A Dharmic resolution for New Year
Though Hindu traditions celebrate the New Year at different dates based on geographical locations, and the calendars followed there, since, the adoption of the Gregory Calendar after Independence, January 1st has been observed as the beginning of the New Year for all secular purposes. And just as we have adopted this new calendar for counting the days, many of us have also adopted the western tradition of making New Year resolutions.
This does not mean that the concept of “resolution” itself is alien to Hindu traditions. Everyday people make new resolutions, start new initiatives, and decide what to do next. From as simple and secular an activity to decide, say purchase a particular cushion cover to celebrating festivals and performing Pujas for spiritual elevation, every action is rooted in mental resolution that a particular action must be performed. In the technical Hindu terminology, action is a Karma and performance of an action is the application of Kriya Shakti. This performance is in-turn rooted in mental resolution, called as Sankalpa, which involves exertion of Iccha-Shakti or will-power. In many ways, this Sankalpa is root of all life and that is why every spiritual action, be it Puja, Homa, meditation, or Svadhyaya (Self-study of scriptures) invariably starts with a Sankalpa, which usually involves an appeal to the divinity to become pleased with us and fulfill all our desires.
The New Year resolutions that people usually take range from as simple as deciding to read some books and reducing one’s weight to more substantial like getting a promotion or purchasing a house. Whether people follow it up with action till the end, or leave it mid-way is a different issue and leaving mid-way may show how their Iccha and Kriya Shakti may have been weak. But, the important point to note is, most of these resolutions could be categories into Kama and Artha, i.e. those related to mundane pleasures and mundane prosperity. A Hindu must ask himself or herself, what about Dharma?
Hindu worldview posits four goals of life: Dharma, Artha, Kama, and Moksha. Though, Moksha could be attained only at the end of the journey over many lives, to even reach that stage one must first practice the first three sincerely. Dharma has been translated variously as duty, law, righteousness, religion, etc. But, at its essence, it means “that which upholds all life”. Each individual must ask himself/herself, what is it that upholds him/her? What defines them as individual? Is it their name, family, or the possessions, which define them? Or is there a purpose in life, which would define them? Hindu scriptures call this “purpose of life” unique to each individual as Svadharma. We may understand it as pursuance of “Self-Actualization”- the actualization on the ground of the full potential of an individual.
Without aligning one’s desires for pleasures and prosperity with one’s journey towards self-actualization, one would end up unfulfilled and discontent. The life becomes wasted, a step back in the journey towards ultimate Moksha, for without self-actualization, there is no self-realization. Thus, it becomes imperative for every Hindu to take a Dharmic resolution this New Year to look inside and work towards their self-actualization. The starting steps may be as simple as say, joining a guitar class or picking up a self-learning guide to learn Sanskrit. As long as the resolution is aligned to your inner-calling, you are on the right path.