Happy Dharma Day

On the first fill moon in July, Buddhists around the world celebrate Dharma Day.

Dharma Day, a Buddhist celebration, marks the day when the Buddha began teaching.  Celebrated by Buddhists worldwide, it’s considered a time to reflect on the qualities of the Buddha and express gratitude for his teachings which offer humanity a way to find release from its bonds. Dharma refers to the body of the Buddha’s teachings.

Dharma Day is one of the most important dates in the Buddhist calendar as it marks the day the religion was established. It is usually celebrated with readings from the Buddhist scriptures, and is an opportunity to reflect deeply on their content. Also known as Asalha Puja, Dharma Day falls during the eighth month of the traditional Indian calendar.

Dharma day is so sacred to Buddhists as they feel after celebrating this day their spirit has been purified leaving them with peace in their hearts. To Buddhists Dharma day is a day of peace away from the outside world.

Unfortunately, we do not have the fortune enough to have the day off to seek our peace away from the outside world.  Instead, we take what we can get!  After work Eric and I will begin our celebration.  We will prepare our shrine in our meditation/music room and start off with a meditation.  We then read some of Buddha’s teachings to each other and reflect on the meanings and how to incorporate them into our daily lives.  Followed by some relaxing hot tea and more reflection.  No doubt we will go out and gaze upon and appreciate the beauty of the full moon as well.

buddha day2 buddha-quote-proposition-zen

“Here it is – – right now.  Start thinking about it and you’ll miss it.”

“Many people look for happiness outside themselves, but true happiness must come from inside us.”

“Every waking second is a chance to look past who you think you are right through to who you truly are.”

“Hope is itself a species of happiness and, perhaps, the chief happiness which this world affords.”

“The greatest part of our happiness or misery depends on our dispositions and not on our circumstances.”

“Be true to yourself – if something makes you unhappy, try something else.”

“Make it a point to be happy to be here.  The first thought of the day should be positive and special.”

“To have peace, we must first have understanding.  Understanding is not possible without gentle, loving communication.”

A Different Kind of Celebration – Buddha Day

A Different Kind of Celebration – Buddha Day

Each year, I republish my blog on Buddha Day, with some updates and modifications. 

 

Today, Wednesday May 14th, 2014 is a very special day for those of the Buddhist faith.  Whether you are a Buddhist, or like me and just identify and believe in the loving compassion teachings of the Buddha, today is a day to acknowledge and celebrate.  Buddha Day, also known as Vesak, Vesakha or Wesak, is a celebration that encompasses the birth of the Buddha, his enlightenment Nirvana and his passing away, all on the same day.  This day falls on the full moon of the 5th month of the lunar calendar, varying dates each year.  This year it falls on May 14th.   Many Buddhist celebrations occur during the full moon.   This day is one of the most important observances and celebrations for Buddhists across the world.  Vesak offers Buddhists an opportunity to reflect on the life and teachings of the Buddha and also highlights the potential for inner peace and happiness that lies within us all as well as a day for Buddhists to reaffirm their commitment to living a moral and compassionate lifestyle.  As Eric reminds me, it is not how he died but it is a day to reflect on how he lived and the magnitude of his teachings, and that is the reason we celebrate.


“The significance of Vesak lies with the Buddha and his universal peace message to mankind.”
~Venerable Mahinda

Most Buddhist countries declare this day a Buddhist Holiday and a day to remember the significant events in Buddha’s life.  Many Buddhists acknowledge this event by visiting the Vihara, or Buddhist Monistary.  This could also simply mean a secluded place in which to walk, reflect and meditate if there is no Monistary close to visit.  During this visit to the Vihara, Buddhists would be dressed in white and bring flowers and incense or candles to pay respect to the Buddha.  These symbolic offerings are to be a reminder that just as the beautiful flowers wither and die and the candles soon burn out, so too is life subject to decay and destruction.  Many devout Buddhists would spend the day in the Vihara, from morning to night, taking a retreat from their daily schedule, meditating, chanting and participating in Dharma Talk or teachings of the Buddha.  In many Buddhist countries selling and consuming of meat and alcohol is prohibited during the week of Vesak and the government will even closes down all liquor shops and slaughter houses.   Birds, insects and animals are released by the thousands in a symbolic act of liberation, giving freedom to those in captivity and tortured against their will.  This is considered an act of generosity, symbolic of generating good karma. The act also symbolizes the Buddha’s compassion for all things.  While many sects of Buddhism typically calls for a vegetarian diet, there are also other sects which do not require this.  During this time Buddhists who are not vegetarian refrain from eating meat. Buddhists make a special effort to refrain from killing of any kind and are encouraged to eat only vegetarian food for the day.

