Today, December 8th; Buddhists the world over celebrate Bodhi Day, the day when Siddhārtha Gautama, on seeing the planet Venus or “the morning star” at dawn, attained enlightenment under the Bodhi Tree and became the Buddha, the “Awakened One.” This event is said to have occurred in 535BCE. By the time Jesus had begun his ministry, 500 years had passed and Buddhism teaching had spread over the known world.
For Buddhists, Bodhi Day is an opportunity to acknowledge their dedication to the principles of wisdom, compassion and kindness. In celebration, candles are lit or brightly colored lights are placed on Ficus trees. The lights represent the 3 Gems of Buddhism. (The Buddha, The Teachings, and the Monastic Order that practice the teachings) A meal of milk and rice may be eaten and just for fun and small children; the baking of Ficus leaf-shaped cookies, or little hearts is done. (Gluten-free and delicious)
More simply, it is a day of reminding one’s self of the teachings of the Buddha by practicing extra meditation, humility, kindness and compassion. And as we head into the Christmas holidays, those are all acts we can afford to practice. For just like the Christmas Spirit; Bodhi Day could be every day that we have compassion and kindness in our hearts and to exhibit those traits to others.