Monday, February 11, marks Losar, the Tibetan New Year, and the start of 2140, the Year of the Water Snake. The new year festivities begin with prayers and good wishes for family, friends, and all sentient beings. Tibetans believe that Shakyamuni Buddha performed miracles during the first 15 days of Losar, so this is a time of ritual and celebration.
His Holiness Sakya Trizin, leader of one of the four schools of Tibetan Buddhism, offered these words in his 2013 Losar greeting:
“Now we start a new year, the Year of the Water Snake. In Buddhism, whilst the snake represents anger, one of the three poisons that keeps us trapped in samsara (delusion), water symbolizes purification. And so we are invited to look upon this year as one of transformation, where our negative emotions can be purified and transmuted into enlightened qualities, and where we can apply this transformation to our everyday life, bringing light and kindness to everyone around us.”
Tibetan astrological signs are more complicated than ours. The astrological year does not begin at Losar, a lunar holiday, but on the preceding winter solstice. Babies born between Dec. 22, 2012, and Dec. 21, 2013 have the water snake as their sign. So do people turning 60 this year: with 12 animal signs and five associated elements (wood, fire, earth, iron, and water), there are 60 possible combinations. A quick trip to google brought up a list of celebrity water snakes, including Hulk Hogan, Pat Benatar, Tim Allen, Pierce Brosnan, Cindi Lauper, Kim Basinger, Kathy Lee Gifford, Tony Shalhoub, John Malkovich, and Tony Blair.
On a deeper level, nothing in us or the world is fixed and immutable. Nothing is predestined. We are all “self-made” men and women, and that making is always going on. Because of this, the energy of new beginnings is prized at this time of year.
I offer everyone the traditional Tibetan greeting, Tashi Delek, which means “Blessings and good luck.”