Special Topics

​Bodhi Day: Buddha's Enlightenment Day

December 8 of the Lunar calendar is the day when Chan Buddhists eat Laba congee. How does it relate to Bodhi Day?

It is said that after years of practicing asceticism, Siddhartha had become as thin as a stick. He gave up such an extreme ascetic practice, because it didn't at all help him liberate from suffering. Dragging his weak body to Phalgu River, he fell down by the river. Witnessing this, a female shepherd gave him a bowl of gruel made of grains, fruit, and water. Siddhartha restored his strength after eating the gruel. He crossed the river and arrived at Bodh Gaya. There, he sat down under a Bodhi tree and vowed not to stand up until he attained enlightenment.
At the break of dawn on the 8th day, after seven days and nights of practicing contemplative visualization, Siddhartha attained enlightenment as he lifted his eyes to see a sparkling star in the sky. It is said that the day was December 8 in the Lunar calendar; therefore, Buddhists call this day the Bodhi Day. Furthermore, the congee provided by the shepherd became the origin of Buddhists eating Laba congee. After Buddhism was spread to East Asia, the story of Buddha's enlightenment was combined and celebrated with the La Festival, an end-of-year festival in Han Chinese culture. During the Southern and Northern dynasties, December 8 in the Lunar calendar started officially being celebrated as Laba Festival.

The Practice Event in Monasteries: Intensive retreats

Both Pure Land and Chan Practice monasteries hold intensive Amitabha Recitation Retreats or Chan Retreats which conclude on December 8, the Bodhi Day. Inspired by Buddha's enlightenment, practitioners resolutely collect their body and mind and practice with the aspiration to attain enlightenment within the allotted retreat time.

Issue 354 of Life MagazineDharma Drum Publishing Corporation
Text: Hsu Tsui-Ku (許翠谷)
Translation: Hsiao Chen-An
Shu Jen-Yeh(葉姝蓁), Keith Brown

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