December Celebrates Births in Many Faith Traditions
December holds many faith holidays and celebrations. As I looked through the calendar, a theme jumped out at me: birth. Mawlid celebrates the birth of Muhammad, the prophet who received the message of the Qaran, the sacred text of Islam. Bodhi Day celebrates Buddha’s “birth” of his new life into enlightenment after he sat under the bodhi tree for eight days. And of course Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ, celebrated by Christians worldwide. As we move towards the “birth” of winter, the idea of newness, birth and enlightenment warm my soul!
Reverend Kojo Kakihara of the Tacoma Buddhist Temple shared this about Buddha and Bodhi Day:
“Even though he had every material thing he could desire, Prince Siddartha Gautama was not satisfied with his life. After diligently practicing many different kinds of strict disciplines including starving himself almost to the point of death, he realized that such extremes were not the way which would lead to a peaceful mind. Instead, he turned toward the “Middle Path” of meditation and sat under a Bodhi tree making a firm resolution not to move from his sitting position until he attained Enlightenment. December 8th is considered the day that the Prince Siddartha Gautama attained enlightenment and became Sakyamuni Buddha. If this event did not occur, the world may never have known of the teachings now called Buddhism. So this day is shared by all Buddhists regardless of sects as a day of utmost importance. Since Enlightenment is known as Bodhi in Sanskrit, December 8th is called Bodhi Day, and the tree that the Prince sat beneath is referred to as a Bodhi Tree. The word “Buddha” means the “Enlightened One.” Buddha is one who has realized the Universal Truth and can see the true nature of existence just as they are. Buddhism teaches that all things have Buddha-nature or potential to become a Buddha.
It is the common and ultimate goal in any type of Buddhism that this “I” aim to attain enlightenment and become a Buddha. To attain enlightenment is my being given a new life. Enlightenment is Great Wisdom and Great Compassion. Even though it is extremely difficult to attain enlightenment, the goal of attaining enlightenment always teaches me who I really am or how I am living everyday life. It is like a mirror that shows our true self as it is. Also Enlightenment makes it clear where we should live this precious life towards, and we come to realize the meaning of this life more clearly, and it makes our life more positive and richer. On the Bodhi Day, with thinking of Sakyamuni Buddha’s attaining enlightenment, I reflect again upon and appreciate my own life that is living towards enlightenment of a new life.”