Day 5: Secular Bodhi Season 2018 – Traditions

Let’s take a little breather from the depth of Bodhi Season Mindfulness with a little fluff piece. We’ll take a little bit of time to think about prepping for the Bodhi Day Celebration in three days. Before continuing, if you have no idea what Bodhi Day is, please read this blog, Bodhi Day.

Much of what I’m mentioning here I’ve already written about on the eve of my Bodhi Season last year, Thursday, December 7, 2017. But I can make this very easy: You don’t need to do any of this. You can become enlightened at any time. The value of the Bodhi Day Celebration is to give your brain the gift of an experience similar to that of Siddhartha Gautama when he became The Buddha.

General Bodhi Season Guidelines

This post is focused on what happens on Bodhi Day itself. Many practitioners of various Zen sects meditate during the entire Bodhi Season, from December 1 through 8. However, for the Bodhi Day Season, I’ve mentioned in earlier Bodhi Day posts, particularly Day 2, that my activities are fairly normal. I go to work, do chores, play with my cats.

However, I do somewhat disengage a bit from the overly-dramatic demands of life in a modern society. That doesn’t mean I resist any work pressures that are placed upon me. Rather, it’s more like “I’ll do what I can now and I promise I’ll get the rest next week, and if that’s not OK, peace be with you.” It’s sort of my version of meditating for the entire Bodhi Season. This is how you should always be. It’s not that you are aloof, resisting, or “passive-aggressive”. If you’re always dutiful and mindful, in an enlightened way, you will excel and everyone around you will benefit from the compound interest of enlightenment.

I do switch to a vegan diet, no alcohol, and whatever TV I watch is generally related to either Christmas or Buddhism – Christmas movies, Christmas or Buddhist/Zen Youtube videos, etc. If I took “recreational drugs” or indulged in other sorts of activities typically called “vices”, I’d abstain from those things too. And not for “moral”, health, or even “legal” reasons, but to promote an even-keeled demeanor – let in storm clouds, let it do its thing, eventually it poops out, and things settles into some kind of equilibrium.

Regarding the vegan diet, my diet is fairly vegetarian when I’m choosing the food. The Buddha was, to put it bluntly, a beggar, and ate whatever people were kind enough to offer to him. That’s basically the rule of thumb for Mrs. Hanamoku and I. We eat and enjoy anything our hosts graciously serve to us, or conversely, whatever omnivorous delights we feed to our non-vegetarian guests, but are 90% vegetarian at home.

Bodhi Day Morning Ceremony

The toughest part of the Bodhi Day Celebration is to find a suitable place to conduct this early morning event – this Saturday, December 8, 2018. The primary qualities are solitude and a view of Venus rising during the wee hours of Bodhi Day morning. That pretty much means somewhere high on a hill with a distant view, away from neighborhoods. But Venus and/or the weather doesn’t always cooperate.

The solitude aspect is mostly as a courtesy to your neighbors who may not appreciate the recitation of the Heart Sutra and chiming bells at 4am. If you’re anywhere near enlightenment, you should be able to do this in the middle of Times Square without being distracted or self consciousness. In fact, a lot of people there would probably join you!

Which brings up an important clarification of “solitude”. It’s more than OK to have others with you. But you should keep to yourselves and all should be full participants. Meaning, it should be as though each of you are indeed by yourselves, and that there should be no one on the bench simply observing.

That may sound contrary to the “we’re all One” thing. This is about fixing your mind, your brain, that model of the Universe that isn’t nearly as good as the real thing. Think about a cluster of Web servers serving pages for a blog site. Those servers are One in that they are all needed to serve up blog pages in a timely manner.

If that blog site starts selling products, becomes an e-commerce site, things are different. Now they are doing something they weren’t designed to do – even though they can still do it to some degree. They chug along, but CPUs are pegged at 100%, RAM paging to disk. This is the computer version of Dukkha. Each must be taken offline, reconfigured, then is replaced back into the cluster … not wobbly, enlightened.

Venus and the Moon over my work place yesterday morning around 6:15am.

I do offer more advice on finding a place in a blog I posted a couple of months ago: Two Months to the Secular Bodhi Day I was trying to give Bodhi Day enthusiasts ample time, but I don’t believe anyone has read that blog as of the time of this writing … hahaha!

