Mahayana New Year: Buddhists embrace fresh start

Buddhist with hat sitting on bridge meditating

A Japanese Buddhist. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

MONDAY, JANUARY 5: Buddhists of the Mahayana tradition celebrate a New Year on this, the full moon day of January. (Dates vary by region.)

In preparation for the New Year, Buddhists clean their homes and extend greetings to family and friends. Buddha statues are ceremoniously bathed, and candles are lit in homes and at temples. On a more personal level, Buddhists examine their own thoughts and actions and attempt to clean the sins of the past year. Many also resolve to improve their ways in the New Year ahead.

Buddhist tradition, today generally split into the Theravada and Mahayana movements, began in India with the historical Buddha. The larger movement worldwide—Mahayana—is known as the Great Vehicle, and encompasses Zen, Tibetan and Shingon Buddhism. Most practicing Mahayana Buddhists reside in North Asia, in countries such as China, Mongolia, Tibet, Korea and Japan.

Theravada Buddhists—most commonly found in Thailand, Burma, Sri Lanka, Cambodia and Laos—mark the New Year on the first full moon day of April.

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