Naw Ruz marks the end of the Fast and the beginning of a new year in the Baha’i calendar. Naw-Ruz is a celebration of a “spiritual springtime” that symbolizes both individual renewal and mankind’s revitalization.
Every year Baha’is from all over the world and of all cultural backgrounds celebrate Naw-Ruz, the beginning of a new year in the Baha’i Calendar. Naw-Ruz marks the end of the 19-day Baha’i Fast, which is a period of reflection and profound spiritual reinvigoration. Naw-Ruz is a celebration of a “spiritual springtime” that symbolizes both individual renewal and mankind’s revitalization.
I’m a big fan of new years. I’ll admit it. I celebrate the new year as many times in a year as I possibly can. Growing up in a country with four officially recognised ethnic groups, I milked the multiple calendars for all they were worth. I would attend midnight mass every New Year’s Eve. I would line up for my ang bao and scarf down bakkwa every Chinese New Year. Diwali was yet another opportunity for festive fun. (One year, looking for an additional opportunity to celebrate, I attempted to appropriate the Russian Orthodox New Year. This was, however, met with some skepticism from my friends.) So the recent addition of Naw-Ruz as another new year that I get to celebrate has been a source of joy, as you might imagine.
Why the new year fixation? Simply put, I love new beginnings. I love turning a new page in the diary. I find peace in pausing for a breath and thinking about all that has been and marching forward with a plan of attack – boldly stepping into a new day.
Naw-Ruz. A new day.
Over the years, I’ve moved away from the traditional resolution-making processes relating to habits that I’d love to change but never seem to be able to e.g. “go for morning runs every day and not just when you’re trying to avoid working on an assignment”. (It’s been said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing again and again and expecting a different result. I made that resolution about regular morning runs for seven consecutive years before deciding to accept that maybe I’m just a pilates sort of a girl.)
What I’ve started to do is to, instead, think of everything that has happened in the past year and to sum that up in one word or a theme. Based on that, I think of one major aspect of my life or a virtue that I need to focus on in the following year. A spiritual resolution, of sorts.
Obligatory prayer is a funny thing. It acts a a marker, dividing our lives into units of 24 hours. And sometimes it startles you when you find yourself standing in the same spot to say the obligatory prayer that you said a day ago and then realise that a whole day has passed without you having very much to show for it. Days pass and become weeks, and then months, and then a whole year. If you’re not careful, it’s easy for your life to fly by without knowing where any of it has gone. Without making a deliberate and conscious effort to constantly re-examine your life, it’s dangerously easy to fall into idleness and stagnation.
This is probably one of the most amazing things about the Fast: it gives us 19 days to reflect on our lives and helps us unearth numerous opportunities for spiritual growth. When I think of these markers of time, particularly at the turn of a new year, I’m reminded of the following quote by Baha’u’llah:
Let each morn be better than its eve and each morrow richer than its yesterday. Man’s merit lieth in service and virtue and not in the pageantry of wealth and riches. Guard against idleness and sloth, and cling unto that which profiteth mankind, whether young or old, whether high or low.
Tablets of Baha’u’llah Revealed After the Kitab-i-Aqdas
My theme for the year? Embracing uncertainty.
In a fairly recent conversation, a friend of mine pointed out my need (verging on the point of neuroticism) for definite answers – certainty; clarity; a perfect understanding of why things are happening and how they are all to unfold over the next few years. I decided that she was right and chose my virtue to practise: detachment.
So far, it’s worked wonders. I’ve found that when I live in the moment and simply try to make the right decisions in every moment, things have a way of falling into place without my forcing it. Slowly, I’m learning what detachment really means. It’s not about trying to silence pain or sadness or anxiety. It’s about understanding that those emotions are merely the natural reactions we have, as a result of our human inability to see God’s hand at work. It’s about understanding that these emotions and our frequent powerlessness to change the conditions that cause them serve as an impetus for us to be open to the possibility that things are – ultimately – working out for the best, even if we can’t comprehend how that might be the case.
And so that’s what I’m trying to remind myself over the next year. To be detached from my ego. To be detached from the outcome of the efforts that I make. To be detached from my own ideas of how things need to eventuate. Detachment. Embracing uncertainty with the knowledge that God has a greater plan and with the faith that the beauty of all things will be made apparent to me in time.
…we must realize that everything which happens is due to some wisdom and that nothing happens without a reason.
Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace
So that’s my resolution for this year.
What about you? Do you make resolutions? What did life teach you last year and how do you plan to make this year richer and better than the last? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments! Happy Naw-Ruz, dear readers!
In her professional life, Preethi has dabbled in various combinations of education, community development and law. At heart, though, she's an overgrown child who thinks the world is one giant playground. She's currently on a quest to make learning come alive for young people and to bring the world's stories and cultures to them, with educational resources from One Story Learning.
