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Local Buddhists invite all to Bodhi Day celebration

Karuna Buddhist Sangha, a local group of Buddhist practitioners, is inviting anyone who is interested to come to their Bodhi Day celebration, set for Dec. 12. Shown is the altar at Karuna Buddhist Sangha's worship space located at 101 1/2 S. Main St. Photo courtesy the Rev. Shinko Rick Sloan.

As the weather gets chillier, and the days get shorter, many people around River Falls are decorating and preparing for the holidays. For a lot of people, that means Christmas.

For members of the local Karuna Buddhist Sangha, that also means Bodhi Day.

Bodhi Day is a celebration of the enlightenment, or awakening of the Buddha, according to the Rev. Shinko Rick Sloan, a zen priest and a leader of Karuna Buddhist Sangha. A sangha is a group of Buddhist practitioners.

Buddhism is a nontheistic spiritual practice based on the teachings of Gautama Buddha, also known as the Buddha. Buddhism is a 2,500-year-old major world religion.

Sloan explained Bodhi Day celebrates the day that the Buddha received enlightenment, and what became his first teachings, the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path.

Bodhi Day

According to legend, Sloan said, the Buddha was born Siddhartha Gautama, a prince.

"Either upon his birth or shortly thereafter, his father received a prophecy that he would be a great man," Sloan said. "He would either be a political king or a great religious leader."

His father, the king, wanting his son to be a great king, protected the prince and kept him inside the palace walls.

"But one day, Prince Siddhartha ... got curious and wandered outside of the palace walls to just see what the rest of the world was like," Sloan said. "And according to tradition, he saw four things on his journey."

Those were an old person, a sick person, a dead person, and a wandering ascetic, or spiritual-seeker.

"That impacted him to such an extent that he wanted to figure out what was the human condition of suffering. And he thought that the wandering ascetic, the wandering spiritual seeker, might have a clue to resolving this question of suffering. So he left the palace and he became a wandering seeker," Sloan said.

He studied under various seekers and practiced various kinds of meditation.

"But he was unsatisfied with the answers and results that he got on his journey thus far," Sloan said. "So legend has it he resolved to sit under what later came to be called the Bodhi tree, and not get up until he resolved the question of suffering."

"And after seven days of sitting, he upon seeing the morning star, he attained his awaking, his enlightenment," Sloan said.

In his first teaching, Buddha shared what he'd realized under the tree, which is known as "The Four Noble Truths" and "The Eightfold Noble Path."

The four noble truths are, "The truth of suffering, the truth of the cause of suffering, the truth of the cessation of suffering, and the truth of the path to the cessation of suffering," Sloan said.

The path to the cessation of suffering is also known as the eightfold noble path, Sloan said.

That includes: Right (or correct) view, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right concentration and right mindfulness.

Bodhi Day is one of two major holidays celebrated by all Buddhists, Sloan said.

Karuna Buddhist Sangha celebration

Bodhi Day is Jan. 24. The local celebration is set for 6:30 p.m., Tuesday, Dec. 12.

It will be split into three parts. First, a traditional food offering in zen tradition that will take about 20 minutes. After that a question and answer session will follow; Sloan will answer questions anyone present might have.

And third, will be more of a party atmosphere with a Buddha's enlightening/sangha Christmas party with refreshments.

All are invited. Sloan said after two years, the sangha has realized that many people aren't aware of them.

The group is not trying to convert anyone to Buddhism, but simply let people who are seeking a Buddhist group know that they're out there.

Sloan said another goal is to reach out to anyone who is simply interested in learning more about Buddhism.

"Analogously, when I was in high school, I had Jewish friends who invited me to their bar mitzvah, just so I could experience the bar mitzvah, experience their cultural practice as a friend," Sloan said. "So, members of the community who aren't really considering Buddhism as their religion but would nevertheless like to learn about it, and witness it, would be most welcome."

Anyone interested in attending can come to the celebration at 1011/2 S. Main St., above Crank Works Bike Shop.

For questions or more information, contact the sangha at

Gretta Stark

Gretta Stark has been a reporter for the River Falls Journal since July of 2013. She previously worked as a reporter for the New Richmond News from June 2012 to July 2013. She holds a BA in Print and Electronic Media from Wartburg College.

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