Celebrating Bodhi Day
In the world of Buddhism, an important day of celebration is December 8th. This is the day that many Buddhists celebrate Bodhi Day, or the occasion when Siddhartha Gautama (Buddha) attained enlightenment on this day in 596 BCE while sitting under the Bodhi Tree. The word ‘bodhi’ means ‘enlightenment.’
He surfed many different religious traditions, even going so far as to survive by eating only one grain of rice per day, but soon realized that this was not the answer. Unable to find suitable answers to his deeper religious questions, he vowed that he would sit under the Bodhi Tree (also called Pipal tree, Peepul tree, Pippul tree, or Bo tree in certain texts) until he got more enlightened answers that resonated with where he was in his soul growth.
Siddhartha sat, fasted and meditated under this tree for 49 days, and on the morning of Dec. 8th came to several realizations, which were to become the principles of modern Buddhism. It was under this tree (a large fig tree with heart-shaped leaves – a Ficus religiosa tree), as Siddhartha meditated and gazed upon Venus rising, that the concept of The Noble Eightfold Path and Four Noble Truths were born. From this day forward he was referred to as the Buddha – The Enlightened One.
For Buddhists, Bodhi Day is a day of remembrance, much like the Christian celebration of the birth of Jesus onDecember 25th. Since it’s a day of remembrance, Bodhi Day isn’t celebrated with parties and elaborate festivities, but through the quiet contemplation that is found through meditation.
Often, colored lights are strung about the home to recognize the day of enlightenment. They are multi-colored to symbolize the many pathways to enlightenment. The lights are turned on each evening beginning on December 8th and for 30 days thereafter. A candle is also lit for these thirty days to symbolize the attainment of enlightenment.
In Buddhist homes, you’ll see smaller ficus trees to display the beads and lights. Beginning on Bodhi Day, these trees are decorated with multi-colored lights, strung with prayer beads made from the seeds of Ficus religiosa, considered sacred because of the closeness to Buddha himself and his enlightenment. The prayer beads symbolize the way all things are united, and are hung with three shiny ornaments to represent the ThreeJewels – The Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha.
A meal of rice and milk (rice pudding) is significant on this holiday. According to Buddhist legend, following his awakening this was the first meal offered to the Buddha by Sujata (a young milkmaid) to help him regain strength.
You may also be interested to know that Buddhists celebrate Christmas, too. They see Jesus as a Bodhisattva (one who forgoes his/her own earthly benefit to help others and expresses compassion, kindness and love for all beings). Buddhists generally decorate fig trees; however, Buddhists in Western climates use evergreen trees which are more conducive to colder climates.
Here’s How This Spiritual Practice Works
The above description is, of course, a religious depiction of the phenomenal Buddhist Bodhi Day celebration. And you can choose to celebrate it the way Buddhists celebrate it. However, since we’ve turned Bodhi Day into a spiritual practice which incorporates an esoteric perspective grounded in MetaSpiritual teachings, you’ll see that we’ve made a few changes to reflect that more spiritual than religious viewpoint.
For example, we celebrate Bodhi Day on Dec. 8th not only as Siddhartha Gautama’s enlightenment, but humankind’s collective enlightenment. We use an abbreviated version of the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Noble Path that amplify Buddhist teachings, on the one hand, while adding a universal tone to the religious teachings. Here are the Four Noble Truths and Eightfold Noble Path we celebrate:
The Four Noble Truths simplified:
The First Truth is that suffering, pain, and misery exist in our life in skinschool. The Second Truth is that this suffering is caused by an unenlightened ego’s selfish craving and personal desires. The Third Truth is that this sense-oriented materialism can be overcome. The Fourth Truth is that the way to overcome this self-imposed misery is through an Eightfold Path.
So, from your own spiritual perspective, take an introspective look at each of theFour Noble Truths and determine what each Truth means to you in terms of your own experience and soul development.
The Eightfold Noble Path
The Eightfold Noble Path (simplified)outlines eight attitudes or paths you must follow to find freedom from suffering. These are the ‘right’ or ‘correct’ things to do in your life. When you get these things right, you can attain enlightenment. Once again, as part of this spiritual practice, we invite you to take a soul-searching look at each of the Eightfold Paths and define what each one means to you. Determine how you would describe the ‘right’ view, the ‘right’ intention, the ‘right’ speech … etc. Make any thought, feeling, habits,and behavioral changes you feel you must to embody each Noble Path:
- Right view
- Right intention
- Right speech
- Right action
- Right livelihood
- Right effort
- Right mindfulness
- Right concentration
Other Ways to celebrate Bodhi Day
We use a decorated, lit tree (an evergreen tree) with multi-colored lights to symbolize the blossoming of the seven major multi-colored chakras that line theSacred Path (our spinal column) from our Root Chakra to our Crown Chakra. The multi-colored lights also represent the seven Core Abilities that define the Extraordinary Us, our Divine Nature.
We use Unity’s Twelve Power prayer stones to represent our twelve spiritual capabilities and the interconnectedness of all sentient and insentient beings.
We invite you to decorate your home with multi-colored candles that complement the chakras and Unity’s 12 spiritual powers. And, of course, we enjoy a couple of bowls of rice pudding to verify our continuing illumination.
Depending on how connected you want to be with the spirit of Buddhist teachings, you can purchase small live or artificial fig trees and/or fig leaves to decorate. And use your meditation time to read from books of Buddha’s teachings.
Happy Bodhi Day!
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