December 8: Bodhi Day
This anniversary of the Buddha's enlightenment is celebrated by Buddhists in Japan, Nepal and northern India
Outline script for assembly leader
On this day, those who follow the teachings of an Indian prince who became known as the Buddha wish each other, "Budu saranai!" It means "May the peace of the Buddha be yours".
This is because, on this day, Buddhists remember how the prince found peace by sitting under a kind of fig tree, known since then as a bo or bodhi tree, in a north-east Indian town called Bodh Gaya.
Prince Siddhartha had grown up in a beautiful palace. He was given everything he wanted: cooling drinks, delicious food and servants to do all he wished.
Even so, he was restless. As the Prince said, "This palace is a paradise, but I wish I could make a journey outside its walls, to see what the world is really like." Which is what he did. On that journey, he was so saddened by the suffering and poverty that he saw that he gave up all his wealth and, for the next five years, wandered the countryside, living as a hermit.
He ate only mouthfuls of pea soup and handfuls of grain or rice. Not surprisingly, he became very thin.
One day, in his search for the meaning of life, he came to a fig tree. "I shall sit beneath this tree and though my flesh may waste away and my life-blood dry, I shall not stir until I have found the truth," he said.
Eventually, the "Truth" was revealed to him - and he gained peace of mind.
He explained it like this: "When we put aside selfish desires and stop being greedy, we find happiness and freedom. We must think how we can be of use to the world, do a job which isn't harmful to others, and take care of everybody and everything you meet."
A bodhi tree is planted near every Buddhist monastery. Discuss the symbolism of planting a tree - or what constitutes a "harmless" job.
* Practise simple meditation techniques: sit comfortably and see how long you can concentrate on one thing only without the mind wandering.
* The Friends of the Western Buddhist Order website offers information about Buddhism and links to centres around the country: www.fwbo.orgcontactsUK-all.html
* Nottingham Buddhist Centre provides support for those teaching Buddhism.
Tel: 0115 956 1008