Monday, December 08, 2008

Bodhi Day Blues

Today is Bodhi Day, December 8, the date of the Buddha's enlightenment. On this day, after sitting in meditation for an extended period and upon seeing the morning star, the Buddha was suddenly enlightened and spoke the words, "How marvelous! I and all sentient beings on earth, together, realize enlightenment."

At the Zen Center tonight, we talked about the meanings of these words - enlightenment was "realized," it was not something acquired or achieved, it was not conferred from some outside source, it was not something that the Buddha, that all of us, did not already possess. No separation of self and others - from the Buddha's newly enlightened point of view, he alone did not attain enlightenment - since he truly was experiencing self and others as one, if he was enlightened, so was every other sentient being. How could it be otherwise?

Today is also the start of Eid ul-Adha, the Islamic commemoration of Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son. It is also Afflux, the second Discordian holiday in the season of The Aftermath.

Finally, today is also the 28th anniversary of the killing of John Lennon. I remember it well - it's one of those moments, like "Where were you when you heard about Kennedy's assassination?" (boarding a schoolbus). I was teaching physical and earth science at Salem High School at that time, and was unwinding for the evening in my Brookline apartment, watching "Monday Night Football," when Howard Cosell announced, "This, we have to say it, remember this is just a football game, no matter who wins or loses. An unspeakable tragedy, confirmed to us by ABC News in New York City: John Lennon, outside of his apartment building on the West Side of New York City, the most famous, perhaps, of all The Beatles, shot twice in the back, rushed to the Roosevelt Hospital, dead on arrival." (Admission: I didn't recall Cosell's exact words but after I found them on Wikipedia, they do sound as I remember.)

There was something cold about how Cosell shortwired his announcement to lead so directly to the "dead on arrival" without warning, without letting us first get our minds around the "shot" part and the "hospital" part, that I found offensive. I knew that I would remember this moment for the rest of my life, and thought, "Shit. Now I'm going to have to live my whole life with a Howard Cosell memory." Younger readers who've never had to endure a Cosell broadcast may not understand, but I'm sure other readers will.

Mary Ellen was off in the kitchen and not in the room with me at that moment, and I had to call her in to acknowledge the tragedy.

The next day, Salem High, I didn't know how to explain it to my students.

No comments: