Bodhi Day 2020 Reflections

Although the Buddhist Church of Oakland celebrated Bodhi Day this past Sunday, December 8 is the “official” date according to the solar calendar. Bodhi Day commemorates the awakening experience of Shakyamuni, the historical Buddha. “Bodhi” means awakening, it is related to “Buddha” which means “awakened one.” We may also know the word from the “Bodhi Tree,” the tree that Shakyamuni is said to have been sitting under when we became enlightened. 

There are actually several Bodhi Trees at BCA temples and other BCA-related sites. The Buddhist Church of Oakland is one of them. For our service this past weekend, I went out and took a picture of the leaves for my talk – I also realized I should get an actual leaf too. Members clean up the church grounds regularly so there was only one on the ground, but what a beautiful specimen!

The shape of the leaf is often used to symbolize Buddhism – for instance, it can be seen in the logos of the Institute of Buddhist Studies (whose dorm has one of the aforementioned Bodhi Trees) and the Buddhist Church of Oakland. 

Another important Buddhist symbol is the Dharma Wheel, whose eight spokes can be seen as representing the Eightfold Noble Path. This teaching, together with and one of the Four Noble Truths, is said to be from the first sermon given by Shakyamuni after his awakening, so I wore my Dharma Wheel wagesa – I hadn’t worn it in a long time, not sure how many people noticed, though I know one person did!

We did this service live via Zoom, simultaneously streaming to YouTube. This has been an interesting year, having had to suddenly figure out how to do temple via the internet when the pandemic started. Here’s a handful of what I needed for service: power cables for laptop and iPhone, nenju, bodhi leaf, keys, and mask. 

Bodhi Day is actually not emphasized in Jodo Shinshu in Japan, but in our overseas temples it is one of our major services during the year. This makes sense to me – Shakyamuni’s awakening was the beginning of the Dharma flourishing in our world and our era – Shakyamuni’s teachings offer us so many ways to understand and deal with our lives.

So finally, here is the recording of this past weekend’s service – it was nice, our last Dharma Family Service for 2020. We’ll be back for New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day!