On December 8th, Buddhists around the world celebrate Bodhi Day, one of the major days of celebration in Buddhism. Students at Lawrenceville also joined the holy spirit of this occasion through a daylong meditation session, hosted by Lawrenceville’s Buddhist Sangha.
Bodhi Day is an important religious tradition that dates back over 2,500 years to when Buddha first attained enlightenment beneath the bodhi tree after meditating for seven days consecutively. After six years of wandering the world, witnessing people’s suffering, and diligently practicing the art of meditation, Siddhārtha Gautama, widely known as Buddha, realized that he was very close to reaching enlightenment. Thus, he made his way to a place near Bodh Gaya in India, where he found a suitable site for meditation. There Siddhartha resided and vowed not to rise from meditation until he found perfect enlightenment. Resting still for such a long period of time is no easy task, yet Buddha was also constantly disturbed by Devaputra Mara, the chief of all the demons, or Maras, in this world. At dusk, Devaputra summoned fearful apparitions to throw spears, arrows, even boulders at Buddha. Nonetheless, with absolute concentration, Siddhartha remained resolute, and all the violent distractions appeared to him as rain of flagrant flowers. Through the simplest act of meditation, Buddha conquered his fear and replaced it with utter peace. Eventually, upon seeing the first star at dawn on the seventh day, he entered the realm of enlightenment.
There are many ways that Buddhist followers can celebrate Bodhi day. Some go to pagodas to join open meditation sessions. Some decorate bodhi trees at home. Others simply try to look for a little peaceful moment. The most important purpose, after all, is to express one’s respect to Buddha and to follow his path of attaining inner harmony.
At Lawrenceville, Mr. Philip Jordan, the Buddhist religious leader on campus, and the Buddhist Sangha offered students and faculty a daylong meditation session along with small displays of appreciation of the Buddha such as bathing or placing stones around a Buddha statue. The celebration started at 6:00 am and ended at 7:00 pm, exemplifying a complete experience of Siddhartha’s prolonged meditation. Participants were encouraged to stay for 30 minutes or longer and meditate amidst the scented smoke of incense, hoping to find their true sense of compassion, wisdom, and peace. The celebration was rather simple and straightforward to reflect the modest spirit of Buddhism. In a way, Bodhi Day at Lawrenceville offered a temporary escape route from an ongoing stressful environment into the calm world of Buddhism.