A Happy New Year! Shin nen akemashite Omedetou Gozaimasu. Kotoshi mo onembutsu to tomoni yoroshiku onegai shimasu.
May we all rejoice in the wonderful blessing of the Nembutsu as we start the New Year.
I often hear the words "Arigatai" and "Mottainai" from our old timers. This word has deep meaning for many people, and it is very important for us to know the core definition, and why our ancestors used these words so often in their lives.
There are several meanings or understanding of this typical word such as "irreverent, impious, too good, unworthy, wasteful, and so on." However, our Isseis and Niseis used this word typically to say "Truly grateful and should not waste any item."
Today, the Japanese food that we partake for New Year’s is much different from the past. We have a variety of New Year’s Day dishes such as tuna sashimi, sushi, steak, chicken, kazunoko, kuromame, king crab, lobster, and so on.
Typically, New Year’s food is known to have "Nishime which is cooked vegetables, Kobu-maki which is seaweed with Gobo, kuromame which is cooked black beans, Sanbai-zuke (known as "namasu" here in Hawaii), Ozoni, and so on and only vegetables were used. It was much simpler than today’s New Year’s food, but it was really considered a nice gourmet meal for those who lived hundred years ago.
When they cooked these food, the first thing they did was offer it to the "Butsudan — family altar" this showed them that they expressed their gratitude to the Buddha as they wished to have a healthy and prospective year. Then the family members got together on one table, and ate the food with a mind of gratitude. The children wore new clothes as they politely greeted everyone with the words, "Shin nen akemashite Omedetou gozaimasu —A Happy New Year".
Sounds like there was a vertical relationship between the children and adults. It was one way to respect and keep a traditional greeting, more or less, discipline. With this guidance we learned the most important thing in our lives, which is respect. It taught us to have a mind of gratitude, and when we become parents, we will pass this on to the children and grandchildren as they develop thoughtful minds.
In our lives today we are fortunate that most of the things are provided to us so easily. We take advantage of it without having the true mind of gratitude.
New Year’s Day is the start of the year. I firmly believe that this special day is reminding each and every one of us that New Year’s Day is for us to express our true gratitude and appreciation towards everything we may have, including our health, family, and friends, and to be able to observe this special day with the great blessing of the infinite wisdom and compassion of Amida Buddha which we are receiving.
May we all rejoice in the joy and happiness with the wonderful guidance of Namo Amida Butsu and live a life with the mind of "gratitude — Arigatai" in our daily lives from the beginning of the year.