To celebrate this day and the life and teachings of the Great Buddha, it is not necessary to go to a temple and participate in rituals if you can’t, don’t have access or would rather not.  Many would prefer a day or even a moment of solitary reflection.  It is not about the specifics in how one celebrates this day or the rituals performed, it is the simple act of recognizing  and expressing gratitude to the Buddha for the teachings he has given.  It is really all about personal preference and what is best for you as an individual.  Maybe some would prefer a simple ceremony in front of a small shrine at home, or maybe a brief reflection on the qualities and teachings of the Buddha along with meditation.

I have always admired and appreciated the teachings of Buddhism.  When I met Eric and two of my most exciting surprises about him was that he loved wine and he was a Buddhist!  He and I begun to discuss some of our Buddhist ideals and rituals and he taught me about the different days of celebrations as well as sharing his own personal rituals and ways to celebrate and give respect to the teachings with me.  He is the one who taught me about Buddha Day and all other Buddhist holidays and from there i researched to find out more.

This will be our fifth year together  and this year, just as last year Eric will acknowledge and pay respect to this tradition and lifestyle by refraining from eating meat for the month prior, taking it a step further than just abstaining for the single day but also the day before and the day after.

We do not have the opportunity to live in a Buddhist country and have the day off so we will begin our evening by having a Buddhist feast consisting of Sushi (vegetarian Sushi for me) and miso soup, just as Eric and I  ritualistically do every year.  Then we will have our own ceremony of reading from our Buddhism books together and meditating  in front of our shrine.     I am thankful, grateful and appreciative that Eric has shared his religion, tradition and rituals with me and we have incorporated this as part of our lifestyle together.

Even if you are not Buddhist or have never studied any of Buddha’s teachings, everyone can learn a lot from the Great and Wise Buddha.  In today’s society we are killing each other, we are killing our planet in which we live.  In my opinion, there is a huge lack of compassion and consideration in everyday human life.    What can we learn from Buddha?  That non-violent living is the way to go.  That we need more peace, love and compassion to create the positive energy our society is lacking, and to help promote good Karma throughout our lives.  We need to expel hatred, greed and stupidity from our lifestyles.

“He who lives only for pleasures, and whose soul is not in harmony, who considers not the food he eats, is idle, and has not the power of virtue — such a man is moved by mara (evil one), is moved by selfish temptations, even as a weak tree is shaken by the wind.”  Buddha

Fun New Years Eve Traditions – Out With the Old and In With the New

Happy New Years!  Good bye to 2013 and hello to 2014.
With this New Years falling on the New Moon, it is all about new beginnings, making a fresh start.  Wipe the slate clean and say good bye to all the negativity.  Start this new year off the way YOU want it to be and keep the ball rolling to make this the year you want it to be.  This year, it is all about a new and fresh start!  Change your perspective and point of view and look at life through a pair of fresh eyes.  Fill this year with kindness, love and compassion.  Live with excitement instead of fear!   Let this year be all the adventure you have hoped for.  Want it and make it happen.  Be motivated and wild, let your spirit dance and sing.  Don’t let complacency and dullness rule your year.  Life the most full, exciting and free life possible.  Wish for it and make it happen.  Life the life you wish to live and be the person you want to be.  There is nothing stopping you or holding you back.  This is the year to make it happen.
The last few years it has been really important to me to come up with my own traditions and customs, and for Eric and I to develop our own traditions together.  Incorporating some of the things we knew in childhood and growing up, as well as things from our heritage or things that came along with our new beliefs and ideals we developed in adulthood.
One of the most interesting traditions I have learned about trough my research that we have put into practice in our own New Years Eve traditions is called First Footing.
First Footing is and old Celtic tradition.  In Scottish and Irish households, to ensure luck and good fortune for the year ahead, the first person to enter the house after the stroke of Midnight on December 31st, on New Years Day has to be a tall, dark, and handsome male.  It is believed to be a symbol of good luck in the coming year.A red-headed female would be the last person you would want to enter your door as red hair was considered a sign of the unlucky and would bring hardship and grief.  It is also said to be unlucky for the first footer to come empty handed.  Some of the traditional gifts include whisky or some form of alcohol, coins, coal or a loaf of bread.
The way Eric and I have incorporated this into our own traditions is that no matter where we are or what we are doing, when we arrive home after midnight on December 31st, he is always the first to enter the door and cross the threshold – as he is the tall, dark and handsome one of the two of us!  Me, the red head… enters last.  He carries coins in his pocket as the “traditional gift” to the new year.
So to have a happy and lucky new year, pay attention to who comes through your door after midnight, and watch out for the redheads… 😉
An interesting Pagan New Years Tradition is to place a silver coin on the porch before midnight.  Then on New Years Day retrieve the coin and throughout the entire year, it is said that money is sure to arrive when it is desired.
This is a small new little tradition I may incorporate this year.  By placing some coins outside on the balcony under the darkness of the new moon, I will set the intention for a prosperous new year filled with wealth and health.
Each year, since a child, eating cabbage has always been a part of my New Years meal.  As a child mom used to make pork and cabbage, but now as a vegetarian I skip the pork.  It is said to bring health and good fortune for the coming year.
And of course, don’t forget the New Years Eve festivities.  Fun, partying, sharing of champagne, the midnight toast, the first kiss of the new year with that someone special… all are on my list of traditions yearly.
But whatever you do, have fun and be safe.  If you plan to be out sharing too much champagne, designate a driver or call a cab.  Please think of yourself and others.  No one wants their New Year to start out with an arrest, an accident, an injury or worst of all, a death.

