An open challenge to all Buddhists: how will you spend Saga Dawa Duchen/Vesak/Visakha Puja/the Buddha’s birthday?

Via Todd Mayville
on Jan 11, 2009
get elephant's newsletter

After reading Catherine Fordham’s article about being a Buddhist on Christmas, it really started me thinking.  Having grown up Episcopalian and converted to Buddhism three years ago, I’ve often found myself between the two worlds: I celebrate Christmas with my family, but it’s not quite the same for me as it used to be.  While there are times when it would be nice to have some time off from work in honor of my faith, that’s not the reality, and quite frankly, nor is it the point.  In so many ways, I’m rather glad that Wall Street hasn’t glommed onto Buddhism the way it has Christianity and made the various holidays into over-commercialized and often meaningless demonstrations of blatant over consumerism.  However, I have found myself thinking about the various Buddhist holidays and how they are celebrated, and just because I might have to take a day off on my own doesn’t mean that I can’t take the time to make those observations; in fact, maybe it means more because I do.  This year, in addition to any other observations in which I might take part, I plan to spend a good bit of time in service to others as a means to celebrate and pay respect to the Buddha.  Since my particular path of study is Tibetan, that means on June 7 (Saga Dawa Duchen: the day of observation/celebration of the birth, enlightenment, and death of the Buddha), I will find myself engaged in actions to benefit others.  Where exactly, I’m not sure yet, but at this point I’m leaning towards either SAME Cafe in Denver or the Humane Society of Boulder Valley.  As it turns out, June 7 falls on a Sunday, so I won’t need to take a day off, but should it fall on a work day in 2010, I will take that day off.  So there is my challenge.  Regardless of when one celebrates and honors the birth, death, and enlightenment of the Buddha, spend it engaged in a day of reflection and service to others.  It doesn’t matter what you do or where you do it, just make the most of this precious human life and offer it to others, just for a day.  What will you do?


About Todd Mayville

Todd is a single dad of four diverse and lively kids, and is an English teacher and climbing team coach at a local public high school. A rock climber, cyclist and avid reader, Todd also practices yoga and meditation as often as he possibly can, which helps him stay at least a little centered and sane.


6 Responses to “An open challenge to all Buddhists: how will you spend Saga Dawa Duchen/Vesak/Visakha Puja/the Buddha’s birthday?”

  1. Robin Yost says:

    i love your ideas. spending a day reflecting and caring for others is a great tribute and reminder of our alturistic goals. when my kid is old enough, i will enjoy making this a family tradition.

  2. Heather says:

    Fascinating! For some reason, traditional Buddhist religious holidays have never occured to me, other than the various Asian New Year celebrations. I guess that’s because Christian and Jewish and even Hindu and Islamic holidays are more prevalent in the society I live in. What are some other traditional holidays, and how are they celebrated? I’d love to see more posts on the subject.

  3. bhawna says:

    hi Celeste
    I am with you on it. Most of the holidays in america are not according to faith different culture and religion celebrate. It is good that you made promise to yourself. I try to do the same
    take care bhawna

  4. John W. says:

    I would offer that though admirable, We should spend everyday in service to our brothers and sisters. I believe that observance of Buddhist holidays, is a contradiction and attachment to dogma and form.Now, I can’t begin to claim that my practice is perfect or that I serve my fellows much, even though I would like to. However, I think that making one day more special than anyother in regards to the calendar is counter-productive to the path and practice I aspire to. Of course “To each his own” always. The Buddha himself said ” Be a lantern unto yourself” and if observance of Buddhist holiday brings you closer to your bliss, then more power to you. I feel, however valid my feelings are, that the last thing the Buddha wanted was to be revered and deified by the same mechanisms of attachment that are ingrained in all of us, and that turns open spirituality into concrete religioun. With all my love and respect-J

  5. John W. says:

    I mis-spelled “Religion”…oops!

  6. Siri says:

    Making one day a year more important than others can be a way of focusing your energy and cultivating certain qualities associated with that day regardless of the religion or culture. If you like, perhaps one day of service can lead to another and another and another….

    I try to celebrate Chocolate Day often; a day when all high quality dark chocolate is good for me and I’m kind to myself and others 😀

    Buddhism has incorporated many cultural practices from different ethnicities but before you dismiss them why not ask:
    – Do they agree with Buddhist principles?
    – Do they help my practice?

    Less emphasis can be put on rituals when more is learnt about the Dharma.