Bodhi Day

by Bob Schwartz

“Bodhi literally means ‘awakening’, but is commonly translated as ‘enlightenment’. It denotes the awakening to supreme knowledge, as experienced by the Buddha as he sat under the Bodhi Tree at the age of 35.”
Buddhist Translation Society

Today is Bodhi Day, marking the enlightenment of the Buddha. It is not merely a reminder of something that happened. It is an inspiration for what can happen. Difficult, not necessarily achievable, but possible. Or maybe not only achievable but actual.

Millions of words have been spoken by, attributed to or written about the Buddha.

Here are a few.


If the mad mind stops, its very stopping is bodhi.
Śūraṅgama Sutra, Buddhist Text Translation Society


It is said that soon after his enlightenment the Buddha passed a man on the road who was struck by the Buddha’s extraordinary radiance and peaceful presence. The man stopped and asked, “My friend, what are you? Are you a celestial being or a god?”

“No,” said the Buddha.

“Well, then, are you some kind of magician or wizard?” Again the Buddha answered, “No.”

“Are you a man?”

“No.”

“Well, my friend, then what are you?” The Buddha replied, “I am awake.”

Teachings of the Buddha, Jack Kornfeld


The morning of the Buddha’s enlightenment at the foot of the bodhi tree, he was so surprised. He had been meditating for the whole night. In the early morning, at the moment when he saw the morning star, he declared, “How strange! Everyone has the capacity to be awake, to understand, and to love. Yet they continue to drift and sink on the ocean of suffering, life after life.”
Sutra on the Middle Way, Thich Nhat Hanh


The back of your hand is affliction, and the palm of your hand is bodhi. Realizing bodhi is just like flipping your hand from back to palm. When you turn affliction around, it’s bodhi. Afflictions are the same as bodhi. Birth and death are the same as nirvana. If you understand, then afflictions are bodhi. If you don’t understand, then bodhi is affliction. Bodhi isn’t outside of afflictions, and there are no afflictions outside the scope of enlightenment. And so I very often cite the analogy of water and ice. If you pour a bowl of water over a person’s body, even if you use a lot of force, you still won’t hurt the person. However, if the bowl of water has turned into ice and you hit the person in the head with it, the person may very well die. Bodhi is like the water; afflictions are like the ice. If you melt ice, it becomes water; when you freeze water, it becomes ice.
Flower Adornment Sutra, Buddhist Text Translation Society