Buddhist Holidays During the year we observe a few traditional Japanese Buddhist holidays. The ceremonies that are suffered at these celebrations allow us to participate in giving thanks and showing our respect to those who came before us, as well as those who are with us. Celebrating as a community transcends once again the limitation of the self centered life that has become the “normal” way of being.
New Year Gantan-e (元旦会) The beginning I’d the New Year allows us to welcome a new outlook and to manifest openness to what lies ahead of us. From the Zen perspective each day is such a day of welcoming the new, each moment is welcomed and embraced. This ceremony and acknowledgment of the New Year manifests that understanding in a ceremony and sets the tone for continuous harmony in the sangha.
Buddha’s Passing Nehan-e (涅槃会) We commemorate the passing of Buddha Shakyamuni, Siddartha Gautama, to honor the founder of Buddhism, but also to remind ourselves of the fleeting nature of life, insight, or even enlightenment. In mid-February we celebrate Nehan-e, Buddha’s entering “extinction”, therefore also called Nirvana Day.
Buddha’s Birthday Hanamatsuri (花祭り) April 8 is the traditional date to celebrate the birth of the historical Buddha. In Japan it is celebrated with many flowers, flower petals, and is generally a family celebration. The Baby Buddha statue stands in a bowl of sweet tea and everyone is invited to come forward and bathe the little Buddha. This is a celebration of life, just as Spring comes forth and nature returns to expand and flower.
Bodhidharma Day Daruma-ki (達磨忌) This holiday celebrates the life of the founder of the Zen tradition in China, Bodhidharma, and it falls in early October. Bodhidharma is known for his fierce look, large eyes, and beard.
Enlightenment Day Jōdō-e (成道会) Around December 8 we celebrate the enlightenment of the historical Buddha. Traditionally the monastic Zen community holds the most strict retreat before the Enlightenment day, Rōhatsu.