Your Crazy Gear

First off, you don’t need any of the stuff shown in the picture below. Solitude is 90% of the gear.

The only thing you may need is a flashlight, warm clothing (if it’s late Fall where you are) and a script of the sutras you plan to recite. For that purpose, I brought my Kindle with me – flashlight and script all in one. Which brings up the point – leave your cell phone and other devices such as cameras at home. No interruptions, no compulsive needs to capture the moment rather than be in the moment. I really didn’t even want to bring my Kindle.

But what if you break your ankle, get into a fight with a pack of wolves, or get hypothermia? As with all hiking, be sure someone at home knows exactly where you’re going and to expect you home by some time. That’s another reason for having others participate with you. Leave any weapons beyond your hiking stick at home as well.

Clockwise from top-left. Song bowl hammer, two wrist malas, three jewels, bell, dorje, song bowl “mallet”, song bowl. A long mala is encircles the song bowl to the bell.

Here is a brief description of the items in the above photo:

  • Song Bowl, lower-left corner – The song bowl is used in two ways. The first way is using the mallet, the wooden piece just to the right of the song bowl, rubbed around the edge of the opening, as you’ve seen done with wine glasses. It takes some practice. I found a pretty good video on how to do make the bowl sing. This is how I start my ceremony. It’s very good at setting the mood. The second way is to strike it as a bell, especially during the recitation of the Hannya Shingyo. I use the wooden piece towards the upper-left for that. I strike the singing bowl similar to how symbols are utilized by drummers, struck at the end of a “phrase”.
  • Mala – There are the wrist two malas around Rubber Ducky that I generally wear through the Bodhi Season, and there is the long mala, which I use to count repetitions of the Morning Star Mantra. This mala has 114 beads, so I recite the Morning Star Manta that many times.
  • Three Jewels, top-right – The Three Jewels are the Buddha, the Dharma (the Buddha’s teachings), and the Sangha (simply put, the congregation). I use them in place of Venus if I’m unable to see her in the sky for whatever reason. They are just three semi-precious stones I chose. The star garnet is the Buddha, the topaz is the Dharma because of its clarity, and the fire opal is the Sangha, for all the little lights.
  • Dorje and Bell, lower-right – The Dorje is the brass piece to the left of the bell. It is not the hammer for the bell. The bell has a hammer in it. The Dorje is held in the left hand and the bell with the right. I generally hold them while in meditation, ringing the bell periodically – mostly to refocus if I begin to drift off to sleep or my mind wanders too much.

I am in the Northwest U.S., so it will be very cold, forecast at about 15 F Saturday morning. So be sure you are adequately dressed for an extended period in the elements, at least a couple of hours. Please be sensible about what you do.

What if you can’t find a good spot, the weather is prohibitively terrible, you can’t get off work, or don’t have the funds? It’s OK. Punt until later, just go for a long walk if you can. Sitting in your car isn’t that bad an option. But do something out of the ordinary – not just take a minute to meditate before you eat your breakfast. I like to celebrate Bodhi Day this way, out on a mountain top, because it is very out of my ordinary life. But none of it is necessary. Please read You Don’t Need to Wait for Bodhi Day.

The Agenda

I mentioned above that I wrote of what I planned to do on Bodhi Day morning on the eve of my Bodhi Season last year, Thursday, December 7, 2017. I plan to follow that same script. I also recently wrote in more detail what I actually happened in The Other Shore. Please do read those blogs as it contains more last minute advice for Bodhi Day.

My most important piece of advice is: Don’t set any high expectations! The Universe is a magical place where everything is possible. However, at least in the realm of our human-level existence, everything is still a process, the Universe is One big process. Enlightenment is not becoming a magical creature that can walk on water, or less grandiose, perform Jedi mind tricks. Enlightenment is switching on the light so you can see the path, see what is really there, so you can move freely on your journey. You can do that! Remember, Buddhism is a skill.

One more thing, the rice and milk dish. Please see Mrs. Hanamoku’s recipe and what it’s all about.

If any of you wish to join me in spirit, I’m leaving for my Bodhi Day spot at 5am U.S. Mountain Time, this coming Saturday morning. My spot is fortunately right behind my Airbnb, with perhaps a 15 minute hike. If you go join me in spirit and you see Venus, say hello!

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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