Bodhi Day

Celebrating the Buddha's Awakening

by Ryuei Michael McCormick

This Dharma talk was given no later than December 8, 1999; though it might have been given up to two years before then. In any case, it was given on the occasion of the celebration of the Buddha's awakening.
Namu Myoho Renge Kyo,

Bodhi Day

2,500 years ago, a young prince in Northern India named Siddhartha Gautama sat beneath a fig tree and declared, “Even though the flesh falls from my bones and the bones themselves crack, I will not get up from this seat until I have attained supreme and perfect enlightenment!” This determined young man then faced down all of his inner demons, defying and finally taming all of the temptations and distractions of greed, anger, restlessness, laziness and self-doubt. He finally attained a state of calm awareness. His mind had become like a clear and still pool which could perfectly reflect all things within it.

During the early evening, Siddhartha reflected on all of his former thoughts, words and deeds. He perceived within himself all of the many things that he had done and experienced in both the present lifetime and in all of the innumerable past lifetimes which became known to him in this state of clear calm awareness. He saw that he himself had created the destiny which had brought him to the point where he could sit beneath that tree at that time and to seek the answers to the great question of birth and death.

During the middle of the night, his awareness expanded to include the lives of all sentient beings. He saw that his life was indivisibly involved in the lives of all other beings. He saw how his life effected the lives of all others and how their lives effected his. Furthermore, he perceived that they too were the creators of their own destinies through the consequences of their own actions.

As the morning approached, Siddhartha contemplated the vast network of cause and effect itself. He saw how all beings were intimately connected to one another in this vast network of mutual influence and creation. Like a vast net of jewels reflecting each others' light and beauty he saw how all beings arose as part of an unending process of mutual creation. He also saw how ignorance of the true nature of reality was the cause of all the selfish craving which led to suffering, and he saw that this suffering could be ended through a life based upon the truth, the Wonderful Dharma.

As the morning star appeared in the sky, Siddhartha’s contemplations were fully realized in the fullness of the living moment in which the Wonderful Dharma is expressed. In that moment, Siddhartha became the Buddha, the fully awakened one who realized and could share with others the true nature of reality which could end suffering and open the eyes of all people to the selfless beauty which he had seen and now manifested in his own life.

Like Siddhartha, we too, should find time to calm our hearts and minds and allow ourselves to clearly reflect the true nature of life. We too, should reflect upon our actions and their consequences, so we can humbly take responsibility for our lives. We too, should reflect upon the lessons that the lives of others hold for us, so that we can learn from their mistakes and receive inspiration from their successes. We too, should reflect upon the vast and marvelous workings of the Dharma which pervades our lives and in fact is our life. Above all, however, we should realize that the Dharma, the true nature of reality which is so difficult to perceive and understand, has been given to us by Sakyamuni Buddha. In the Lotus Sutra, Sakyamuni Buddha stated, “For many hundreds of thousands of billions of countless eons, I studied and practiced the Dharma difficult to obtain, and [finally attained] perfect and complete enlightenment. Now I will transmit the Dharma to you.” For Sakyamuni Buddha’s efforts and determination, his great generosity and compassion, and most importantly for his gift of the Dharma which he realized beneath that fig tree 2,500 years ago, we come together today in celebration.

Copyright by Ryuei Michael McCormick. 1997-9, 2002.

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