Two Months to the Secular Bodhi Day, December 8, 2018

Haleakala for Bodhi Day
Haleakala Crater. An incredibly great place to awaken on Bodhi Day!! Here, Venus will rise at 3:38am on the Secular Bodhi Day this year! Wow!

Hello Aspiring Buddhas!

The “secular” Bodhi Season starts in 62 days, on December 1, 2018! By “season”, I’m talking about Bodhi Day itself and the days of meditation prior to that day of awakening  – which is December 8. In our industrialized world, Bodhi Day has been standardized to  December 8, as opposed to swinging around over a 30-day period year to year based on the Lunar Calendar.

Mrs. Hanamoku and I celebrate both the Secular and Lunar Bodhi Days.

For these modern times, many Zen/Buddhist traditions take seven days of meditation, with Bodhi Day on the morning of the eighth day. If you think about it, seven days of meditation is awfully short for something as grand as enlightenment. Especially for an enlightenment that you hope will stick. So really, Bodhi Day starts way before and continues forever.

Unlike the days of the Buddha, these days we have jobs with a mere two to four weeks of vacation per year. And even with that, most of us have a big backlog of vacation days because we can’t get the time off. So even just seven days is tough! Add to that, when was the last time you took a vacation without the heavy cloud of being called on your cell phone?

So with that in mind, we can at least prepare ourselves over the next couple of months so we can hit the ground running with the few short days we can realisitically hope for.

There are two major categories of preparation – logistics and our frame of mind.

It’s ideal to take the entire time off from work – that is, from December 1 through December 8. You probably would have had to reserve that time weeks ago or even a year ago! If not the entire eight days off from work, at least try to plan early to avoid critical deadlines and rollouts around that time, and to at least take a couple of days off before and on December 8. December 8 is a Saturday this year, so at least Thursday to travel and Friday to fully meditate.

seat_at_Bodhi_day
A very nice natural chair I sat in on my own Bodhi Day last December, out in the Utah desert.

It’s also ideal to get away to somewhere away far from civilization,such as wide-open a desert, bluff along the ocean, or high up at an alpine lake. Mrs. Hanamoku and I live in the Western U.S. where such places are plentiful.

You’ll likely end up needing to camp out on the night of December 7, unless you find a remote cabin or something like that where you can just get out and hike a couple of miles. Don’t worry about the discomfort of camping out even if it’s in a car. As Clark Griswold said when he took his family to the country to cut down their Christmas tree, “It’s all part of the experience.”

If Venus is the Morning Star at the time, look for a place where you can watch it rise, as had Siddhartha Gautama on his Bodhi Day. It looks like in the U.S. Southwest, Venus rises around 3:00 AM on Saturday, December 8, 2018. That’s a little early for our purposes, but it should still be in a nice place around 5 AM.

Since you may be chanting and ringing bells, it should be a place where you won’t disturb others who may not like being awaken in the wee hours of the morning … but the chanting and ringing bells aren’t mandatory.

I love the deserts of the U.S. Southwest. It doesn’t need to be Zion or Bryce Canyon, just open and far away.

Don’t worry if it may be too cold in early December. Or maybe a little scary because of being remote. All the better to feel alive. Bring a good coat, gloves, cap for the cold, and a good raincoat in case it rains.

Rubber Ducky looking over at Bryce Canyon
Your Bodhi place doesn’t need to be Bryce Canyon, Zion, or Haleakala. Just wide open and where you can be undisturbed.

Preparing your mind requires much more. The best advice I can give is to give yourself a dry run or two or three. Don’t worry about the results of these dry runs. Don’t even worry if you life sucks worse than ever at this time. Don’t worry if you fail the dry runs miserably. It will get your mind wrapped around things and give you time to work out issues you may not have been aware of.

There’s nothing to lose by having dry runs over these next couple of months. In fact, I had the good fortune of a dry run with the Enlightenment of the Rubber Ducky Buddha of Joliet (November 3, 2017) before my own Bodhi Season from December 1-8, 2017. I wrote of the experience of the Rubber Ducky Buddha’s Enlightenment in a series of blogs during November 2017.  (Remember, the blog posts are in reverse-chronological order, so start at the bottom with Tori and Uke.)

rubber ducky enlightenment fall 2017
The Rubber Ducky Buddha of Joliet attained Enlightenment in the Fall of 2017, November 3.

