In Japan, at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve, temple bells across the country toll 108 times. According to Buddhist teaching, we have 108 earthly desires that cause us suffering – and by listening to the bells toll, we can dispel each desire, one by one.
For example: first ring – goodbye, greed. Second ring – goodbye, jealousy. Third ring – goodbye, vanity. And so on…
If you’re curious, here’s a list of the 108 “defilements,” courtesy of virtuescience.com:
Ostentatiousness, grudge, gambling, ingratitude, dipsomania, ambition, dominance, faithlessness, manipulation, stinginess, pessimism, hostility, abuse, debasement, sexual lust, sarcasm, humiliation, jealousy, gluttony, unruliness, hurt, cruelty, unkindness, obstinacy, envy, indifference, negativity, furtiveness, sadism, enviousness, derision, falseness, high-handedness, know-it-all, rage, aggression, rapacity, effrontery, disrespectfulness, hard-heartedness, eagerness for power, lying, insidiousness, self-denial, inattentiveness, contempt, wrath, haughtiness, greed for money, seducement, vindictiveness, insatiability, voluptuousness, excessiveness, censoriousness, dissatisfaction, egoism, ignorance, hatred, greed, impudence, imposture, cursing, imperiousness, lecherousness, callousness, malignancy, torment, intolerance, blasphemy, shamelessness, irresponsibility, obsession, prejudice, arrogance, violent temper, garrulity, dogmatism, presumption, intransigence, oppression, prodigality, lack of comprehension, obstinacy, pride, conceitedness, delusion, quarrelsomeness, self-hatred, violence, vanity, hypocrisy, stubbornness, baseness, pretence, mercilessness, disrespect, ridicule, masochism, tyranny, capriciousness, deceit, anger, discord, calculation, unyielding, desire for fame, deception. (I imagine that some of the repetition is due to translation.)
This ritual, called Joya-no-Kane, is a beautiful purification rite that encourages a spiritual fresh start for the coming year – and one that I believe has particular relevance for us as minimalists.
When we pursue a minimalist lifestyle, we often begin by focusing on our stuff. We clean out our closets, pare down our wardrobes, and purge the tchotchkes from our living room shelves.
Some of us then unleash our decluttering prowess on our schedules: we set priorities, learn to say no, and streamline our commitments to free up our time.
This year, I propose we go one step further: let’s declutter our souls. Let’s purge all those negative habits, attitudes, and traits that keep us from being the best people we can be.
Take a few moments, and consider what “defilements” you’d like to cast off (the list above provides plenty of inspiration!). For each one, ring a bell (literally or figuratively), and resolve to eliminate it from your life.
We can declutter until the day is long, but clean closets alone won’t make us better people. To be sure, creating a calm and serene environment is important – but it’s just the first step. Once we’ve eliminated the outer clutter and chaos, it’s time to turn our attention inwards. It’s time to do a clean sweep of our souls, so that we can uncover the beauty within – and truly become the change we want to see in the world.