While most of us celebrate the New Year on January first, Tibetans in the Shambhala tradition just kicked off a lunar New Year on February 27th which lasts several days, including celebrations into March. This lunar New Year is revered as the Year of the Firebird, and we’re in for quite a ride, according to ancient Tibetan astrology.
The Tibetan lunar New Year is calculated according to the Tibetan lunar calendar, using ancient knowledge of astrology, and changes annually to coincide with the lunar cycle. Tibetan and Chinese New Year start on different dates.
The fire cock (or heaven bird) in the Tibetan tradition represents Venus and Jupiter, with qualities emphasized for the duration of the year such as: idealism, intelligence, precision, organization, self-confidence, and the perfection of skills and intent. This year and every lunar year marks an opportunity to become more mindful, and to reflect on the events of the previous twelve months. The New Year is also known as Losar: lo meaning “year, age” and sarmeaning “new, fresh.”
Tibetans combine 12 animal signs (mouse, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, bird, dog and pig) with the five elements (wood, fire, earth, metal and water) to create a 60-year cycle. They believe that the influence of the Lunar New Year can greatly shape our consciousness.
Tibetan societies were steeped in mysticism and renowned for their uncanny psychic ability to understand the way celestial occurrences affect us.
Nothing quite represents a new start than the fire bird, with similar Campbellian archetypes which are comparable, such as the phoenix. This is the symbol of rebirth. The phoenix, like the fire bird is an imperious, self-rejuvenating bird that reincarnates by burning itself up. It appears in ancient Egypt, as well as in the Southwest as the Thunderbid; in India, Garuda; in Iran, the Huma; in England, Arthur’s dragon symbol. Its forms change, but the flame-like essence, able to burn away misfortune and degradation (bad karma) remains.
C. G. Jung likened the phoenix to the transmutation of alchemical “prime matter” into bright metal through purification by fire. He also associated the symbol with rebirth. It is also said that the phoenix’s voice summoned the God Apollo to carry a message of rejuvenation.
The Tibetan year of the Firebird will be particularly exciting. This is the symbol of awakening, and we can already see signs of this everywhere we look.
The Tibetan Buddhist tradition offers much sage advice on how to deal with resurrection – both spiritually, and physically. The tradition teaches:
DEATH IS CERTAIN
1. There is no possible way to escape death. No-one ever has, not even Jesus, Buddha, etc. Of the current world population of over 5 billion people, almost none will be alive in 100 years time.
2. Life has a definite, inflexible limit and each moment brings us closer to the finality of this life. We are dying from the moment we are born.
3. Death comes in a moment and its time is unexpected. All that separates us from the next life is one breath.
Conviction: To practise the spiritual path and ripen our inner potential by cultivating positive mental qualities and abandoning disturbing mental qualities.
“Tonight you die to be reborn in the morning, like every second that exists.”
We have an opportunity with the year of the firebird to discard all that hasn’t served us, and to replace these thoughts, words and deeds with uplifted, more conscious thoughts, and actions.
Tibetans use energies and qualities when they are assigning categories of distinction to their years. The new year always begins and ends on a new moon. This is a similar system to the Chinese, Hindus and ancient Babylonians.
All of these traditions used the symbol of fire to describe the burning away of impure thoughts, and karmic actions.