Fantastic post Preethi! I must say I also love making new year’s resolutions! The most useful one I ever made was to go an entire year without lying, misleading, making any sort of false statement or saying anything untrue. Not that I’m a duplicitous sort of person, but I discovered that there were a lot of times when I said things that I knew weren’t true, like:
“I’m five minutes away” (but I’m actually fifteen minutes away)
“Thank you so much for the present, I really needed that!” (but I probably didn’t actually need it)
“Sorry I didn’t have a chance to reply your email yet” (but I had plenty of chances, I just procrastinated)
… and so on! Anyhow the resolution paid off and I forced myself to learn to say things which were truthful, and it became a habit I mostly still carry (though my wife sometimes has to remind me!!)
Collis (March 3, 2011 at 9:08 AM)
Thanks Collis! And that’s an awesome resolution. Not being able to tell white lies (but also not wanting to offend people) means that you end up having to get your act together in general i.e. being punctual, not procrastinating on that email, looking at things from other perspectives and finding a way to be genuinely excited/grateful about a gift that you might not have been that excited about etc. So many other virtues in that one resolution in addition to truthfulness!
Preethi (March 3, 2011 at 1:42 AM)
Woo, good resolution Collis, I’m going to practice it now by saying I’m going to try my best to apply it.
Really nice post Preethi. Very inspiring words and quotes you chose. I particularly love the last one by Abdu’l-Baha. It was short, sweet, and comforting.
I love Naw-Ruz/New Years too! I used to make plenty of resolutions but after not going through with most of them I decided it was best to make less but do more! Or just make less 😉 (Collis, I’m already sticking to the resolution).
Thanks and look forward to more,
Gulita (March 3, 2011 at 7:10 PM)
Thanks Guli! I think that’s definitely the way to go – quality over quantity. Even if it’s just the one resolution you work on, by the end of the year, it’s a habit that’s likely to stick for life!
Preethi (March 3, 2011 at 1:48 AM)
Preethi, I LOVED your post. Your analysis of the meaning of detachment and how it applies to us personally is very powerful and really struck a chord with me. Acceptance that despite our greatest efforts to control our lives, things can sometimes spiral out of control – and that’s when we need to trust in God and see the end in the beginning. It ain’t easy, I tells ya!!!
Maryam (March 3, 2011 at 8:10 AM)
Thanks Maryam! Glad you enjoyed it. And yes, definitely not easy to see the end in the beginning! It’s funny though – there are so many times in my life where situations of things spiralling out of control have ultimately turned out to be some of the best things that could have happened to me. 🙂
Preethi (March 3, 2011 at 9:10 AM)
While I think the desire for universalism is great, and indeed celebrating with others it is fine, I just wanted to chime in that for Baha’is celebrating among other Baha’is, we are encouraged to only celebrate Naw-Ruz: http://www.bahai9.com/wiki/Naw-R%C3%BAz#Bah.C3.A1.27.C3.ADs_with_one_another_should_discontinue_celebrating_.28Christmas_and.29_New_Years.2C_and_instead_celebrate_.28Intercalary_Days_and.29_Naw-R.C3.BAz
Best wishes, Brett
Brett (March 3, 2011 at 8:03 AM)
Hi Brett, thanks for your comment and that link! I think that the desire for universalism that you and I both appreciate is perfectly compatible with the principles of the Faith. The guidance about only celebrating Naw-Ruz, as you’ve rightly pointed out, relates to Baha’is “in relation to each other”. What I understand from that is that, as a Baha’i community, we should stick to celebrating the Holy Days. This, of course, makes perfect sense, because it’s important to make a clear distinction between the spiritual observances required of us (and our communities) as a matter of law and other observances of meaningful customs/traditions that we might maintain as a matter of personal preference/choice.
“Bahá’ís should obviously be encouraged to preserve their inherited cultural identities, as long as the activities involved do not contravene the principles of the Faith. The perpetuation of such cultural characteristics is an expression of unity in diversity.”
Additionally, I should probably also have clarified that New Year’s celebrations for me were part and parcel of being raised in a Christian family and are not a part of any celebrations I have ever seen within a Baha’i community. 🙂
Thanks for reading, Brett!
Preethi (March 3, 2011 at 1:34 PM)
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I can’t believe this was published exactly 10 years ago…this is sooo relevant to now. You nailed it: detachment through uncertainty, and trust that it is in the hands of God. Those are beautiful and exact words I’ve been trying to put down this year. Thank you.
Now, I am very curious: how is detachment playing its role in your life now, after 10 years?
Marc (March 3, 2021 at 6:06 AM)