Remember, this is the year for a new start.  All of the negativity, bad habits, problems and difficulties of the years past, leave them at the door.  Another tradition is to “sweep” out all the negativity and bad and all the old you have no use for in the new year.  Open up your door and physically sweep it out, setting the intention and make a ritual of it.  Making room for the new, for the positive and for the good.  Making room for your new dreams and desires.  A clean slate.  This year is yours!!

Winter Solstice Celebration 2013

Happy Winter Solstice to all and Blessed Yule!

Today, December 21, 2013 marks the Winter Solstice this year.  This is officially the first day of winter, the longest night and the shortest day of the year.  Winter Solstice is also known as Yule, Christmas and Saturnalia. In the Northern Hemisphere, the Winter Solstice is typically around December 21-23rd and is the day in which the sun’s path stops moving toward the sky. Solstice literally means “sun stands still.  Days will now stop growing shorter and will start to lengthen again.  This is a time for festivals and celebrations for Earth, for the new Solar year and the beginning of winter.  The solstice is linked to the idea of rebirth.  It is a time for inner renewal.

Today we welcome back the Lord of Light.
Tonight is the Winter Solstice and will be the longest night of the year, it is a magical time of transition. After this day the nights will start to get shorter and the days will become longer. As the waxing Sun grows in strength in the coming months the earth will start to blossom once more.
Build a fire of Oak in honor of the Sun God and speak your wishes into it’s flames for the coming New Year. Eat drink and be merry.

I have my own tradition as a way of celebrating.  I started my ritual Winter Solstice celebrations four years ago in 2010, and have carried on some of my own same traditions, as well as created new ones to develop the holiday as well as ways to include Eric and develop new traditions for us together.    Whether it is Christian or Pagan or Traditional or whatever you want to call it makes no difference to me.  This is something i started for myself, four years ago while i was going through a very difficult life transition.  I had always celebrated the Christmas holidays with my family as a child.  However, as i got older and begun to develop my own beliefs and ideas i started to question my reasoning for the celebration.  What it boiled down for me was a time to share and spend with family and loved ones.  During the Winter Solstice of 2010 i was in Wichita, KS with no means to spend the holidays with my family in West Virginia.  I had begun researching the Solstice in terms of traditions and meanings behind the celebration and it made sense to me, and made me happy.  I wanted to come up with MY OWN tradition to celebrate the Solstice.  I had always celebrated or at least acknowledged the Summer Solstice so it only made sense to me to celebrate the Winter Solstice as well.

The way our culture has come to celebrate the December holidays often leaves me feeling more miserable than merry. All of the shopping, the stuff and the stress seems to crowd out the anticipated joy of the season.   I decided to start a new tradition: honoring the original December holiday, the winter solstice.  The winter solstice as well as the summer solstice have become two of my favorite holidays and reasons for celebration… mainly because it is completely rooted in nature.  It is not commercialized or stressful.  It doesn’t matter what one believes or doesn’t believe, it just is.  People from the Celts to the Hopis have celebrated the solstices for over centuries.

