December 8th is one day chosen for many Buddhists to celebrate the day that Siddhartha Gautama achieved enlightenment, after spending 8 days in deep meditation, sitting under a Bodhi tree. (a kind of ficus tree) This was in 596 BCE, and it is said that with his enlightenment, came his conception of the Law of Karma, The 4 Noble Truths, and the The Noble Eightfold Path. From that time on, he referred to himself as a "Buddha", meaning in his language, "an awakened one". He then began his traveling and teaching, which occupied his life till his death.
Bodhi Day is observed by many Buddhists- especially of the Pure Land and Zen traditions, in China, Korea, Japan, and in the West. Activities included in the observation often include practicing mindfulness, reading the Dharma, meditation, and performing acts of kindness . There is a website here, which suggests some activities to do with children.
Like other traditions, Buddhism has adapted to regional, cultural, spiritual and religious traditions, wherever it may be practiced, and many sources I have read have pointed out that Bodhi Day seems to fit in nicely with the Holiday season. I think this makes sense. It is a season of light, and celebrating inner illumination adds depth and compliments what other traditions are observing and celebrating this time of year. From a practical perspective, in this season of shopping and rushing to and from so many activities, taking moments to be mindful and still can firmly root us back into our authentic selves, and help us realize the most important things.
Today, the kids and I will listen to a Dharma talk, and look for opportunities to do kind things for others. My favorite Buddhist teacher is Thich Nhat Hanh, and below is a talk he gave to children last summer.
True Presence - Children's Talk from Plum Village Online Monastery on Vimeo.
Happy Bodhi Day!