On December 31 at midnight, the New Year is welcomed in Japanese Buddhist Temples with 108 bell chimes during the Joya no Kane ritual, which means “bell rings on new year eve’s night.” The rings represent 108 elements of bonō, defilements or passions and desires entrapping us in the cycle of suffering and awakening (Samsāra). The 108 bell chimes also symbolize the purification from the 108 delusions and sufferings accumulated in the past year.
A couple of years ago, I came across a Western adaptation of this ritual of celebrating the New Year:
Ingredients: close to midnight, sit in silence for an hour. Then strike a bell 108 times — ideally outside — and with each measured ring remember someone in your life: near and far, dead and alive, friend and foe. Then write on a piece of paper “One thing I want to let go off” and burn it. Then bow and drink a glass of sparkling beverage. Cheers!”
I will find myself spending time with family and friends at the stroke of midnight, but I will try to keep this ritual in mind along with an invitation from the poet, Leonard Cohen that touches on an attitude toward the sacred: “Ring the bells that still can ring. Forget your perfect offering. There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”
May all your good intentions and highest wishes come to fruition in 2015.