Genealogy and Tolerance: Happy Bodhi Day!
Yesterday, December 8th, was Bodhi Day. It is an important religious observance for Buddhists the world over. Bodhi Day is the celebration of the day Indian prince Siddhartha sat under a fig tree and achieved awakening and enlightenment and became Buddha. This day also celebrates Siddhartha’s generosity and compassion to all, which my wife says is the reason she gave me this nickname shortly after we became engaged.
For Buddhists this is a day for decorating their homes with pictures or small statues of Buddha under the fig tree. The decorations are most often filled with a variety of colors, which signify the fact there are many ways to attain enlightenment. Often small trees in homes are decorated with lights and candles are lit, which then burn for 30 days. There are also three hanging ornaments representing the Three Jewels of Buddism: Buddha, Dharma, and Shanga.
A holiday such as Bodhi Day always cause me to reflect on the need for those of us who love genealogy and family history to be especially tolerant of all people, beliefs, lifestyles, etc.
For Christians, the Advent season is here and Christmas is fast approaching. Likewise from December 16th to December 24th, those of the Jewish faith will be celebrating Hanukkah. From December 26th to Jan 1st, many African-Americans will celebrate Kwanzaa. For others there will be the Winter Solstice on December 21st.
There may well be differing prayers said at our tables and with some there may be no prayers at all.
Many of us will gather with friends and family at this time of year and as sure as God made little green apples we will find ourselves interacting with folks who have beliefs different than our own.
As genealogists it is a prime time for us each to recall all of our ancestors who may well have thought, believed, or acted differently than we might today. We strive in our work on our family histories to discover ‘the truth’. This means we are the ones who, perhaps more than any other family members, carry the burden of being tolerant of all beliefs and lifestyles when we gather. It is a wonderful time to recall and celebrate the fact that we are each unique individuals and just as I use to tell my children: “There is a reason God made chocolate, strawberry, and vanilla ice cream. If we all simply liked vanilla we would live in a very boring world.”
This does not mean you have to ‘accept’ that with which you might disagree, but it DOES mean that you must be tolerant of, and allow others to hold, beliefs different than our own. As a genealogy fan, I am well aware that almost to a person, my Bohemian (Czech) ancestors were Freethinkers. Marrying before Justices of the Peace for generations there was no church for these families, no family Bible, no saying grace, etc. But they still raised strong, loving, well mannered, and empathetic families and I am thankful for that. Different beliefs? In some areas yes, in other areas not at all.
It may not be easy nor may it be in your comfort zone, but as a genealogist I am certain you can rise to the occasion and be the most tolerant one in the room!
Onward To Our Past®