Bodhi Day is celebrated on December 8 in Japan and on the 8th day of the 12th lunar month of the Chinese calendar.
This day honors the enlightenment of Siddhartha Gautama. According to tradition, Siddhartha had recently forsaken years of extreme ascetic practices and resolved to sit under a peepal tree and simply meditate until he found the root of suffering, and how to liberate oneself from it.
In the Pali Canon, The Longer Discourse to Saccaka, the Buddha describes his Enlightenment in three stages:
- During the first watch of the night, the Buddha discovered all of his past lives in the cycle of rebirth, realizing that he had been born and reborn countless times before.
- During the second watch, the Buddha discovered the Law of Karma, and the importance of living by the Eightfold Path.
- During the third watch, the Buddha discovered the Four Noble Truths, finally reaching Nirvana.
It is agreed that the morning star rose in the early morning on the the third watch of the night, and that’s when Siddhartha found the answers he sought and became Enlightened, and experienced Nirvana. Siddhartha became a Buddha or “Awakened One”.
People celebrate this day by meditating, studing the Dharma, chanting Buddhist texts, or performing kind acts towards others. Some Buddhists celebrate with a traditional meal of tea, cake, and readings.