I came across a website, EcoHearth, that had some really great ideas for celebrations and they had a recipe for Winter Solstice Vegetarian Chili.  I make that chili every year now!  I spent that first year alone, enjoying my chili, delicious wine, lighting candles and meditating.  After that,  Eric joined me in my celebration.  Along with my Winter Solstice Chili and wine we read stories and passages to each other about the Winter Solstice and celebrations and meanings.

Last year we started a new tradition for the two of us and incorporated a Yule Log into our celebration.  We took a day and went out in nature, in search of the perfect log along with all the greenery and adornments to make it perfect.  We stopped into the A.R.E to get a special devotional candle and decorated our log together.  This is another tradition we will carry on.  We then keep our log and burn it during our Summer Solstice Celebration.

Today is a beautiful day in Virginia Beach.  I will start my special traditional Winter Solstice Vegetarian chili in the crock pot and Eric and I will head down to First Landing State Park in search of the perfect log and greenery to decorate it with.  I plan on going to the A.R.E for another new candle to add to last years.  We will come home and decorate our log, enjoy our chili and wine and special holiday ale, relax and enjoy time together.    After our log is done, we will have a special meditation session with our log, blessing it and preparing it for us, energetically.  Gifts aren’t really a big part of our celebration, but this year we decided to get each other flasks for our Solstice.  We thought it was a fun idea and neither of us have ever had one before.  I also went out and got some special new toys for the girls to enjoy.

The Winter Solstice is a time for new beginnings.  To reflect over the previous year and plan for the new year.  Some traditions say that the mood for this day sets the tone for the year to come.  Suggestions to create a great year ahead are to let lose and have fun!  Drink, be merry, feast, dance, sing, make love and enjoy your day.  Do not let the stress of daily life infringe on the day.  Do the things you enjoy and set the tone for a great year to come.  I plan to!

There are many rites, rituals and celebrations that are historical or traditional, and I took the ones that made sense to me and geared the celebration toward myself and what felt right to us.  If you are interested, here is the link for my traditional  Winter Solstice Vegetarian Chili.

But most of all…

Anniversary Week/weekend

I didn’t want the weekend to be over!  It was pretty great.  A much needed, great weekend.

Sunday the 28th of July was our four year anniversary.

The weeks and days leading up to our anniversary week had been pretty stressful and filled with heartache and conflict, with the Sunday before being very much the day from hell.  After a revelation that evening and the next morning I was determined to do whatever it took to make things better.

To start off our Anniversary Week, Eric unexpectedly had Monday free after practice was canceled.  It was our Dharma day so we relaxed  most of the evening then I brewed some hot green tea and we prepared our Buddha shrine for our meditation.  We both sat in meditation for a while and then read passages from our Buddhism book together to celebrate Dharma Day.

Tuesday was our date night/wine night and I wanted to do something special.  Because of Dharma day being the day before, Eric was not drinking alcohol so we had to have our wine night without wine.  (On major Buddhist holidays he abstains from alcohol the day before, the day of, and the day after the holiday, per Buddhism custom.)  I took off half a day from work and came home and ordered some pasta and Caesar salad to be delivered right before Eric got home from work.  I knew neither of us had been eating very well lately and just wanted to surprise him.  We had a good late lunch/early dinner by candlelight.  Then we took a dip in the pool, played some God of War 11 in PS3, walked around the lake, took a late night moonlight walk to 7-11 for slurpees then some root beer floats.  It was a great Tuesday night.

I had initially taken Friday off.  Eric usually has Friday’s off so I thought it would be nice to spend the morning and afternoon together, to start our anniversary weekend.  But it turns out Eric had off Saturday rather than Friday… even better!  However, I still took the day off and took the opportunity to get some things done and recharge myself a little more.  I did come cleaning, napping, relaxing and shopping.  I went to get supplies for the weekend, and an anniversary card since our anniversary ( 4 years) was Sunday.  I picked up the movie Evil Dead, which I had been dying to see since it was out in the theater.  I  got some beer, popcorn and bloody mary supplies.  I texted Eric to let him know of our late night movie, popcorn and beer date night when he got out of class.  We had a great time, enjoyed the movie and stayed up way too late.  Saturday morning Eric got up to go to class and I slept in.

