The first Japanese holiday I ever celebrated is Rohatsu or Bodhi Day. My Zen Buddhist roommate, Takeo, had celebrated the holiday since his childhood. So I got all caught up in the excitement and preparations for the very special day.
Rohatsu was also my introduction to Buddhism, because I insisted that Takeo should tell me what he knew about Bodhi Day. Of course, Takeo was steeped in the knowledge and wisdom of his culture. I was taught that on the seventh night and the eighth day of the twelfth month that practitioners of Zen and Pure Land Buddhism do not go to bed, but practice an intensive meditation session.
It was on this day that Siddhartha Gautauma became the Buddha or “The Awakened One”, the historical Buddha or Shakyamuni Buddha. The traditional stories are variations on the process that he went through to arrive at enlightenment.
Gautauma vowed to remain sitting under the Pipal or Bodhi Tree until he awakened. He entered progressively deeper states of meditation, while encountering the various aspects of himself. At the first watch of the night, Gautauma achieved his understanding of rebirth, knowing that he had been born and reborn many times. The second watch gave Gautauma the understanding of the nature of Karma or cause and effect.
Then during the third watch, the morning star rose in the East and Gautauma realized the Four Noble Truths and then became the Awakened One. The beauty of this event was that a human being accomplished these things and that any human is also capable of doing the very same things. That was when Shakyamuni Buddha decided to teach other people the path.
Later, the Buddha gave his first sermon or set in motion the Wheel of the Dharma (teachings). The accepted English translation of the Four Noble Truths is given as:
1. The truth of dukkha (dissatisfaction)
2. The origin of dukkha or craving for pleasures and existance and the satisfaction of them.
3. The cessation of dukkha or the freedom and nonreliance upon dukkha.
4. The way to find the cessation is the Noble Eightfold Path.
The Eightfold path is generally presented in English as:
1. Right view
2. Right intention
3. skillful speech
4. skillful action
5. right livelihood
6. skillful effort
7. right mindfulness
8. skillful concentration
Hence, it was the realization of these factors and the enlightenment of Shakyamuni Buddha that are the importance of Rohatsu or Bodhi Day.
The Blue Jay of Happiness hopes that you will experience less suffering, too.