“Bodhi” is the Sanskrit word for “enlightenment”, or “awakening”. Buddhists recognize this day as the day Buddha attained his enlightenment. For a whole month, Buddhists may hang colorful lights to signify his enlightenment, decorate ficus trees with ornaments of the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha, and eat rice and milk in memory of the meal Buddha ate after his long fast.
Who is the Buddha?
You have probably seen images and figures of the humble Buddha meditating. But did you know he was actually born a great Prince born in the 5th century BC? Prince Siddartha Guatama was his name. He was raised in a large palace where his father sheltered him from ever witnessing pain, hunger, sickness, or death. It wasn’t until he was a full 29 years old that he determined to leave the palace walls and see the kingdom for himself. His father allowed it, but did his best to make sure all the sick and suffering people were moved out of view of the prince. This is the beginning of what Buddhists know as the Four Gates story.
What is the Four Gates story and its significance?
Like mentioned above, it wasn’t until Siddartha Guatama was 29 years old that he insisted on leaving the palace to view the state of his kingdom. Despite his father’s best efforts, each venture out of the palace he discovered different types of pain and suffering. There were four gates that lead to different areas of the city around the palace. Through one gate he saw sickness, through another he saw an old man, and through the third he saw a corpse. Each of these situations troubled him, but on his fourth trip out of the gate he saw a sramana, whose very existence seemed to have inspired Siddartha to renunciate his title and meditate in search of the answer to the suffering he had been sheltered from for so long.
So Prince Siddartha gave up everything?! And then what?
Well, next came the hunt for enlightenment. He spent six years trying to understand this world and find enlightenment. He tried extreme methods in all directions before finally under the Bodhi tree, it happened.
I will let Rev. Peter Hata’s Dharma Talk explain the significance of this in further detail to you, since he is an expert where I am not as to why this is significant.
How do people celebrate Bodhi day?
Isn’t it beautiful how so much light can be found in the darkest time of the year? Many families today hang lights around their homes, meditate throughout this month, and strive to follow the way of Buddha.
Want to learn about Bodhi Day with your kids?
Try our Multicultural Holidays games and activities! This December, a simple coloring book has been included along with a book and more background to help you start conversations about cultures and beliefs around the world!