Body Day, celebrated on January 2Oth, is the Buddhist holiday that commemorates the day that the historical Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama (Shakyamuni), experienced enlightenment, also known as bodhi in Sanskrit and Pali. According to tradition, Siddhartha had recently forsaken years of extreme ascetic practices and resolved to sit under a peepal tree, also known as a Bodhi tree (Ficus religiosa), and simply meditate until he found the root of suffering, and how to liberate oneself from it.
Traditions vary on what happened. Some say Siddhartha made a great vow to Nirvana and Earth to find the root of suffering, or die trying. In other traditions, while meditating he was harassed and tempted by the god Mara (literally, “Destroyer” in Sanskrit), demon of illusion. Other traditions simply state that he entered deeper and deeper states of meditation, confronting the nature of the self.
In the Pali Canon, there are several discourses said to be by Buddha himself, related to the story. In The Longer Discourse to Saccaka, the Buddha describes his Enlightenment in three stages:
- During the first watch of the night, the Buddha discovered all of his past lives in the cycle of rebirth, realizing that he had been born and reborn countless times before.
- During the second watch, the Buddha discovered the Law of Karma, and the importance of living by the Eightfold Path.
- During the third watch, the Buddha discovered the Four Noble Truths, finally reaching Nirvana.
All traditions agree that as the morning star rose in the sky in the early morning, the third watch of the night, Siddhartha finally found the answers he sought and became Enlightened, and experienced Nirvana. Having done so, Siddhartha now became a Buddha or “Awakened One”.
How to Celebrate:
- Study the Dharma
- Chant Sutras
- Have a quiet day.