I had a lot of fun with my daughter last night before Bodhi Day. I explained to her that the Buddha used to be a prince (she likes Disney princesses and princes) but he became a special teacher. I had brought home a nice chocolate-chip cookie from Caffe Ladro here in Seattle, and we spent some time in the kitchen cutting it up. She got part of the cookie, and the rest we gave to the Buddha. She also wanted to give him mugicha, or Japanese barley tea, so we offered that as well.
She rang the small bell and said to the Buddha statue, “now be a good teacher. Don’t forget what you have to teach.” It was very cute.
We then bowed to the Buddha and I said in Japanese, namo shaka nyorai (南無釈迦如来, “Hail to Shakyamuni Buddha) and she imitated me and repeated the words pretty good.
Over night I ate the cookie, and left a note from the Buddha saying “thank you”. My grandmother used to do the same for me during Christmas by writing letters form “Santa” (we do this for Christmas too). Later on, we gave her a small gift of a toy dog which she could decorate. She decided to name it “nana” for some reason (she makes up silly names often).
As for me, I had every intention of trying to follow the Eight Precepts, but after getting little sleep the night before I simply had no energy, and was in a rotten mood all morning. So, I simply tried to at least avoid meat that day and succeeded there, as well as try to be a little more helpful around the house. The experience reminds me that the best-laid plans don’t always work. I wanted to do something memorable to commemorate the Buddha’s Enlightenment, but accomplished almost nothing.
But on the subject of practice, I am reminded of an old Japanese Buddhist proverb that Lafcadio Hearn listed in his writings: 仏になるも沙弥をへる (Hotoké ni naru mo shami wo heru) – Even to become a Buddha one must first become a novice.
As a novice myself, I am still learning the basics of Buddhism and the Buddhist lifestyle, even amidst my continued follies. I can’t get too upset about it, I can only reflect, learn from it and try another day. Buddhism is as much about experience and self-reflection as it is overt practice.