Iron/Metal and Water. February 12th 2021 of the Gregorian calendar is the beginning of the Tibetan year of the Iron Ox.
In Tibetan culture, the Ox is a deeply valued animal. It is seen as positive, honest and having a good energy. The ox is hardworking in a slow, balanced manner. The year of the Iron Ox carries this energy, something we can connect with in our aspirations and practice.
In Tibetan Buddhist tradition there are many connections between spiritual practice and the calendar. Like each year carries a certain energy we can connect with, it also guides us in deciding when to do a retreat, build a monastery, put up prayer flags and so on. Losar in particular is a period of change, new beginnings, a time to throw out the garbage – literally and mentally/emotionally – of the past year and make a fresh start.
Nalandabodhi celebrates Losar as a sangha (community) with chanting, meditation, sharing meals and other ways that help to set the tone for an auspicious and interconnected year as a sangha and for the world.
Supporting His Holiness the 17th Karmapa
The Iron Ox Year is also the anniversary of the birth year of His Holiness the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa (HHK17), Ogyen Trinley Dorje, which was the Wood Ox year in 1985. It is also known as a “repeat year”. The repetition of the year of one’s birth is identified by the animal in the twelve year cycle of animals.
In order to help bring all positive conditions together in support of His Holiness the 17th Karmapa, as the calendar moves toward the year of the Ox (the birth year of His Holiness), Nalandabodhi & Nitartha International are offering a free download of a Tibetan-language ebook containing precious, revered texts as well as a compilation of long-life prayers for His Holiness Karmapa. All readers of Tibetan are invited to make use of this. More information can be found on the website of Nitartha Institute. To learn more you can click here.
Nalandabodhi’s calendar & Vajrayana tradition
Every year Nalandabodhi and Nitartha Institute publish a Tibetan New Year Calendar. It marks the dates of the four important Buddhist holidays and other significant dates for special practices, memorials for important teachers of the tradition, and so on. It also provides the special astrological configurations which gives insight into the special energy of the day. In our daily life, whether we are traveling, working, meeting friends/family, we can consult the calendar to look for auspicious days for such activities. You can order the calendar here.
In addition, the Tibetan calendar and astrological systems are drawn in great part from the Tibetan tantras. Thus it has a strong connection to Vajrayana as well. In general it is taught that ‘reality’ has an outer, inner and secret element. The outer elements is governed by astrological forces. Inner points to the spiritual forces such as the motivations of compassion. The secret element is tied to tantric practices like the practice of Tibetan yogas. These three ‘realities’ are interconnected in a way that the outer, inner and secret influence our practice, tradition and daily life.
Whatever calendar we follow, celebrating any new year offers a time to contemplate our aspirations for each new moment ahead, to clear away obstacles and to open our hearts further for the well-being of all sentient beings and our planet Mother Earth. Therefore we wish everyone Happy Losar – may the year of the Iron Ox be auspicious!