July 22nd is Dharma Day for observant Buddhists. There are three ‘jewels’ in Buddhist tradition: the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha. The Buddha is the easy one. Sangha is the community on the Buddhist path with you, as I’ve discussed elsewhere.
‘Dharma‘ is commonly understood to mean the Buddha’s teachings, but it’s more than that. In Hindu faith — which is what the Buddha was born into — it connotes your sacred duty. I like the idea that this meaning backgrounds what the Buddha taught. And that’s what we celebrate on Dharma Day: the Buddha as teacher.
It’s the first day of (or after, depending on who you ask ) the Buddha’s enlightenment. He rises from beneath the bodhi tree and goes off looking for his former disciples, to share his new-found knowledge. Dharma Day marks that moment, when the Buddha began to teach.
Traditionally Dharma Day is spent reflecting on the Buddha’s teachings. It also begins Vassa, sometimes known as ‘Buddhist Lent,’ since many Buddhists give up eating meat, smoking, and other luxuries. Kind of a cross between Ramadan and Lent.
So I’m considering what I will do to mark the passing of Dharma Day this year. What one of the Buddha’s teachings do you find most useful? And why?