Bodhi Day is celebrated in Japan on December 8 every year. It generally falls on the eighth day of the 12th month of the lunisolar calendar. In Japan, the day is known as Rohatsu and was moved to its current date when Emperor Meiji began the westernization of Japan and introduced the Gregorian calendar. It is a spiritually invigorating day that is beneficial to many.
History of Bodhi Day
Bodhi Day is observed to mark the moment that took place 2,500 years ago when Siddhartha Gautama achieved enlightenment and became the Buddha or ‘awakened one’. The story goes that, rejecting the luxurious lifestyle of a prince, Siddharta left the comforts of the palace at the age of 29 and went on a journey of deep introspection to seek meaning in life.
He meditated in Bodh Gaya, a town in northeastern India, under a Peepal tree (a species of Banyan fig), now famously known as the Bodhi Tree, and resolved to continue meditating until he achieved ‘bodhi’ (‘enlightenment’). He attained bodhi at the age of 35, after 49 days of continuous meditation. He was now able to see how everyone and everything was connected, and therefore reached a state of enlightenment that would lead him to create the Four Noble Truths: Dukkha (unsatisfactoriness), Samudaya (arising), Nirodha (cessation), and Magga (path) in which the Eightfold Path is set out.
Buddhists commemorate this day by meditating, studying the ‘dharma’ (‘universal truth or law’), chanting sutras (Buddhist texts), and performing kind acts towards other beings. Some people mark the day in a more traditional sense by cooking a meal of tea and cakes. Bodhi tree plantings are held throughout the month and are usually accompanied by tea ceremonies, while incense and multi-colored lights are displayed during the following month in the capital city of Tokyo and in towns and villages across the country.
However, Bodhi Day is not an official holiday in Japan — only Buddhists, who make up about 34% of the country’s population, observe the day.
Bodhi Day timeline
Siddhartha Gautama spends time introspecting and meditating after which he attains a state of enlightenment.
Chinese traveler Xuanzang writes of the Bodhi Tree in detail.
After the original Bodhi tree, which had started decaying, is destroyed in a storm, British archaeologist Alexander Cunningham plants a new one.
As a gesture of world peace, the Indian government honors Nihon-Ji with a sapling from the Bodhi Tree.
Bodhi Day FAQs
How do you wish someone for Bodhi Day?
While there is no traditional greeting associated with Bodhi Day, it is appropriate to wish a friend or colleague who may be celebrating by saying “Happy Bodhi Day” or “Blessed Bodhi Day”
What is nirvana according to Buddha?
Nirvana, the ultimate state to which all Buddhists aspire, is the cessation of desire and hence the end of suffering.
How long do Bodhi trees live?
Bodhi trees live long, and one Indian specimen is said to be over 3,000 years old. The trees can grow up to 100 feet in height with a crown up to 100 feet across.
How To Observe Bodhi Day
Make some decorations
Decorate the house with pictures or little statues of the Buddha under a fig tree to remember the day of his awakening. You can also light candles and other lights to symbolize enlightenment.
Join the prayers
Buddhists gather and stay in prayer during the night. Being a part of these prayers will ensure that you have a spiritually renewing time.
Share the message of enlightenment
This is a perfect day to tell others about the lessons of Bodhi. Who knows how many you’ll be helping to become better versions of themselves.
5 Facts About The Bodhi Tree That Will Amaze You
It is ancient
It is a very old sacred fig tree belonging to the family Ficus religiosa.
It can grow anywhere
It originated from Bodh Gaya and now grows in some other parts of the world too.
It is religiously symbolic
In religious iconography, its leaves are almost always represented as being heart-shaped.
Nourished by constant water
It grows close to the banks of the Falgu River in Gaya, India
It is a pilgrimage site
Its descendant, the Mahabodhi Tree is a frequent destination for pilgrims and is the most important of the four main Buddhist pilgrimage sites.
Why Bodhi Day Is Important
It helps us remember vital lessons
Lessons from Bodhi Day are simply priceless — it teaches us to find meaning in our lives and to live out the best parts of ourselves.
It deepens us spiritually
Everyone needs spiritual awakening and deepening to be able to live meaningful and purposeful lives. This day offers a platform to get a great deal of that deepening.
It unites us for the common good
One of the highlights of Bodhi Day is performing kind acts for other beings. This unites diverse people to do good things together.
Bodhi Day dates