January 12, 2009

An open challenge to all Buddhists: how will you spend Saga Dawa Duchen/Vesak/Visakha Puja/the Buddha’s birthday?

After reading Catherine Fordham’s article about being a Buddhist on Christmas, it really started me thinking.  Having grown up Episcopalian and converted to Buddhism three years ago, I’ve often found myself between the two worlds: I celebrate Christmas with my family, but it’s not quite the same for me as it used to be.  While there are times when it would be nice to have some time off from work in honor of my faith, that’s not the reality, and quite frankly, nor is it the point.  In so many ways, I’m rather glad that Wall Street hasn’t glommed onto Buddhism the way it has Christianity and made the various holidays into over-commercialized and often meaningless demonstrations of blatant over consumerism.  However, I have found myself thinking about the various Buddhist holidays and how they are celebrated, and just because I might have to take a day off on my own doesn’t mean that I can’t take the time to make those observations; in fact, maybe it means more because I do.  This year, in addition to any other observations in which I might take part, I plan to spend a good bit of time in service to others as a means to celebrate and pay respect to the Buddha.  Since my particular path of study is Tibetan, that means on June 7 (Saga Dawa Duchen: the day of observation/celebration of the birth, enlightenment, and death of the Buddha), I will find myself engaged in actions to benefit others.  Where exactly, I’m not sure yet, but at this point I’m leaning towards either SAME Cafe in Denver or the Humane Society of Boulder Valley.  As it turns out, June 7 falls on a Sunday, so I won’t need to take a day off, but should it fall on a work day in 2010, I will take that day off.  So there is my challenge.  Regardless of when one celebrates and honors the birth, death, and enlightenment of the Buddha, spend it engaged in a day of reflection and service to others.  It doesn’t matter what you do or where you do it, just make the most of this precious human life and offer it to others, just for a day.  What will you do?

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