Thursday, December 08, 2016

Happy Bodhi Day

Bodhi Day
Siddhārtha Gautama, also known as Shakyamuni, and Buddha, was born in the sixth century B.C. in what is now modern Nepal. His father, Suddhodana, was the ruler of the Sakya people and Siddhartha grew up living the extravagant life of a young prince. According to custom, he married at the young age of sixteen to a girl named Yasodhara. His father had ordered that he live a life of total seclusion, but one day Siddhartha ventured out into the world and was confronted with the reality of the inevitable suffering of life. The next day, at the age of twenty-nine, he left his kingdom and newborn son to lead an ascetic life and determine a way to relieve universal suffering.

Buddha’s enlightenment has been the central article of the Buddhist faith for 2,500+ years. Around the year 596 BCE, Siddhartha Gautama abandoned his privileged, royal life to search for Dharma (the truth). For six years, Siddartha Gautama realized that meditation was the way to achieve truth. After 49 days of unbroken meditation, he discovered the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path, which are the basic elements of all Buddhist practices. The Bodhi Tree still grows near the banks of the Falgu River and has been surrounded by a temple for over 2,200 years. This site is the most sacred site of pilgrimage for Buddhists.

Siddhartha sat under the Bodhi tree, a sacred fig, and meditated. He purified his mind of all kleshas and attained enlightenment at the age of thirty-five, thus earning the title Buddha, or "Enlightened One". For the remainder of his eighty years, the Buddha preached the Dharma in an effort to help other sentient beings reach enlightenment.

Bodhi Day, which falls on December 8. is the Buddhist holiday commemorating the day the Buddha experienced enlightenment.  

Similar to the Christmas tradition of decorating a tree, Buddhists hang colored lights on a ficus religiosa or other ficus to represent the Bodhi tree that Buddha sat under when he obtained enlightenment.   The lights represent enlightenment; the multicolor represents the many Buddhist paths, all of which are valid and part of the One Vehicle.

  The Bodhi Day tree is also strung with beads. The string of beads represents how all things are interconnected. Three shiny ornaments are also hung on the tree.  These represent the Triple Gem, or the three jewels of Buddhism, the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha.  These are the ideals at the heart of Buddhism.  

Bodhi day is also another reminder and opportunity to be mindful and compassionate, and for Dāna. the practice of cultivating generosity. 

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