Holiday season is a sacred time for Buddhists, too

By Blogger Pearce Fujiura

Blogger Pearce Fujiura

This week many Buddhists are celebrating the Mahayana New Year. However, because it’s from a different cultural tradition than my own, it’s not an event that I celebrate.

I am a Japanese Buddhist, specifically Nichiren. My family and I celebrate Shogatsu, which is celebrated at the same time as the Western New Year.

My family has always celebrated Shogatsu by pounding a sweet rice paste, called Mochi, with other members of the Japanese community. We do this using large wooden mallets known as Kine (pronouced Key-neigh) and a large stone mortar called Usu (pronounced oo-sue).

The mochi pounding (mochitsuki) is about building community and also about reflecting on yourself and your spiritual awareness.  For me, the mochitsuki is not a religious ceremony, but instead marks the end of the celebration of the Buddha’s enlightenment.

In Japan, the celebration of Buddha’s enlightenment begins on Dec. 8 and ends 30 days later on Jan. 7. During this time I celebrate the moment that the Buddha obtained enlightenment as well as the many paths to enlightenment that have been found around the world. It is a time to reflect on my own path and the steps that I am making towards finding my own way.

I love this time of year because it reveals to me how unique each of our journeys are, yet how they are each valid and correct in their own way.  While I may misstep along the way, I am still traveling and growing and learning.  This time of year reminds me to celebrate that knowledge and take reverence in the knowledge and path of others.

Like many Buddhists, I think that the principle of these celebrations and traditions can easily be understood and practiced by people of all faiths who use the holiday season to reflect on family, self-improvement, embrace, or even celebrate the newness of the moment and of the year.

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