Siddhartha Gautama’s Awakening
The “Historic Buddha,” also known as Siddhartha Gautama or Sakyamuni Buddha, is honoured on Bodhi Day for being the person who attained enlightenment.
There are almost as many different interpretations of Bodhi Day as there are different schools of Buddhism. As a result, I shall condense it down to its core components. The historical Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama, was a pampered prince who was protected from the harsh aspects of the world’s reality, such as sickness, poverty, and death. It wasn’t until one day that he went out into the kingdom that he noticed these people who were suffering; they were sick, poor, sad, or even dead.
This took Prince Siddhartha by surprise. “The pleasures of life aren’t available to everyone, all the time, in every place?! In the absence of a more appropriate expression, we will say that he escaped the comforts of his existence in order to discover its deeper significance. Ringo once quipped, “I don’t know what I want, but I do want sumthin’,” which translates to “I do want something.”
He spent years learning first from one teacher and then from another. What he didn’t realise he was looking for eluded him, and he was unable to locate it. It was not due to a lack of dedication on their part. He was giving it his all. At one point in the story, he is extremely sick, malnourished from living an ascetic lifestyle, financially and emotionally destitute, and close to death. He dozes off beneath a massive tree, which will henceforth be referred to as the “Bodhi Tree.”
According to what I’ve read, the amount of time he spent sitting there in meditation ranged anywhere from seven days to 49 years (Fishnu says it was seven days). On the other hand, this was not a peaceful session of om-humming meditation. He knew he was onto something because of the terrible onslaught that was being made on his thoughts. Our ideas and convictions have a life of their own, and just like anything else that is alive, they will struggle to maintain their existence whenever that life is threatened.
Siddhartha Gautama emerged from his meditation as the sun was rising on the eighth day of the twelfth month of the year, marvelling at Venus as it rose in the east. Enlightened. In other words, the disorganised cogs in his head released the majority of their burdens, and the resulting void reorganised itself into a beautiful pattern. And he was able to “see.” Our suffering results from the fact that we cling to things, all of which are transient in this world that is forever changing. If we let go of our grip, we won’t have to endure any pain.
As a result of these insights, the Four Noble Truths were established. Siddhartha Gautama had reached his full state of consciousness. He had at this point become The Buddha, The Teacher.
Rice and milk were presented to him as a supper by a young woman who lived in the village he was in at the time, and he graciously accepted the offer. The fuel to send him off on his retirement after 40 years of teaching. In the months leading up to this simple supper, he and a group of other ascetics subsisted on nothing more than a few grains of rice every day, if even that much.
Siddhartha’s companions could not believe that he had eaten that cuisine. They rebuked him by saying, “You changed man! You used to be such a stickler for financial restraint! Siddhartha responded by saying, “Of course, I evolved. What doesn’t?”
This day is celebrated as Bodhi Day by many. There are parts of the world that celebrate on a date that is standardised to be on December 8th, which is the 8th day of the 12th month of the year. On the other hand, Bodhi Day takes place on the eighth day of the 12th moon of the lunar year. This day also moves around from year to year, much like Easter does.
When Is Bodhi Day?
There is a lack of consensus regarding the name of this observance as well as the date on which it should be observed, similar to the situation with many other Buddhist festivals. The events of the Buddha’s birth, enlightenment, and death have been combined by Theravada Buddhists into a single religious holiday known as Vesak, which is celebrated in accordance with the lunar calendar. Therefore, the date of Vesak shifts slightly from one year to the next, but it is almost always held in the month of May.
The events of the Buddha’s birth, death, and enlightenment are commemorated simultaneously in Tibetan Buddhism; however, this is done according to a distinct lunar calendar. Saga Dawa Duchen, the Tibetan holy day that is considered to be the counterpart of Vesak, often occurs one month after Vesak.
The Mahayana Buddhists of East Asia, particularly those of China, Japan, Korea, and Vietnam, have separated the three significant events that are celebrated during Vesak into their own separate religious holidays. According to the Chinese lunar calendar, the birthday of the Buddha is celebrated on the eighth day of the fourth lunar month, which typically falls on the same day as the holiday of Vesak.
On the 15th day of the second lunar month, the commemoration of his passing into final nirvana takes place, and on the 8th day of the 12th lunar month, the commemoration of his enlightenment takes place. The specific dates shift slightly from one year to the next.
The adoption of the Gregorian calendar in Japan in the nineteenth century, on the other hand, resulted in a number of traditionally Buddhist holy days being given set dates. The day of the eighth day of the fourth month, which is usually April 8, is celebrated as Buddha’s birthday in Japan. In the same manner, Bodhi Day is celebrated annually in Japan on December 8, which is the eighth day of the twelfth month.
The eighth day of the twelfth month on the Chinese lunar calendar typically occurs in January, which means that the date of December 8 is not even even close to being accurate. But at least it doesn’t contradict itself. It would appear that many Mahayana Buddhists living outside of Asia, who are not used to basing their calendars on the lunar cycle, are also choosing the date of December 8 as their primary calendar.
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How Bodhi Day Is Celebrated?
Celebrations on Bodhi Day, also known as the day of enlightenment, can take numerous forms. It is a day of recollection and meditation for Buddhists, similar to how Christians observe the birthday of Jesus on December 25 by holding a party and giving gifts to one other.
Dwelling on the significance of the event and setting up physical reminders around the house are two appropriate ways for a layperson to show appreciation for its place in Buddhist tradition. In order to commemorate the day of enlightenment, colourful lights are frequently strung all throughout the house. They are multicoloured to represent the many different routes that can lead to enlightenment. Every evening beginning on December 8 and continuing for the next 30 days after that, the lights will be turned on. In addition, during these thirty days, a candle is lighted to represent the attainment of enlightenment.
“Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without.”
― Siddhārtha Gautama
It is not uncommon to find a ficus tree belonging to the genus Fiscus religiousa inside Buddhist households. These trees are adorned with multicoloured lights and beads to represent the way in which everything is connected. Additionally, they are hung with three shiny ornaments to symbolise the Three Jewels, which are the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha. The celebration of Bodhi Day marks the beginning of the decorating process.
This holiday calls for a special dinner that consists of rice and milk. Sujata is said to have given the Buddha this lunch shortly after he had awakened in order to assist him in regaining his strength. Buddhist mythology describes this as the first meal offered to the Buddha.
Make cookies in the shape of a leaf or a tree to represent the Bodhi Tree, which will encourage children to participate in the celebration of this occasion.
“Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn’t learn a lot at least we learned a little, and if we didn’t learn a little, at least we didn’t get sick, and if we got sick, at least we didn’t die; so, let us all be thankful.”
The eighth of December marks Bodhi Day in Japan. In the lunisolar calendar, it occurs on the eighth day of the 12th month. Since Emperor Meiji began westernising Japan and introducing the Gregorian calendar, the day known as Rohatsu in Japan has been celebrated on its current date. It’s a day full of spiritual renewal, and lots of people can benefit from it.