Being liberal about this particular holiday is super easy. All one has to do is to overlook all the gluttony and boozing and sexual promiscuity. Once you are able to look past that the holiday is actually very inspiring – people look forward to the next period of their lives and they honesty hope to make the best of it.
Those who make New Year resolution are obvious. They think long and hard about what their perfect life should look like, identify their weak points and resolve to overcome their deficiencies. I don’t see any way they could be criticized for this, effort is unmistakably there.
What we can make fuss of is their misguided aspirations. They don’t know where their true benefit lies and go after illusory and temporary goals. If only they knew that they are spirit souls separate from matter they’d make much better resolutions. That’s a legitimate complaint but whose fault is it anyway? We’ve been around for nearly half a century, how come we still haven’t convinced people of basic spiritual truths?
Thinking this way one can easily see himself as being inferior to the ordinary folks celebrating their New Year. We can say that we’ve been following instructions of guru and Krishna and therefore we are objectively higher beings but this pride can be dissipated by considering our apparent progress solely as mercy of Lord Chaitanya and not claiming any credit to ourselves.
One can easily imagine wealthy people deciding to control their ostentatious spending habits and becoming envious of the poor who are much better at controlling themselves. They correctly identify their problem as inability to restrain their shopping urges and don’t see their wealth as a blessing at all. If they were poorer it would have been much easier, they’d think.
We are in the same situation – we’ve been given wealth of spiritual knowledge but we don’t know how to use it wisely. A simple devotee who has just accepted Krishna into his heart has it so much easier, he is not burdened with politics and conflicts, he can’t care less about dark periods of ISKCON history, his enthusiasm and dedication are pure and his future looks bright.
We can, of course, dismiss it as utsaha-mayi, false enthusiasm, and we can indulge our envy in thinking up various reasons for their certain downfall but if that’s what we want then paramahamsa stage is obviously not for us yet.
Even people who don’t make any New Year resolutions due to their cynicism can be applauded for their practicality and honesty. It takes certain bravery to admit one’s weaknesses and one’s inability to control one’s life in face of the superior force of fate. It’s not that they don’t have any goals, they know value of healthy life and wholesome relationships just as well as those who, on this New Year’s eve, promise to achieve all their goals, they are simply being realistic about it.
I would even argue that they realize weaknesses inherent to their own nature and they see themselves as separate from their uncontrollable minds, a step better than being enthusiastic but largely ignorant of the reality.
It’s very easy to see the best in people on New Year, maybe even easier than on Christmas or Thanksgiving which are spoiled by Black Friday shopping or Christmas present frenzy, there’s just too much greed involved.
Now that I just said that then the next step should be about seeing goodness in people rushing through store doors morning after being thankful to God for whatever they have. That’s a tough one, I admit. Naughty and nice business with Santa is also awash with greed and sense of entitlement, which is still somehow seen as legitimate by devotees with perfect vision.
So, seeing good in people on New Year really is a baby step but a necessary one. We should still see them as non-devotees and protect our consciousness from their polluting attitudes but it won’t hurt us to theoretically acknowledge their efforts anyway.
In fact, there’s no good reason not to try and set New Year resolutions for ourselves, too. Taking vratas is one of the limbs of devotional service, what’s so bad about taking them on this day as opposed to any other?
In fact, what is the reason to avoid taking vratas right now? Following lunar calendar is not an excuse, any promise for any period of time is good. We don’t have to wait for auspicious days to start serving the Lord.
All we have to do is to figure out reasonable vratas, not too difficult and overwhelming and not too easy and meaningless. Will I make a New Year resolution myself?
Not very likely but if something comes to mind in the remaining hours of this year I won’t object. You can’t rush these things either, and if you are not ready to start on New Year, any other day is just as good, too.
There’s another consideration here – like it or not but our lives are tied up to the secular solar calendar and even though we think of vows as reading more books or chanting better rounds there’s no reason for us not to take vows relevant to our bodily lives – eating healthier, exercising, or just being nicer to people. It is a kind of dharma that comes with our bodies and performing it to the best of our abilities is our duty.
What would a paramahamsa do? I think it’s reasonable to expect pure devotees to greet their material obligations as coming from the Lord Himself and so they would put all their efforts in performing their assigned duties. Usually they don’t have that many duties so if something comes along they’d be feeling as being truly blessed.
So, there’s no reason for us not to participate in New Year celebrations with eagerness and enthusiasm. Our material lives are given to us to purify ourselves so we should welcome the opportunity.
This probably not what one would expect from New Year’s post on a blog ostensibly about service to Krishna but obligation to perform all our duties as a service to Krishna is not going to be suspended. If New Year celebrations are a part of it then it’s an offer we better not refuse.