When to Celebrate?

posted Feb 28, 2011, 6:26 AM by Jundo Cohen   [ updated Mar 20, 2011, 7:30 PM ]

"Bodhi Day" is the Buddhist holiday commemorating the day that the Buddha, Siddhartha Gautauma experienced enlightenment ("Bodhi" in Sanskrit and Pali).  A
fter spending years living the life of an aesthetic and trying vaious mental and spiritual discipline, he still had not found what he was searching for.  Because he could not find the answers to his questions, he finally vowed that he would sit under the "Bodhi tree" (likely a Pipul tree, also known as the Sacred Fig or Bo Tree, a type of Banyan Fig) until encountering the truth.  Siddhartha fasted and meditated under the tree for a week, and on the morning of the eighth day ("Rohatsu" in the Japanese language) came to realizations which were to be the principles at the heart of Buddhism.  It was here, as Siddhartha meditated and gazed upon the "Morning Star" (likely Venus rising), that he began on his long Teaching path. From that moment, he is called to the Buddha - The Enlightened One.  

Traditionally, "Bodhi Day" is celebrated on the 8th day of the 12th lunar month in East Asian countries that still observe this calendar.  In Japan, it has come to be observed on December 8.  For this reason, families can either follow the custom in one Asian country for that year, or adopt the week of December 8th. We will be recommending various celebrations and events to occur over the eight days leading up to Bodhi Day as well as, adopting the customs of some Buddhist schools, in the thirty days which follow. The days may also be adjusted to coincide with schools vacations if a family wishes to do so to facilitate participation by the entire family.

Day of Fasting

posted Feb 28, 2011, 6:26 AM by Jundo Cohen   [ updated Mar 20, 2011, 7:34 PM ]

To commemorate Shakyamuni's period of denial and fasting in the time prior to his enlightenment, one Day of Fasting may be a moving practice. Fasting is an old and powerful practice in many religions, and may service as a door to the Way of Moderation that became the Buddha's path following Liberation. For children or the elderly, a modified or half-day fast may be appropriate. The fast can be held on the first day of the Rohatsu Season (December 1st if celebrating Bodhi Day on December 8th), stretching from Sunrise to Sunset, or midnight to midnight. Following the practice of monks in many Buddhist countries, perhaps no meal may be taken after noon until the following day. 

Please be sure to check with a physician before engaging in any such practice if there are any health concerns at all. One may also engage in a token fast, a giving up of one plate, if there are health concerns that prevent a full fast. Liquids and light juices may be freely taken. For other tips on fasting for a day, there are plentiful websites, and here are some simple instructions:

The Night Before:

  • 1 Eat a healthy, balanced dinner. Don't overeat.
  • 2 Avoid caffeine, overly salty foods or overly sweet foods that might cause thirst.
  • 3 Get a good night of sleep.

  • On Fast Day:

  • 1 When you wake up,move slowly throughout the day, conserving energy and taking life slow.
  • 2 Schedule several periods of Zazen during the day, as well as Buddhist readings and chanting. When hungry, engage in such practices in lieu of eating.
  • 3 Teach the children the meaning of a fast, and press upon them that there are poor children in the world who are hungry for lack of food. Teach them that they should not be attached to food, should eat simply and healthily, and appreciate what they have.
  • 4 After the fast is broken, celebrate with a light, healthy and moderate family meal featuring "Ricemilk" or the like (see discussion here). During the meal, talk with your family about the meaning of the fast time, desire and moderation.

  • Ricemilk Meal

    posted Feb 28, 2011, 6:26 AM by Jundo Cohen   [ updated Mar 20, 2011, 7:36 PM ]

    To break the day of fasting ... make and enjoy a family meal or treat of rice pudding, or traditional "ricemilk," together with your loved ones. This can be done while reading the part of Buddha's story in which the girl, Sujata, offers Shakyamuni a meal of ricemilk allowing him to recover his health from his ascetic practices. This is a symbol of the balance we must all have in our life, "everything in moderation." Other simple dishes, preferably vegetarian, can be added to the family meal. A meal chant, such as the following or a chant recommended in your Sangha, may be recited prior to the meal by all members of your family:

    This food comes from the efforts
    of all sentient beings past and present,
    and is medicine for nourishment of our Practice.
    We offer this meal of many virtues and tastes
    to the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha,
    and to all life in every realm of existence.
    May all sentient beings in the universe
    be sufficiently nourished.

    Mara's Temptations

    posted Feb 28, 2011, 6:25 AM by Jundo Cohen   [ updated Mar 20, 2011, 7:40 PM ]

    Have your children promise to give up something they love for a day (adults can give up three things) or for several days ... candy, dessert, television, video games or the like that kids are so attached to nowadays. Try to play a game among your children, or parents and children, in which members of the family try to temp each other to "give in". Children and parents also promise to avoid all expressions of anger. Use the day and game as an opportunity to teach kids about attachments to things, luxuries and necessities, moderation and the like. Also, consider to make construction paper Mara masks, to decorate the house for the day and for the "tempter" to wear during the game.

