Monday, December 14, 2009

What's the Spiritual Season? (Bodhi Day)

Stephanie Fenton (

THIS WEEK (Dec. 7-13, 2009), Jewish families begin lighting candles on a Menorah for the eight-day festival of Hanukkah. Buddhists recall the Buddha's enlightenment. And Catholics celebrate one of the most famous Marian apparitions on the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe; the Virgin Mary is also in the thoughts of Catholics early in the week, when her Immaculate Conception is honored.

Meanwhile, Christians of Scandinavian descent celebrate St. Lucy's Day...And around the globe this week, communities focus on human rights — while in America [bombs Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, and cries about the false-flag] attack at Pearl Harbor. Read all about these holidays and events... More>>


TUESDAY, many Buddhists recognize the day Siddhartha Gautama — or the Buddha, as he was to become known [thereafter] around the world — attained enlightenment. As the Sanskrit word for "enlightenment" is bodhi, this day is known as Bodhi Day (Japanese, Rohatsu). Buddhists believe that Siddhartha underwent many years of [spiritual struggle] in his search to find [an way to completely end suffering]. When his inquiring mind was unsatisfied by the answers he received from others, Siddhartha meditated until he found his answer and his enlightenment.

According to Buddhist tradition, it was more than 2,500 years ago when Prince Siddhartha sat beneath a Bo tree and said, "Even though the flesh falls from my bones and the bone themselves crack, I will not get up from this seat until I have achieved supreme and perfect enlightenment!"

Today, monastic Buddhists of the Zen tradition often have a 10-day retreat, or sesshin, in honor of Rohatsu.

During this retreat, monks will meditate 10-12 hours per day and, on the last day, many will stay up through the night as Siddhartha did when he achieved enlightenment. While all of the meditations and religious doctrines in the world at the time had not satisfied Siddhartha, a deep meditation that allowed all of his worldly obstacles to fall away led him to enlightenment.

The Buddha contemplated his former thoughts, works, and experiences, the experiences of lifetimes past, birth and death, and the indivisibility of all living things.

Bodhi Day doesn't have carols or candles as part of its tradition, but its teachings can be incorporated into a celebration of another winter holiday! As suggested by FamilyDharma, stringing multicolored lights around the home can represent the many paths to enlightenment; candles can be lit to represent enlightenment; a small, potted Bo tree can be decorated, in honor of the Bo tree that Buddha attained enlightenment beneath; and Bo tree leaf cookies can be made, as Bo leaves are heart-shaped.

What other winter traditions can you think of that can be incorporated into Bodhi Day or Rohatsu? Email your experiences and ideas.

No comments: