My friend Joseph Goldstein, the Insight Meditation teacher, and I were eating breakfast together in Boston’s Copley Square recently–discussing our writing projects, our pilgrimages, and our late Asian gurus. Then we fell upon the inevitable subject of what we will be doing on the millennial eve.
Cultures use many different calendars. While Jews are marking the year 5760, for my Tibetan friends, it is the Earth Rabbit Year, the 2126th year of their reckoning. Therefore, I doubt that everything in our world will change overnight as the apocalypticists predict, unless, of course, we can transform ourselves, which would then affect everything else.
But Tibetan masters say that spiritual practices done at the time of any large cosmic conjunction–a full or new moon, an equinox or solstice, or the turning of a new year–is multiplied a thousandfold, for good or for ill, according to karma, the law of cause and effect. Thus, the cusp of the new millennium is an extremely propitious moment for prayers and spiritual practice.
Tibetan Buddhist lamas also teach that this is an excellent and appropriate time for personal as well as collective reflection–not just a time to accumulate the best hundred lists but to genuinely take stock of where we are and where we are going. I’m trying to reprioritize my needs, desires, and intentions in the light of the fact that I will not be here to witness the next millennium, or even the next century.
Joseph’s and my new millennium celebrations and our resolutions reinforce this altruistic intention to become enlightened. Joseph will be spending New Year’s Eve at home in Barre, Massachusetts, with close spiritual friends and offering a midnight dharma talk on that topic to the people on retreat.
I plan to be at the Boston Harbor on my friend’s verandah, enjoying the First Night fireworks. I plan to usher in the new year and new millennium by chanting Tibetan prayers and lighting one hundred and eight candles at midnight. I will be visualizing all the starbursts in the firmament as offerings too, wishing that the light of this first night of the new millennium will illumine the way for our universal family.
My heartfelt prayer and my New Year’s resolution is this: to dedicate this life and all my lifetimes to the selfless service of spiritual enlightenment. My aspiration for the new millennium is that I become the greatest me I can be and that, collectively, we become the greatest we that we can possibly be.
To help do this, I invite you to join me at the midnight moment in setting those intentions. Light a candle or two with this in mind. Or simply see the light in the sky as candles lighting this earth, our altar. See the beings around you as gods and goddesses, living upon this altar. With this image in mind, your vision will be transformed. And you will help to create something beautiful for us all.