Today is Bodhi Day, or Rohatsu ~ the celebration of Siddhartha Gautama’s enlightenment, the transformation of the man into the spiritual teacher we know as the Buddha. I’ve written elsewhere about Bodhi Day, here and here. But it bears repeating.
Because we all need a wake-up call. We need to remember how ephemeral life is, how transient both pain and joy, and pay attention.We need to remember that we can do this. And that ‘it’ will never come again, in the same way.
It seems a bit disingenuous to note, once again, that everything passes. And that a certain sadness underlies much of life. It’s a human state of mind, this suffering — Proverbs 14:13 details it lyrically: Even in laughter the heart is sorrowful; and the end of that mirth is heaviness. Buddhists call it dukkha – not exactly sorrow or suffering, more like the ‘heaviness’ Proverbs references.
So Bodhi Day is a time of celebration — someone got beyond this. Not a god, or a demi-god, or an angel or anyone divine. A guy. And that means there’s hope for me. Which in the middle of a chilly grey day, when the sun seems like it might well have gone to sleep for the winter, is a warm & lovely thought. Snow is everywhere, and the birds are puffed to the point of beautiful absurdity. But spring will come.
Hence the wake-up call idea… It’s so easy for me, this time of year, to whine about my 1st world problems: putting up the tree is a hassle with arthritis… shopping for stuff they might not even like… cooking… wrapping… All in the middle of my everyday life. But this IS my everyday life — this moment, this day. Today, it’s going to be working on holiday cards, something I do in part as payment forward: I LOVE receiving holiday cards. But addressing them, and making sure the addresses are correct and finding pretty stamps? Hmmm… Not so much.
I’m going to wake up to the little enlightenments that now & then wing through my days like bright birds. If, as Thích Nhất Hạnh says, we pay attention to — are mindful of –what we are doing, then small daily tasks can become amazing: the feel of warm laundry on a chilly evening, taken from the luxury of a dryer that works. The oceanic whisper of a dishwasher, once loaded and turned on. Even the crisp white path a mop makes over a grimy floor, or the cool sweep of sheets shaken over a bed. Each of these will never come in the same way again.
Those ordinary moments don’t even take into account the incredibly beautiful moments to be found in the most meagre of days: the way my grandson smiles when he wakes up after a nap preceded by howling for an hour. The kerfuffle of feathers when birds vie for the feeders outside. And what about a note from an old friend? An unexpected e-card, complete with Advent calendar?
This is your life. And today, Bodhi Day — Rohatsu, if you’re Japanese — is all day. So go ahead — streeeettttch… And wake up!