Day 2: Secular Bodhi Season 2018 – Have a Holly Jolly Bodhi

Tar Weed. A distant relative of the Silver Swords on Haleakala in the Utah desert . What? Google silver sword tar weed. Very interesting things happen when you go with the flow.

I just want to say that if on this 2nd day of Bodhi Season things are hectic and far from om-humming and tranquil … that’s OK!!

Bodhi Day may be near Christmas so there could be a misconception that it’s just the Buddhist version of the Holiday Season. Instead of Merry Christmas, it’s namaste. Instead of a Christmas ham or turkey, it’s rice and milk. Of course, instead of a Christmas Tree, a Bodhi Tree!

But Bodhi Day is not Christmas nor a “holiday”. Things very likely will be very tough as you face your suffering head-on. A better analogy for Bodhi Day is Easter, with the pain of the crucifixion followed by Jesus’ subsequent resurrection which fully established Him as the Son of God.

In fact, if things don’t get tough, you may be doing it all wrong. Doing something like retreating to the tranquility of Tassajara or Esalen for Bodhi Day isn’t the right idea. Who couldn’t be at peace and oh-so-Buddha-like in the woods and coast around Big Sur. There, life is all choreographed kata. Bodhi Season is about Randori! As we say in software development, “ya gotta run it in ‘prod’ to make sure it works” – not “dev” or “test” or “Q and A”. Tassajara is like “dev”.

It was that way for Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha, as he sat in meditation under the Bodhi Tree. He was tempted and tormented mercilessly by the Demon Mara. He was tempted to hold onto his worldly delusions with all sorts of bedazzlements, and terrified by horrible visions.

The only thing that seemed to work was letting go of his clinging – strings to bind,  buttons to push, levers to pull – drop it, all of it. He was looking for relief from his suffering. The Demon Mara’s efforts showed him the cause of his suffering, his clinging to his own beliefs, desires, and will. He awoke on Bodhi Day seeing the Universe as It is, not as his mind sees it.

Once I was play-wrestling with my five year old nephew. I pretended he was winning, feigning suffering from his superior strength and skill. He said, “You can make this stop any time by just letting go!” He’ll make a good Buddhist … or police officer … hahaha!

Bodhi Season is also a very personal experience. Family will not endure weather-delayed, over-crowded airports to join you for a meal of rice and milk at 4am in 30 F weather watching Venus rise. If it’s at all like Christmas, it’ll end up more like Griswold “Christmas Vacation” with the “jolliest bunch of assholes this side of the nuthouse”.

But doesn’t that “personal experience” aspect contradict not going to a tranquil retreat where you can get away to be alone? By personal, I mean that you’re focusing on re-training your mind. Unlike Christmas where we all share the joy with friends and loved ones, Bodhi Day is about changing how your brain sees what is right in front of you. It may sound selfish, but you really aren’t sustainably good to anyone if you’re chronically suffering.

Now let me be clear. Don’t go looking for trouble – like finally telling off your co-workers or that noisy neighbor … hahaha. But don’t avoid anything either. Looking for trouble and avoiding it is both clinging to your desires, addictions, and will and not blending in with the Universe.

Bodhi Season is about facing reality as you would any other day, but with a Beginner’s Mind and 100% acceptance of what Is. Be like the Zen Master, Hakuin, who greets every situation, no matter the nature, with a 100% unconditional (and un-sarcastic!), “Is that So?”

Let’s practice:

Boss: We’re starting a big project this Thanksgiving week that will save our company from collapse, and launching on New Year’s Day!

You: Is that so?

Your neighbor: Yeah, I’m putting in a mother-in-law house and a swimming pool this summer. Gotta do the construction while the sun is out late. We’re getting a couple of beagles too. And rehab-ing a parrot.

You: Is that so?

The IRS: We’ve decided that you’ve paid enough taxes. You are now 100% exempt for life! In fact, you are the first recipient of our reverse-tax program, where we pay you interest on the taxes you’ve paid!

You: Is that so?

Faith and Patience to You,

Reverend Dukkha Hanamoku


Links to the other posts belonging to this set of Bodhi Day 2018 posts:

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