He got out of class and we packed up and headed to the beach.  It was fun spending a couple of hours lounging on the beach.  This was actually the first time this year we have been to the beach together, where last year we were there almost every weekend.   After we had our fill of sun and sand we headed home to shower and went to Jillians for some drinks, food and GAMES!  I had found a Groupon for game play and challenged Eric to a skee ball battle!  We had a lot of fun acting like big kids.  Drinking our gigantic beers and playing video games.  We even collected our tickets to exchange for prizes.  Such a fun time!

After we were all gamed out, we headed to the oceanfront to hear Maxx in his new band.  We met Sarah there and drank buckets of cocktails and enjoyed the sounds of the cover band on a warm summer night at the oceanfront.  We watched the clock tick down to Midnight and right at midnight we wished each other a Happy Anniversary with a toast, a hug and a kiss!  After the bar closed and they kicked us out we hung out with Sarah outside while Maxx packed up his gear.  I spotted a pizza place right across the street that was still open so we ran across the street and each ordered a couple slices of pizza.  the joint was pretty busy with the after bar crowd so after we got our pizza we walked back across the street and sat down in the middle of the sidewalk for a pizza picnic while we waited for Maxx.  So fun and random, having a picnic in the middle of a random sidewalk at 2am at the oceanfront!

Then comes Sunday, our anniversary!  We lounged together in bed for a while before finally deciding to get up out of bed and get the day started.  We made a pot of French vanilla coffee – to go.  Showered and headed out.  Our plan for the day was to grab a picnic lunch at Taste (since I have heard they have the best sandwiches in the area and have never yet tried them) then head to Saude Creek Winery for some music and wine on the patio, with a picnic lunch.  After reminiscing back over all of our past anniversaries, I came to the realization that they all had something in common… wineries or wine bars.  Year one Eric took me to Smokey Hill Winery in Salina, KS, my favorite winery that is now shut down.  Year two after moving to Virginia Beach we went to Lubo wine bar and had some drinks together.  Year three we celebrated at the Mermaid Winery.  I saw it only fitting that we continue this subconscious tradition of ours.  We hit the road and got our picnic lunch from Taste.  It ended up being later than we anticipated by the time we got on the highway to head to the winery.  After seeing all the traffic back up and realizing the time, we decided to save ourselves the headache of traffic and just find some place local for our picnic.  I got off the highway at the next exit and just drove around looking for the perfect spot.  We came across a part in Norfolk and quickly pulled in. We found a somewhat secluded picnic area and enjoyed our picnic lunch together.  It was not our exact plan but we were both able to go with the flow and create a new plan at the spur of the moment that was just as perfect.  We walked around the park for a little while after eating, then headed to our Mermaid winery for a glass of wine to still continue our tradition.

After a fun filled weekend of excitement, romance and celebration we headed home Sunday afternoon.  Time to snuggle with our girls at home, relax and just be together.  We just lounged around in our underwear the rest of the evening.  🙂

It truly was a great weekend.  Looking at the clock at 8:30pm on Sunday night I wanted to somehow stop the clocks and not let the rest of the weekend slip away.  It was so great I didn’t want it to end.   It was a very much needed great weekend.  A time for us to spend a lot of quality time together and to just start to reconnect as a couple again.  To do things together, and to do nothing together.  Those little things can easily be taken for granted and this weekend helped me to re-realize how important those things are.

Summer Solstice = Fire and Mead…and Dancing!

The Summer Solstice is Friday June 21, 2013.  The Summer Solstice is a major celestial event in which civilizations have celebrated the great power of the sun for centuries.  Also known as Midsummer, this day marks the first day of summer.  It is also the longest day and the shortest night of the year.  The word Solstice is derived from Latin meaning sun to stand still,  Sol+stice = Sun + to stand still.  As the day lengthens the sun rises higher and higher in the sky until it seems to stand still, at its highest point in the sky.

Early Celtic civilizations celebrated  the first day of summer with dancing and bonfires, helping to increase the sun’s energy.   Chinese honored Li, the Chinese Goddess of Light.  Druids would celebrate the day as a marriage of Heaven and Earth, resulting in a modern-day belief that it is “lucky” to have a wedding in June.  Every year, thousands of people gather at Stonehenge at sunrise where the sunrise is welcomed and Summer Solstice is celebrated.

