Celebrating Bodhi Day
The enlightenment of the Buddha over two-thousand years ago is one of the most historical and meaningful events of all time. In Buddhist tradition, the celebration of the Buddha’s enlightenment is known as Bodhi Day. The word bodhi translates to “enlightenment”, with Bodhi Day being a time to observe the enlightenment of the Buddha and the wisdom he offered others seeking to do the same.
The Buddhism we all know today has come to be because of one man’s quest to end suffering and find peace of mind. The historic Buddha was once a prince known as Siddhartha Gautama who renounced his life of privilege to seek peace of mind and end suffering. It is because of the Buddha (and his quest to discover the reasons we all suffer as human beings) that we’re able to understand ways to seek the same peace of mind he found.
Enlightenment was gained by the Buddha by meditating under the Sacred Fig tree (now known as a “Bodhi Tree”) until he discovered what caused the people of the world to suffer. It’s been said that while meditating under the Bodhi Tree, the Buddha silently vowed that “even if my flesh and blood were to dry up, leaving only skin and bones, I will not leave this place until I find a way to end all sorrow.”
Through his six years of constant meditation, the Buddha found just that. While traditions definitely vary on accounts of what happened during this time, it is said the Buddha gained enlightenment through the following three stages:
- The realization of reincarnation and the discovery of his past lives through the cycle of rebirth. Here the Buddha realized he had lived and died countless times before this lifetime.
- The discovery of Karma and how the Eightfold Path can free us from our karma and the cycle of rebirth and the suffering we experience because of this cycle.
- The understanding of the Four Noble Truths, which are the truths that will help one ease their suffering and lead them to enlightenment.
It is said the Buddha stayed in meditation for six years and came to understand the roots of suffering, which is outlined in the Four Noble Truths. He also came to understand a way to alleviate this suffering, which can be found through the Eightfold Path. The Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path became the foundation of Buddhism and have been practiced by countless people throughout the ages.
Why We Celebrate Bodhi Day
Bodhi Day is but one way to commemorate the enlightenment of Buddha…and what he offered the world. Celebrating Bodhi Day is an excellent way to pay respect to the Buddha and immerse ourselves in ways to come closer to our own personal enlightenment.
Bodhi Day is celebrated not with parties and elaborate festivities, but instead through the quiet contemplation that is found through meditation. It is traditionally celebrated on December 8th, the same day the Buddha attained enlightenment upon seeing the morning star 2,500 years ago. There are many ways to celebrate Bodhi Day. Incorporating some sort of your own observance this Bodhi Day is not only an excellent way to pay respect to the Buddha, but a chance to further understand the path out of suffering and into nirvana.
5 Ways to Celebrate Bodhi Day
Many people vow to meditate on Bodhi Day, a practice that shows commitment to the path of Buddhism and allows us to touch upon the very path Buddha himself committed to thousands of years ago. You might want to join a group meditation or engage in a longer meditation than you normally would.
- Colored Lights
Celebrating Bodhi Day with multiple strings of colored lights throughout the house is another way many people celebrate this revered Buddhist holiday. The multi-colored lights signify the many paths to enlightenment. They are traditionally lit on December 8th and turned on each evening for the next 30 days. Some people also light a candle for 30 days to represent enlightenment.
- Contemplate on the Buddha’s Teachings
Bodhi Day offers an excellent excuse to further your knowledge of the Buddha’s teachings. You might want to consider studying the Eightfold Path or contemplating the Four Noble Truths in more detail. It’s also a wonderful time to practice more compassion and participate in loving kindness, both of which were deeply revered by the Buddha.
- Prepare a Meal of Milk and Rice
It is said that after he reached enlightenment, a meal of rice and milk was the first food he was offered. It was given to him to help him regain his strength after his long meditation. Preparing a meal of milk and rice on this day is an excellent way to pay homage to the Buddha and celebrate this joyous holiday.
- Decorate a Tree
Many Buddhist homes decorate a fiscus tree for Bodhi Day, something that is used to symbolize the Bodhi Tree the Buddha sat under when he gained enlightenment. These trees are decorated with the multi-colored lights that symbolize enlightenment as well as beads strung together that represent the connectedness of all things. Three shiny ornaments are also incorporated into the decorating of this tree, representing the Three Jewels (the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha). Placing a statue under the tree is also way to celebrate Bodhi Day and represents the Buddha sitting under the tree of enlightenment.
Bodhi Day is one of the most significantly of all celebrated days in Buddhism. You need not be a Buddhist to celebrate Bodhi Day. Even if you just hold the Buddha’s teachings close to your heart, Bodhi Day offers a spiritually significant time to embrace whatever it is about Buddhism that touches your heart.
Happy Bodhi Day
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