    Bodhi Day Family Meal

    posted Feb 28, 2011, 6:25 AM by Jundo Cohen   [ updated Mar 20, 2011, 9:59 AM ]

    Celebrate Bodhi Day with a special dinner inviting family and friends. The meal can be held on a convenient night near Bodhi Day. A vegetarian meal is suggested, and we are soliciting recipes and menu ideas below. 

    Lights of Enlightenment

    posted Feb 25, 2011, 5:23 AM by Jundo Cohen   [ updated Mar 16, 2011, 2:58 AM ]

    Light candles each of the seven nights of Rohatsu, together as a family, parents helping small children to do the lighting. Here is an example of such a ceremony:

    First, all family members express their love for each other, and gratitude for being able to be together at this time. Then the parent reads, for each of the seven nights, a short reading on one of the first 7 rungs of the 'Eightfold Path', explaining the meaning to the children. Then, all sit Zazen together for a few minutes each night, representing the 8th rung of "Right Zazen/Concentration")

    Next, everyone takes turns lighting the candles, beginning with the smallest children (older brother or sister or parent for an infant or toddler), followed by older children. One candle on the first night, two on the second, seven on the last ... plus an extra "Light of Enlightenment" each night, for eight lights in all on the final night. It is suggested that a 8 candle stand might be made by children out of clay. For the ceremony, place the candle stand next to a small Buddha statue.

    Everyone chants the 'Three Refuges' together (repeated 3x) after lighting the candles.

    I take refuge in the Buddha,

    I take refuge in the Dharma,

    I take refuge in the Sangha.

    When done, the family offers 'Gassho' (Pressed Palms) to the Buddha. Family members can then embrace, and share a family meal at the same table with the Buddha and burning candles. Place candles in a safe place. (For safety, it is permissible to extinguish the candles before bed).

    Organize a "Blanket Drive"

    posted Oct 19, 2009, 10:41 PM by Jundo Cohen   [ updated Mar 16, 2011, 3:27 AM ]

    Together with your kids, collect from your home blankets and other warm clothing for the homeless in winter, or organize a "blanket drive" collecting blankets and warm clothing from many donors. Contact organizations in your community aiding the homeless to see if they will accept such donations. 

    Decorating the Bodhi Tree

    posted Oct 19, 2009, 9:47 PM by Jundo Cohen   [ updated Dec 2, 2014, 9:31 AM ] Bodhi Tree, under which the Buddha attained enlightenment, is a species of banyan fig known as "sacred fig" (ficus religiosa, of 'bo' tree). One might purchase a potted live ficus tree (a ficus benjamina will suffice if a ficus religiousa cannot be found) decorate this tree with lights, strings of beads representing the interconnection of all things, and three shiny bulbs representing the three jewels of Buddhism. A statue of a meditating Buddha may be placed at the base of the tree. A star on top may represent the "morning star" viewed by the Buddha at the moment of enlightenment.
    One may also consider to build a more elaborate scene, such as this created by a Buddhist temple in Hawaii:

    Make, with your children, your own decorations for the Bodhi tree and around the house. Cut out and decorate paper Bodhi leaves to hang around the house. Cut out paper stars to color and decorate with your children and hang around the house, representing the morning star Buddha saw on the morning of his enlightenment. Help your children make his/her own Buddha to be placed under your Bodhi tree, such as shown and discussed HERE:

    Place images of Buddha in your windows and outside your hime. String multicolored lights around your home, representing enlightenment, the various colors representing enlightenments forms and paths.Turn on the lights each evening starting on December 8 and for 30 days after.

    Giving Loving Words & Gifts

    posted Oct 19, 2009, 9:46 PM by Jundo Cohen   [ updated Dec 2, 2014, 9:33 AM ]

      Avoid store-bought cards, and have children and adults sit down together around the family table to write personal, heartfelt letters and cards of love and gratitude to family members and friends to tell them just how much they mean to you. Origami can be used to make lovely cards or card decorations. 
    On the night before or on Bodhi Day, exchange small gifts with your immediate family. Hand made gifts, or Buddhist themed gifts, should be the theme as opposed to consumer items. Also, as a family, make a donation of money, food, clothes, etc. to a foodbank, shelter, or other charitable organizations. It would be best if the donation were money that the child had to earn through their own work or chores before donating, or food and clothing purchased with such money. Either take your children to the facility to drop items off, or ask the child to contribute a portion of their chore/holiday/spending money to donate to the cause of your family's choice. As well, make soup or some type of food to deliver to a sick/elderly neighbor and spend time visiting if you can as a family. If the child is to receive toys or other popular items, make a special emphasis on giving to those who do not have such things. 


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