The three most important events in the life of Shakyamuni Buddha were his birth, his enlightenment and his death. Buddhists of the Theravada tradition, primarily South Asian, commemorate all three events on the same day in late spring. Northern Asian Buddhists, of the Mahayana tradition, have three specific dates. December 8th is the celebration of the Buddha’s enlightenment.

From birth, until the age of twenty-nine, Gautama Shakyamuni lived the pampered life of a prince. Shielded from all worldly cares, contentment should have been his. Yet, certain events in his life drove him to seek the source of inner happiness. Leaving behind his castle and family, he began his quest.

For six years, Gautama studied under various teachers. He mastered all the disciplines, yet still had not attained what he sought. The final practice was one of severe deprivation. This practice brought Gautama to the verge of death. The story of what occurred next varies; however, the result is the same.

Emaciated, Gautama collapsed next to a river. A young woman found him there and offered him a bowl of rice milk. Breaking his fast, Gautama accepted her offering. Having regained some of his strength, he vowed to sit in meditation under a pipal tree until he either found his answer or perished. For six days and nights, he meditated. Visions of demons and temptations assailed him. “Leave this life of seeking, return to your world of pleasure,” they cried. Knowing this was not the path of true happiness, he resisted their assaults. Finally, on the morning of the seventh day, as the sun rose, his awakening occurred. Legend says that at this moment he cried,”Avidya.” This translates as “Oh, darkness.” He had awakened to the cause of his suffering, his ignorance, his darkness within. This is the essence of Buddhism; we must look within to find our liberation.

Outside observers often think Buddhism is a religion of negativity. All life has suffering; we are the cause of our suffering; we must lose ourselves to end our suffering. Is this negativity; or is it reality? Perhaps, we cannot see this truth because of our culture of self-adoration.

The Buddhadharma tells us we all have Buddha nature, the potential to become an awakened being. Other religions teach that one can attain salvation and share in the glory of God. None says that the path to these goals is thru pride and ego. We are like a muddy pond. Desire, greed and ignorance are the dirt in the water. Our ego is the stick that continually stirs this pond keeping it muddy. When we remove the stick, our ego, the dirt will settle. Free from impurities, the clear water glistens. Recognize the dirt in your pond. Remove the stick with which it is stirred.

For more information about Buddhism, and meditation in Kenosha, contact me at BASEWI@aol.com

To all my readers of other faiths, may this season of celebration bring you great joy and happiness. With the new year comes new hope.