Summer Solstice at Stonehenge

Pagan and earth-based tradition festivals take place where groups of people gather to light a sacred fire and stay up all night long to welcome the dawn.  Oak is the wood of choice, the oak tree is associated with strength, stability and the sun.  Celebrations included bonfires where couples would leap through the flames with the belief that their crops would grow as high as the couples were able to jump.  It is also believed that the bonfires have great power and that prosperity and protection cold be received by jumping over them.  Cold embers from fires were charms against injury and bad weather during harvests. They were placed around fields and orchards of crops to protect them and ensure abundance.   The ashes of the fire can also be spread on the garden, said to aid in fertility, and walking through the smoke of the fire was traditionally believed to cure sickness and bring good fortune.

Newly married couple jumping through the flames of a bonfire.

Midsummer is thought to be a time of magic, when evil spirits were said to appear.  To rid them off, Pagans often wore protective garlands of herbs and flowers.  Pagans believe it is an excellent time for weddings, communicating with nature spirits and divination.  It is believed that the boundaries between the worlds are thin and the portals between them are open, especially at twilight.

One other traditional Summer Solstice activity was doing cartwheels down a hillside.  In this tradition, the wheel represents the wheel of life.    Some modern celebrations include a wheel firework display, very appropriate for this “fire festival”!

Pagan Solstice Wheel

Pagans called the Midsummer moon the “Honey Moon” for the mead made from fermented honey that was part of wedding ceremonies performed at the Summer Solstice.

There are many different types of celebrations or festivals to celebrate the Summer Solstice.   I love the Summer Solstice and the Pagan idea of it rooted in nature and honoring Mother Nature.  I love to develop my own celebrations or rituals to celebrate days like this.

When Eric and I got together, I wanted to come up with a celebration ritual for the two of us to enjoy each year.  I took a couple of the ideas of what Summer Solstice is and put them together for something fun for us.  With it being the “festival of fire” and a day to celebrate the power and energy of the sun i wanted to incorporate fire into our celebration.  Living in an apartment, it was always hard to create a bonfire so we decided on a simple fire ceremony involving our charcoal grill and whatever food we choose to grill!  Another aspect i incorporated into our ritual was the drinking of Mead, which is Honey Wine.  The Pagans called the midsummer moon the “honey moon” named after the honey wine Mead drink that was a popular drink as part of summer solstice wedding ceremonies.

FireMead

Each year our Summer Solstice celebration will consist of Fire and Mead!  I am sure it is something we will continue each year, maybe modifying or adding something to adjust our lifestyle at that time, but it will always include Fire and Mead!

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These are the two kinds of mead I got for this year!

This year, on Saturday the 22nd, rather than the 21st (because of schedules) Eric and I are going to go camping for the night.  We are going to build a great fire, burn our yule log from the Winter Solstice, drink our mead and dance together around the fire!  Too bad we will be in a public state park…  because drinking mead and dancing around the fire….NAKED… sounds like the perfect medicine for all that ales..  😉 I am really excited about this celebration, ready to climb a tree and pee outside!  And to celebrate the Summer Solstice with the man of my dreams.

We saved our Yule log from Winter Solstice and will start our fire with the wood from our Yule log.  Saving the Yule log is said to bring good luck, then to burn it during the following Summer Solstice helps to release the past and move forward.  Something that would definitely be beneficial for Eric and myself.

Find a way to celebrate the Summer Solstice.  Whether it be rooted in religion or nature get out and enjoy the longest day of the year!

Buddha Day – A Special Kind Of Celebration

Friday May 24, 2013 is a very special day for those of the Buddhist faith.  Whether you are a Buddhist, or like me and just identify and believe in the loving compassion teachings of the Buddha, this is a day to acknowledge and celebrate.  Buddha Day, also known as Vesak, Vesakha or Wesak, is a celebration that encompasses the birth of the Buddha, his enlightenment Nirvana and his passing away, all on the same day.  This day falls on the full moon of the 5th month of the lunar calendar, varying dates each year.  This year it falls on May 24th.   Most Buddhist celebrations occur during the full moon.   This day is one of the most important observances and celebrations for Buddhists across the world.  Vesak offers Buddhists an opportunity to reflect on the life and teachings of the Buddha and also highlights the potential for inner peace and happiness that lies within us all as well as a day for Buddhists to reaffirm their commitment to living a moral and compassionate lifestyle.  As Eric reminds me, it is not how he died but it is a day to reflect on how he lived and the magnitude of his teachings, and that is the reason we celebrate.

