Saturday, December 08, 2007

December 8: Rohatsu Day: Enlightenment Day

Although in different schools of Buddhism the enlightenment of Siddhartha Gautama is observed at different times (at least in part due to the lunar year/solar year differences), in the school in which I practice, in the Japanese Rinzai tradition, the enlightenment of the Buddha is traditionally observed on December 8.

Harada-roshi ("roshi" means literally "old teacher," and is actually the Japanese pronunciation of what the Chinese use for the word "teacher") has a good summary for the whole thing:

The Buddha was enlightened on the eighth of December when he looked up at the morning star, the planet we call Venus. The brightness of this planet was seen by Buddha from the depths of one week of samadhi [deep awareness]. The Buddha received that brightness with the same eyes of zazen [sitting meditation] that enable us to realize perfect enlightenment.

One week straight of this deepest possible samadhi was burst through by the brilliance of that morning star. A whole week's experience of that world burst the brightness of the morning star, plunging into the Buddha's eyes and giving rebirth to the Buddha's consciousness.

He cried:
That's it! That's it! That's it. That's me! That's me that's shining so brilliantly!

The Buddha had realized that his own True Nature was the very same - an identity - with that of all beings. To realize such a thing is to be deeply awed, humbled, and yet to know, as a later master would say, that you can enter any world as if it were a playground.

This is not some mumbo-jumbo New Agey feel good kind of a thing, some means of escape, an opiate, but rather the Source by which we can attend to one another's - and our own - suffering and misery, at the very least by figuring out the origin of such suffering and misery and attending to it mindfully.

So in gratitude for all everyone at Kos, for the sake of all beings, I will try to be a little more mindful today.

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