Siddhartha Gautama (The Buddha): “Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. But after observation and analysis, when you find anything that agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.”
This week we finished the Jewish tradition of observing Passover and for the Christians Easter and for the Muslims they support them both in some respects. Within those religions there are traditions and prayers and ceremonies that are used this time each year. The Jewish tradition of not eating leavened bread is one most people have heard of and everyone has seen the shelves filled with matzo in your grocery stores.
Thus the Buddha admonishes us not to celebrate our traditions because our parents did or our grandparents did but because there is value in doing so. The traditions allow us to take time out of our daily chores and focus our thoughts and energy on something that will help us grow and be a better person. They give us an opportunity to look at our behaviors and examine their purpose and outcomes and how they affect our lives, our families, and our communities.
They give us the opportunity to look at our spiritual lives and how we practice our beliefs on a daily basis. They help us examine our ethics and morals, and our behaviors. As the Buddha said, they give us the opportunity for “observation and analysis.” At the Southern Palm Zen Group we celebrate one thing each year Rohatsu “the day on which according to tradition Shakyamuni Buddha sitting in meditation under the Bodhi-tree at the first glimpse of the morning star attained enlightenment.” Our celebration is sitting (meditating) through the night, if you can do it, if not, sitting as long as you are able.
Socrates said, “An unexamined life is not worth living.”
Dr. Simon Longstaff, executive director of the St James Ethics Centre in Sydney, Australia, wrote in the New Philosopher (June 2, 2013),
“I would suggest that one can make sense of Socrates’ claim if it is understood to mean something like – those who do not examine their lives (make conscious ethical decisions) fail to live a life that allows them to experience being fully human. Thus the allure of those who offer to provide clear answers, simple directions, precise instructions (whatever) so that you may set aside examination and merely comply, or unthinkingly follow custom and practice – perhaps living a conventionally moral life rather than an examined ethical life. One can easily imagine how pleasant an unexamined life might be. ”
What does “being fully human” mean to you? When was the last time you sat down and really examined your life? What did you find? Finally, what did you actually do with what you discovered?
Keep me posted!
 The Shambhala Dictionary of Buddhism and Zen, (1991) Shambhala Dragon Editions: Boston