“The significance of Vesak lies with the Buddha and his universal peace message to mankind.”
~Venerable Mahinda

Most Buddhist countries declare this day a Buddhist Holiday and a day to remember the significant events in Buddha’s life.  Many Buddhists acknowledge this event by visiting the Vihara, or Buddhist Monistary.  This could also simply mean a secluded place in which to walk, reflect and meditate if there is no Monistary close to visit.  During this visit to the Vihara, Buddhists would be dressed in white and bring flowers and incense or candles to pay respect to the Buddha.  These symbolic offerings are to be a reminder that just as the beautiful flowers wither and die and the candles soon burn out, so too is life subject to decay and destruction.  Many devout Buddhists would spend the day in the Vihara, from morning to night, taking a retreat from their daily schedule, meditating, chanting and participating in Dharma Talk or teachings of the Buddha.  In many Buddhist countries selling and consuming of meat and alcohol is prohibited during the week of Vesak and the government will even closes down all liquor shops and slaughter houses.   Birds, insects and animals are released by the thousands in a symbolic act of liberation, giving freedom to those in captivity and tortured against their will.  This is considered an act of generosity, symbolic of generating good karma. The act also symbolizes the Buddha’s compassion for all things.  While many sects of Buddhism typically calls for a vegetarian diet, there are also other sects which do not require this.  During this time Buddhists who are not vegetarian refrain from eating meat. Buddhists make a special effort to refrain from killing of any kind and are encouraged to eat only vegetarian food for the day.

To celebrate this day and the life and teachings of the Great Buddha, it is not necessary to go to a temple and participate in rituals if you can’t, don’t have access or would rather not.  Many would prefer a day or even a moment of solitary reflection.  It is not about the specifics in how one celebrates this day or the rituals performed, it is the simple act of recognizing  and expressing gratitude to the Buddha for the teachings he has given.  It is really all about personal preference and what is best for you as an individual.  Maybe some would prefer a simple ceremony in front of a small shrine at home, or maybe a brief reflection on the qualities and teachings of the Buddha along with meditation.

I have always admired and appreciated the teachings of Buddhism.  However, it wasn’t until I met Eric that I personally started to participate in any rituals or celebrations.  Prior to knowing him, I would only partake in my  only my solitary teachings/readings and meditations and a occasional visit to Kalpa Bhadra Kadampa Buddhist Center in Wichita, KS where I first met my Buddhist Nun Kelsang Namdrol.    Imagine my delight when I met Eric and found out he is Buddhist.  I was able to introduce him to the Buddhist center I loved so much and it turned into an experience we could share together, rather than something I did in solitary on my own.  Eric and I begun to discuss some of our Buddhist ideals and rituals and he taught me about the different days of celebrations as well as sharing his own personal rituals and ways to celebrate and give respect to the teachings with me.  He is the one who taught me about Buddha Day and all other Buddhist holidays and from there i researched to find out more.

For Eric, he will acknowledge and pay respect to this tradition and lifestyle by refraining from eating meat for the whole month of the holiday, taking it a step further than just abstaining for the day before, the day of and the day after.  On Buddha Day, we will have a special meditation in front of our shrine and read some of Buddha’s teachings together from our book.  However, with our hectic schedules we will not actually have our traditional ritualistic celebration until Sunday.  This is carried over from Eric’s rituals prior to knowing me.  I am honored to have him share these rituals with me and let me be a part of it so we can celebrate together.  We will have our Buddha Day feast consisting of Sushi (vegetarian sushi for me) and miso soup and green tea.  Then we will have our ceremony of reading from our Buddhism books together and meditating in front of our shrine.   I am so thankful, grateful and appreciative that Eric has shared his religion, tradition and rituals with me and we have incorporated this as part of our lifestyle together.

Even if you are not Buddhist or have never studied any of Buddha’s teachings, everyone can learn a lot from the Great and Wise Buddha.  In today’s society we are killing each other, we are killing our planet in which we live.  In my opinion, there is a huge lack of compassion and consideration in everyday human life.    What can we learn from Buddha?  That non-violent living is the way to go.  That we need more peace, love and compassion to create the positive energy our society is lacking, and to help promote good Karma throughout our lives.  We need to expel hatred, greed and stupidity from our lifestyles.

“He who lives only for pleasures, and whose soul is not in harmony, who considers not the food he eats, is idle, and has not the power of virtue — such a man is moved by mara (evil one), is moved by selfish temptations, even as a weak tree is shaken by the wind.”  Buddha