Buddha’s Enlightenment Day (BED): Start the season off with a jolly fat man.
Then end your season with a different jolly fat man.
Wherever Buddhism goes, it picks up the customs and bits of the culture from the country it arrives in. So perhaps we should incorporate Buddhism into some of our winter holiday customs? After all the Christian celebration of Christmas was incorporated with the Roman celebration of Saturnalia and other Solstice customs. And Jeebus’ Birfday, of course.
December 8th is Buddha’s Enlightenment Day (BED), a.k.a., Bodhi Day or Rohatsu. This day honors the enlightenment of Siddhārtha Gautama, the Prince who founded Buddhism. Bodhi Day is a great way to integrate the winter holidays with Buddhism. Here are some suggestions:
Hang up some lights. The lights of course represent enlightenment. But the thing about lights is that they give people vision and direction. Light, in darkness means that you can move forward and find your way. To me, that’s enlightenment. And the fact that these lights are multi-colored might just help remind us that there are many different paths, all of which are valid.
Turn on the lights each evening starting on December 8 and for 27 days after. Your neighbors will simply think they are Christmas lights and would never guess that you are a complete heathen.
Light a candle every night. We have tea lights out the yin-yang and plenty of horizontal surface. This makes it easier to light a candle every night. You can do so for 27 days with each day, lighting a new candle. My preference, though, is to light four candles each night, letting them eventually burn out. Doing this for 27 days, you will have seen the light of 108 candles.
Also, I recommend getting scented tea lights to help cover up the smell of your litter boxes. What are you doing with four cats anyway?
Decorate a ficus. Did you know that the Bodhi tree is actually a ficus, the tree beloved by malls everywhere? Granted malls carry the ficus benjamina and not the ficus religiousa, but they are both ficus. You can pick one up at your local gardening store and decorate this tree with lights, beads, and bulbs. Just as one might a Christmas tree, but toss in some basic symbolism like, oh strings of 108 cranberries or only put up three bulbs representing the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha. Or simply hang Buddhist ornaments. And don’t forget to set a Buddha under the tree. Preferable with a Santa hat on.
Santa, Hotei and Bodhidharma. No, they aren’t the same person. That being said, the resemblance among these three is unmistakable! So why not keep a small statue of each? Or perhaps make a game of it? Like a modified dreidel? Everyone starts by adding one coin (chocolate, of course) to the pot.
Spin the dreidel and:
If a blank side is facing up, the player does nothing.
If Hotei is facing up, the player gets everything in the pot.
If Santa is facing up, the player gets half of the pieces in the pot. (If there is an odd number of pieces in the pot, the player takes half of the total plus one.)
If Bodhidharma is facing up, the player adds a game piece to the pot.
Rice, rice baby too cold. After realizing that self-deprivation wasn’t the way to go, Siddhārtha Gautama accepted rice and milk from a village girl named Sujata. This gift allowed Siddhārtha to regain his strength. He then sat under the Bodhi tree for six days/years/minutes/lifetimes where he obtained enlightenment. A breakfast of milk and rice would be a way to start Bodhi day. Or Rice Krispies® . Or Rice Krispies® Treats while you decorate!
Cookies. Make Bodhi tree cookies or Bodhi leaf cookies – the leaves are heart shaped so you can use a heart shaped cookie cutter and ice them green. And when people ask, “Why green hearts?” you can say they are Vulcan hearts and then pop in your favorite version of Star Trek.
Figgy pudding. I teased earlier about the Bodhi tree being a ficus. Technically the genus is ficus. The real Bodhi tree is actually a Sacred Fig tree. So why not make a traditional figgy pudding? If you’ve never had figgy pudding, it’s really more of a cake than what we might consider a “pudding.” I like it but it’s definitely not for everyone.
These are just a few suggestions. I’m sure we can come up with more! Any thoughts?