Author Topic: Celebrating Bodhi Day for the 21st Century  (Read 5196 times)

Big Uncle

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Celebrating Bodhi Day for the 21st Century
« on: December 11, 2012, 09:26:11 PM »
I found a news article ( )that is particularly relevant to us and I have highlighted some points that I really like or found to be thought provoking. Do let me what you think -

Celebrating Bodhi Day for the 21st Century

On Dec. 8 Buddhists the world over will celebrate Bodhi Day, the day when Siddhartha Gautama, on seeing the morning star at dawn, attained enlightenment under the Bodhi Tree and became the Buddha, the "Awakened One." Buddha's enlightenment has for 2,500 years been the central article of faith for Buddhists of every school, sect and nationality, as well as being the unifying principle of all Buddhist teaching. For Buddhists everywhere Bodhi Day is an opportunity to acknowledge our dedication to the principles of wisdom, compassion and kindness -- the distinguishing features of the Buddhist worldview. I also think it is an opportunity to understand the relevance of Buddha's enlightenment to today's world, where Buddhism is enjoying something of a renaissance at a time when a troubled planet needs kindness and compassion more than ever.

I think of three ways that the traditional story of Buddha's enlightenment can be reassessed in the light of modern sensibility. The first has to do with Siddhartha's identity as a man, a prince and a warrior. The second has to do with his intention. And the third has to do with humility.

Historically, Buddhism has been a male-dominated religion, and today's inclusion of Buddhist women as equals is a revolutionary development.Scripture tells that the Buddha himself was reluctant to include women in his monastic order and down through the centuries Buddhist women have for the most part been treated as second class citizens. Historians can say this was culturally normative, but that is not an excuse. Recently an influential young Tibetan Lama announced in public that this historical bias against women was simply a mistake that now needed to be corrected. This is good.

The Siddhartha of scripture was born into privilege as a prince, and his spiritual journey has the archetypal quality of the warrior hero, making death-defying efforts, battling the delusions of Mara the Tempter, and achieving final victory in the face of difficult odds. Siddhartha was a loner, too. He abandoned his family in favor of the spiritual life; he had named his son Rahula, which means a fetter or chain. I doubt that these elements of Buddha's story resonate much with women practitioners of today, who juggle the demands of work, relationship, family and children and still find time for spiritual practice. One of the ways we can rectify the "mistake" the Lama spoke of is to imagine a Buddha story and Bodhi Day that celebrates the experience of modern Buddhist women.

The first step in Buddha's eight-step Path is Right Intention, and it is important to remember why Prince Siddhartha abandoned his royal privilege and set out on his spiritual journey. It was not to become famous, charismatic, wealthy or powerful. He already had all of that through his birth. His motivation was to solve the riddle of human suffering. Why do people suffer and cause suffering for others? How can their suffering be eased? This was Siddhartha's life question. He came to realize that no privileges of birth were useful in solving this riddle. In ancient times or modern, very few people turn their back on wealth and power for such a reason. (St. Francis of Assisi was one Western exception.) The fact that Siddhartha did this is inspiring; that he pursued his spiritual question to the end is what we celebrate on Bodhi Day.

What about spiritual leaders of today? Some go on talk shows, attract large numbers of Twitter or Facebook followers, publish books and preside over spiritual centers and legions of rapt followers. The Buddha was not like that. He lived as a homeless mendicant and walked from village to village, devoting his life to easing the suffering of others. This is not to say he was naïve; when he needed a park or a forest for his monastic community he used his personal connections with local aristocrats to acquire them. Undoubtedly Buddha's royal pedigree helped him as a spiritual teacher in numerous ways. But he clearly lived a life of humility -- the most difficult of all spiritual virtues to inhabit and sustain.

Living in the light of humility, kindness and compassion is the deep lesson and timeless inspiration of Bodhi Day. When we celebrate Bodhi Day this year I hope that we can celebrate it as a 21st century holiday, embracing the full weight of Buddhism's long history without being limited by it. Enlightenment exists partly outside of history and partly within it. The suffering of humanity and its causes persists today as it did in Buddha's time; the life question of the Buddha remains -- how do we overcome greed, anger and confusion and create a truly kind and compassionate persons and societies? What is our authentic response to the world's pain as it exists today? To paraphrase an old teaching from the Zen tradition: every day is Bodhi day.


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Re: Celebrating Bodhi Day for the 21st Century
« Reply #1 on: December 13, 2012, 12:39:11 PM »
 The Buddha, still known as Siddhartha, spent 7 years following different teachers. He found that none of them had the answer to ending suffering. He decided to "go it alone" so to speak. He followed the practice of the day, which was to deprive the body in order to elevate the spirit. He realized that this also was not giving him the answer he needed. He realized he was dying because of his practice, without attaining the answer he desired. So he bathed in the river and was offered rice milk porridge by a herder girl from the local village. No family "took him in". He did not "throw himself at the mercy of complete and unknown strangers". He simply took the bowl of rice milk porridge that was offered to him. He then dressed himself in clean clothes, sat down under the Bodhi Tree and vowed not to move until he had found the answer to suffering. He sat through all the watches of the night, entered the 4th Jnana and found Enlightenment with his discovery of the Four Noble Truths. He realized that neither privilege nor deprivation was the answer. Privilege only led to MORE desire of worldly objects, deprivation only led to death. His answer was the Middle Way.

Jessie Fong

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Re: Celebrating Bodhi Day for the 21st Century
« Reply #2 on: December 15, 2012, 04:09:30 PM »
What to do to commemorate Bodhi Day :

Although there are many different ways to commemorate this day there are a few things that most all Buddhists do to remember this event on this day that is very traditional. If you remember correctly when Buddha was down by the Gangas river he fainted and was found by a lady, this lady seen that he was in bad shape and so she gave him the bowl of rice and milk that she had brought for the river deity.

So number one on the morning of Bodhi Day you should remember this by eating a bowl of rice and milk yourself. If you cannot eat this meal for some reason or another in the morning its ok, it really does not matter when you consume this meal all that matters is that you remember the original event by performing the event yourself in remembrance.

Second thing you can do is string a bunch of Christmas lights or colorful lights throughout your house or on your house. Turn them on each night starting on December 8 for thirty days thereafter. Since it is Christmas season this should already be done for some of us!

Third thing you can do on this day is find yourself a potted live ficus tree for your home (a ficus benjamina will do if you can't find a ficus religiousa) decorate this tree with lights and three shiny ornaments. This represents the Bodhi tree, the lights represent enlightenment as do the lights around the home and the three shiny ornaments represent The Three Jewels. Turn the lights on the tree on with the other lights at night for thirty days.

You can also retake your Buddhist vows, which are the five precepts, in front of an image of the Buddha.

But the most important event you should do is light a candle every evening for thirty days, this too represent enlightenment.

Some Buddhists like to remember this day in meditation as well. Because Buddha Shakyamuni stayed in meditation to gain enlightenment for a week they will be in meditation throughout the day off and on.

A very good way to get Buddhist children involved in the observance of this day is to make Bodhi cookies. Since the leaves of the Bodhi tree are heart shaped then a Valentine cookie cutter would work perfect for this. Cut some heart shaped cookies, bake them and while the cookies are being eaten you can re-tell the story of the Buddha and how he gained enlightenment and what all the symbols mean on this day IE: the lights. This is a good time as a family to sit down and watch the story of the Buddha as well. There is also Jataka tales that children would be interested in. No matter how you choose to observe this day the most important thing is that you remember and show reverence for what the Buddha had to go through to show you how to attain enlightenment from this “ignorant” world.

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