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The Year of The Dragon & Way to A Better Life
- Beyond The Chinese Zodiac (Part 1)

By Venerable Galle Udita Nayaka Thero

“Daanang Ca Dhamma Cariyaa Ca – Nyaatakaanan Ca Sangaho

Anavajjaani Kammaani – Etang Mangala Muattamang”

This year is regarded as the year of the Dragon according to Chinese Zodiac calendar. The dragon symbolises prosperity and good health. Dragon is a mythical creature and its body comprises parts of various animals such as the eyes from the lobster, horns from the stag, scales from the fish, the legs from the tiger etc. The image of the dragon has been carved on the entrance gates of temples as protection and a kind of art. In Chinese temples, dragons have been made on the roofs or embossed around pillars. Therefore, the dragon is very important in Buddhism where the messages are concerned. According to Chinese zodiac calendar, the sign of the dragon comes as the number five on the line of twelve animals.


Drawing Parallels

The Dragon is often painted with different colours. The red colour dragon indicates prosperity, victory and good health, yellow colour dragon indicates, peace and harmony, green colour dragon indicates ecological environment and new life, the golden colour dragon indicates good luck and fortune, the white colour dragon indicates the purity and the circle of life, while the black colour dragon indicates power and honour etc.


Buddhism says the white is the sign of morality and good deeds. It has the message of truth. Therefore, people wear white when they observe eight precepts. They also wear white at important occasions in temples or funeral occasions to respect the dead. Impermanence is the one of the important teachings in Buddhism and it is the truth. Therefore, white has several meanings. The black indicates demerit or unwholesome deeds in Buddhism. 

At the same time, an evil one like Mara is very ugly and dark, he is very fierce in dark colour. Therefore, dark colours can also be regarded as powerful, strong and warthful. People wear black to show respect or sadness at unhappy occasions like funerals. The Chinese wear black too when they follow precepts same like they are going to understand suffering and to be impartial to beauty.

The Element of Wood

This year, the dragon is called a Wood Dragon. Wood is one of the five elements also known as Wu Xing (五行) representing the elements that make up the universe and they are wood, fire, earth, water and metal. Wood, like in nature represents how something strong and hard can be changed into beautiful art.

Therefore, like carving wood into exquisite pieces of works, people too, have to be shaped and this takes work hard in order to achieve success. This includes being creative, flexible and courageous to change from their existing conditions to better conditions, to change for the better and to change to become better versions of themselves. Success does not simply come by waiting for it or praying for but working on it with effort and adopting new plans using wisdom.

According to Buddha, four Dhammas, also known as the Four Virtues have to be practiced to achieve one’s welfare. The first one is the Charity (Dana) being the cause of receiving. The new year is a good opportunity to practise charity. Giving should be done with the thought of abandoning what we desire. Then the gap of mind is filled with non-attachment that is created when receiving.

That is the secret of the law of Karma. If you don’t share and keep everything for yourself, then it can be dangerous like breathing in, holding our breath in and not breathing out. The natural law of life is that we should give as we receive, then life will be harmonious.

Then Buddha advised to follow the teaching, follow good morals, follow the right behaviours and do the right actions. The observance of the Dhamma and Righteousness (Dhammacariya) as the second factor. One should abstain from unethical and immoral thoughts, speech and acts, and most importantly, taking life of living beings and also should not be comparing oneself with other living beings.

The Buddha says,

“Sabbe Tasanti Dandassa – Sabbe Bhaayanti Maccuno

Attaanang Upamang Katvaa – Na Haneyya Na Ghaataye”


And it is said that:

“All are afraid of punishments, afraid of death and therefore,

Do not kill, do not destroy the life of others comparing one self with others.”


One should abstain from taking what is not given. One should not indulge in sexual misconduct. One should not tell lies or cheat others and should always maintain honesty and truth. One should not take intoxicants that creates one’s own enemy putting oneself into many sicknesses, wasting wealth, avoiding of moral shame and fear etc.

The new year is the good time to serve relatives too (Nyatakaanang Ca Sangaho). That is the third Dhamma that one should follow. One cannot think it is wasting money or resources to welcome relatives or visiting them. We should share our joy with our relatives and we must respect elderly relatives. Their love, concern, connectedness, cooperation and blessings are also important for our well-being and happiness. Life could be very dull without the relatives. At the end of the verse that I have selected from the Mangala Sutta says that the right actions (Anavajjaani Kammaani) also lead an individual to his welfare.


Although you are successful in your life with your children and family members, enjoy sensual pleasures and gains, you won’t die in peace if your actions are wrong. Because actions become reactions.

The Buddha says:

“Kamma Yoni, Kamma Bandhu, Kamma Patisarano,

Yang Kammang Kariissati Kalyaanang Vaa Paapakam Vaa Tassa Daayaado Bhavissati”


That means Kamma is the creator, Kamma is the relative, Kamma is the helper, whatever Kamma good or

evil done would be the follower and the property of the doer. People enjoy pleasures as long as their good Kamma remains from the past. Once good Kamma is expired, the bad kamma appears to an individual to create pain and suffering. Then, one is not peaceful but restless. Many worries will occur in the mind as there is nothing else except to think for one's own good especially if the person has committed killing, stealing, unchastity, adultery, drinking, gambling, lying, fighting but there is nothing that has been done for the country, religion, relatives and family.

Let us follow the four virtues namely practising charity, following the Dhamma, abiding by good morals and

behaviour, and serving relatives with the practice of right actions as means of prosperity and health rather

than praying for and building sand castles in the air. The practice of good Dhamma will be more realistic

for achieving prosperity and good health in this year and onward.

May all beings be well and happy!

This article was published in For You Information Issue 419.

Photo credits: Dragon by Canva and Vegetarian Lunar Meal by Pema Rinchen 

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