As I just mentioned, my own Bodhi Season occurred the following month from December 1st through the 8th. I wrote much about that experience during those days:

Following are links to messages I wrote for others to meditate upon for the Lunar Bodhi season of 2017, which began on December 18, and Bodhi Day coinciding with Christmas Day that particular year. I think these messages will provide a very nice third dry run, as well as an outline for your actually Bodhi Season:

Use those links above as a dry run of your Bodhi Season. There’s nothing to lose by having a dry run over these next couple of months. In fact, I had the good fortune of a dry run with the Enlightenment of the Rubber Ducky Buddha of Joliet before my Bodhi Season. I wrote of that experience in a series of blogs during November 2017.

Lastly, please check out and subscribe to Zen Teachings of the Eternal Fishnu, where I post many articles on Zen. Those articles should help prepare your mind for your Bodhi Day. This site is targeted at Bodhi Day itself, whereas Fishnu.org covers Zen to a deeper level.

Along the next few weeks, I’ll write more about what to do during the Bodhi Season as well as offer more guidance to prepare. And I will coach you along with daily posts from “Day 0” (November 30) through Bodhi Day on December 8.

Mrs. Hanamoku’s Bodhi Day Rice and Milk

Bodhi Day rice and milk
Mrs. Hanamoku made me this Bodhi Day breakfast on December 25, 2017.

Below is Mrs. Hanamoku’s recipe that we enjoy every Bodhi Day! However, leftover rice and milk heated, nothing else, over the stove is fine if you want to live hard-core ascetic.

Ingredients

  • 4 C whole milk
  • ½ C rice – Basmati, Jasmine, or Japanese Sticky rice.
  • ½ C sugar
  • 2 tsp cardamom powder

Method

1. Wash and soak rice for 30 minutes.

2. Bring milk to a boil.

3. Add drained rice to milk on medium heat. Cook until rice is done and mushy.

4. Add sugar and continue to cook until mixture thickens. Keep stirring during this stage.

5. Add cardamom powder and cook for 5 more minutes.

6. This desert can be served warm like oatmeal or cold like custard.

 

Why this Rice and Milk?

Most accounts I’ve read on the Internet of Bodhi Day state that Siddhartha Gautama was presented with a meal of rice and milk before he went into deep meditation under the Bodhi Tree. However, The Eternal Fishnu says that The Buddha received the meal upon his awakening from the meditation on Bodhi Day.

I believe The Eternal Fishnu’s version as he was there, and it seems to make a little more sense to me anyway. The accounts that state Siddhartha received the meal before says that it invigorated him for his meditation. To me, that would have disrupted his resolve to find Enlightenment. He really was in such bad shape that he was right at the door.

It seems more appropriate that this rice and milk meal symbolizes a literal breakfast (breaking of his long fast) than just nourishment, certainly not enough to make much of a difference over the seven days. The meal, so simple, so unassuming, is a perfect gesture to a brand new Buddha.

When is Bodhi Day 2018?

The Lunar Bodhi Day for 2018 is on January 13, 2019.

Here’s the explanation:

Bodhi Day is defined as the 8th day of the 12th Moon of the year. That’s how it’s described as the morning Siddhartha Gautama awoke from his deep meditation roughly 2500 years ago.

There are several ways to interpret the “12th Moon of the year”. The Eternal Fishnu said we should consider that to mean the 12th New Moon on the Chinese Calendar. The Chinese New Year for 2018 began on the New Moon that occurred on February 16, 2018.

Why the Chinese Lunar calendar? Simply because it’s a widely used lunar calendar, and close enough to Bodhgaya, India, the site of the Bodhi Tree where Siddhartha Gautama’s Bodhi Day happened.

If you looked up the lunar calendars, such as on Calendar-12.com,  you may see a few little inconsistencies to what I’m saying in this blog.

One has to do with time zones. Lunar calendars on the Internet are usually time-zone sensitive today, so the days may be different. For example, the 12th New Moon of 2018 starts on January 5, 2019 at 6:29pm U.S. Mountain time. But it’s well into January 6 in Bodhgaya, India (11 and a half hours ahead of U.S. Mountain time).

Another is “leap year” in Lunar calendars. As we know, the Lunar periods are around 30 days, which means 12 moons is about 360 days. After a while, those approximately 5 day difference with the 365 day year adds up. There is a need for “leap year”, which means some years will have 13 moons.

Last year, 2017 was one of those “Chinese Leap Years”. The Chinese lunar year had 13 moons. So the first new moon of the Gregorian 2018 calendar, January 16, 2018, belongs to the Chinese Lunar calendar of 2017.

However, the “standardized” Bodhi Day, which is what I call the “secular”, is on December, 8, 2018. That is, the 8th Day of the 12th Month of the year. It’s mostly the day chosen for celebration in Japan.