Today I am introducing a new feature on “Just Fooling Around With Bee or The Bee Writes…” and is called “Celebration Today”.
It is born out of my frustration with today’s culture, mainstream media and social networks who seem to have a tendency to see everything through Christian glasses. Christian celebrations seem to dominate everything and we are presented with an awful lot of prejudices against other religions. And on the other extreme, there is an atheist stance which considers all religions as humbug.
Going on an adventure of discovering religions
So I have decided to go on an adventure of discovering the spiritual celebrations of many religions as I believe each spiritual teaching is just one way of seeing the world and finding the right way to live.
In a time where prejudices and hostility towards anything and anyone who is different is rising, I want to look behind the images popular culture and media wants to brainwash us with and I want to make up my own mind about what religion means.
Any philosophy and religion show one shard of the multicoloured spectrum of life
I do not believe that there is only one way of living. I believe that any philosophical and spiritual path has a truth to tell but it is only one shard in the multicoloured spectrum of life. And I also believe in every philosophical and spiritual path there are those who abuse the system and try to dominate their fellow humans and bring devastation to all.
When it comes down to it we are all humans and we just try to make our lives work in whichever way seems the best for us and in whichever way life and culture has taught us to.
Driven by the question of where suffering comes from
In a way, I am driven by the same question the man I am introducing you to today (and one of his festivals) was asking about 2500 years ago: Where does suffering come from and why do we suffer. (For me, there is another aspect to it: Why do some try to dominate others and abuse their personal power.)
The man I am speaking of the Siddhartha Gautama who became the Buddha and has found his answers the question. Today is Bodhi Day which is celebrated by Buddhists mainly in China, Korea, Japan, and Vietnam. It is part of the Zen, Pureland Buddhism and Mahayana traditions but most other traditions rather celebrate Wesak Day which celebrates the birth, enlightenment and passing away of Buddha.
Wesak Day usually happens sometime in January or February while Bodhi Day has found a set date on 8th of December. Traditionally it is the 8th day of the 12th lunar month in China but westernisation and the observance of the Gregorian Calendar in Asian countries let to the date in December.
So what is Bodhi Day?
Bodhi Day celebrates the enlightenment of Siddharta Gautama.Siddharta a member of a royal family in India has lived an ascetic life for many years but didn’t find fulfilment in it. So he pledged to sit under the Bodhi Tree (A fig or ficus tree) until he knew the source of suffering and how to end it.
The traditional story goes like this:
The Buddha’s Enlightenment (taken from About Religion.com)
According to the classic story of the Buddha’s enlightenment, after several years of fruitless searching for peace, the future Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama, became determined to realize enlightenment through meditation. He sat beneath a bodhi tree, or sacred fig (Ficus religiosa), and entered deep meditation.
As he sat, he was tempted by the demon Mara to give up the quest. Mara brought his most beautiful daughters to seduce Siddhartha, but he did not move. Mara sent a demon army to frighten Siddhartha from his meditation seat. Again, Siddhartha did not move. Mara then conjured a vast army of terrifying demons, who ran screaming toward Siddhartha. Siddhartha did not move.
Finally, Mara challenged Siddhartha by demanding to know by what right he claimed enlightenment. Mara boasted of his own spiritual accomplishments, and his demon army cried out, “We bear witness!”
“Who will speak for you?” Mara demanded.
Then Siddhartha reached his right hand down to touch the earth, and the earth itself roared, “I bear witness!” Then the morning star rose in the sky, and Siddhartha realized enlightenment and became the Buddha.
Basics of Buddhism
According to legend, the Buddha found the basics of Buddhism on this day which in my opinion are The Law of Karma, The Eightfold Path and the Four Noble Truths. So Buddhists who celebrate this day use it for more intense meditation on those basics to find enlightenment but also very practical activities: decorate a ficus tree with lights and/or put a Buddha under the tree to signify the Buddhas enlightenment and eating milk rice as a meal of milk and rice was given to the Buddha after his meditation by a young woman.
Only a light insight
Of course, I cannot give you the whole depth of Buddhist teachings and the meaning of a religious festival but I think I got the main points:
On Bodhi Day some traditions of Buddhists celebrate and commemorate the Buddha’s enlightenment and use it for more intense meditation to get further on their chosen path.
I think it would do many people from today good to sit down switch off all gadgets and ponder the question where their suffering comes from and how to relieve it. It is so easy to blame others and the circumstances for one’s problems but if we look deeper we realise that is just one part of the truth. The other part we probably need to discover in ourselves and the solution too.
Video credit: Jan JMR via YouTube
Resources and further reading: