Have an Enlightened Bodhi Day - Buddhist Chants and Peace Music
Tuesday, December 8, 2009 8:15:51 PM
On this day did the Buddha reach Enlightenment. May all sentient beings achieve this goal in their own time.
Bodhi Day (成道会?, Jōdō-e), traditionally the 8th day of the 12th lunar month, has been observed on December 8 in Japan since the Meiji Restoration (1862-1869). It is the Buddhist holiday that commemorates the day that the historical Buddha, Shakyamuni or Siddhartha Gautauma, experienced enlightenment, also known as Bodhi in Sanskrit or Pali. According to tradition, Siddhartha had recently forsaken years of extreme ascetic practices and resolved to sit under a Pipul (Sacred Fig) tree and simply meditate until he found the root of suffering, and how to liberate one's self from it. For Buddhists, it is a day of remembrance and meditation, much like the Christian celebration of the birth of Jesus on December 25th only without the tacky commercialization.
Traditions vary on what happened. Some say he made a great vow to nirvana and Earth to find the root of suffering, or die trying. In other traditions, while meditating he was harassed and tempted by the asura Mara (literally, "evil one" in Sanskrit), demon of illusion. Other traditions simply state that he entered deeper and deeper states of meditation, confronting the nature of the self.
In the Pali Canon, there are several autobiographical discourses of the Buddha, relating to this story. In The Longer Discourse to Saccaka, the Buddha describes his Enlightenment in three stages:
1. During the first watch of the night, the Buddha discovered all of his past lives in the cycle of rebirth, realizing that he had been born and reborn countless times before.
2. During the second watch, the Buddha discovered the Law of Karma, and the importance of living by the Eightfold Path.
3. During the third watch, the Buddha discovered the Four Noble Truths, finally reaching Nirvana.
In his words:
“ My heart, thus knowing, thus seeing, was released from the fermentation of sensuality, released from the fermentation of becoming, released from the fermentation of ignorance. With release, there was the knowledge, 'Released.' I discerned that 'Birth is ended, the holy life fulfilled, the task done. There is nothing further for this world.' ”
All traditions agree that as the Morning Star rose in the sky in the early morning, the third watch of the night, Siddhartha finally found the answers he sought and became Enlightened, and experienced Nirvana. Having done so, Siddhartha now became the Buddha or "Awakened One".
Bodhi Day is observed in many mainstream Mahayana traditions including Zen and Shin Buddhist schools. In Zen it is also known as Rohatsu. In Tendai and other Japanese sects, it is called either Shaka-Jōdō-e (釈迦成道会) or just Jōdō-e (成道会). The word Rōhatsu (臘八) is Japanese and literally means 8th Day of the 12th Month. It is typical for Zen monks and layman followers to stay up all evening in the night before Rohatsu practicing meditation and the holiday is often preceded by an intensive sesshin (接心, 摂心, 攝心), literally "gathering the mind", a period of meditation (zazen) in a Zen monastery.
Services and traditions will vary amongst Buddhist sects, but all such services commemorate the Buddha's achievement of Nirvana, and what this means for Buddhism today. Individuals may choose to commemorate the event through additional meditation, study of the Dharma, chanting of Buddhist sutras, or performing kind acts towards other beings.
In Buddhist homes, you will sometimes see a Sacred Fig tree (a fiscus tree of the genus ficus religiousa). Beginning on Bodhi Day, these trees are decorated with multi-colored lights, strung with beads to symbolize the way all things are united, and hung with three shiny ornaments to represent the Three Jewels - The Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha.
To the layman, a good way of recognizing this important event in Buddhism is to dwell on its meaning and place reminders in the home of this event. 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 enlightenment.
These practices go along nicely with decorating a Xmas tree with lights and if you wish to honor both traditions this is a great time to do all you multi-colored light and tree decorating activities.
A meal of rice and milk is traditional on this holiday as according to Buddhist legend, Sujata offered this meal to the Buddha upon his awakening to help him regain strength. Children may like to make holiday cookies in the shape of a tree to symbolize the Bodhi Tree, or make leaf shaped cookies (Sacred Fig tree leaves are heart shaped, so a Valentine's Day cookie cutter can help.)
To assist those observing Bodhi Day here are some nice Buddhist Chants and Peace Music performed by Song Huei Liou and Jin Long Uen. Instruments used include: Two-String, Flute, Baa-U, Hand Bell, Wooden Drum, Cuu-Jeng, Wooden Clappers, Ching (Single Sonorous Stone).
Buddhist Chants And Peace Music - Music for Reflection and Relaxation from the Far East (MCCD 235, 1996):