Raffles and Sugarpuff both have a bit of a crush on Buddha. Not that we are a family of practising Buddhists. We are what I instead would call a tad Buddhist-curious.
For me it comes down to an admiration of the philosophy behind Buddhism – showing compassion for other human beings and living in moderation as well as in the moment – as opposed to its more mystical elements. For my children,
there’s just something about Buddha that they find attractive and comforting. So much so that they have, by their own choice, littered their room with happy ornamental effigies of the enlightened dude. Sugarpuff has even taken to sleeping with a little smiling Buddha which she rubs until she falls asleep.
Today is Bodhi Day, the day Buddhists around the world celebrate the enlightenment of The Buddha, after his marathon meditation, and I’ve decided it’s an opportune time to share a little of Buddha’s message of inner peace and compassion for others with my children (between tantrums over sharing, of course!)
And, as Buddhism tends to absorb local elements of custom and culture wherever it travels, we are going to absorb a little of this celebration, with respect, into our own seasonal festivities.
One traditional Bodhi Day ritual we’re embracing today is the stringing of multicoloured lights about the place. The different coloured lights represent the different pathways to enlightenment and, strung together as they are, also represent how all things are united. As it can only add to the glitter of our Christmas decorations, it’s a no brainer that we should try this one. So we have strung some lights around the kid’s bedroom which Raffles will switch on tonight and each night for the next thirty days – a task he is solely responsible for. It’s a project with glitz and sparkle so my bedazzled little guy loves the idea. It’s also helping him with his numbers as he counts backwards from thirty.
Buddhists are also known to set up a decorated Bodhi Tree to symbolise the tree under which the Buddha sat. Now, as we don’t have a ficus laying about, (which is for the best given my penchant for killing house plants) there’ll be no rocking around the Bodhi tree for us. Instead we’re using a little poetic licence and have chosen instead to decorate our nice plastic Christmas tree.
Raffles has come up with the ingenious idea of hanging a little Buddha from the bottom to represent Buddha, “Under the tree where he found his lights, mama!”
On Bodhi Day, it is also traditional to eat a dish of milk rice to represent the first meal that Sujata, a beautiful girl with a thousand cows, offered to The Buddha after his days of fasting and meditation.
As a family who place the wellbeing of their taste buds above all things, and given I don’t have any cows at all, I’ve decided to create an homage to the original. We love Thai-style Black Sticky Rice but, as we can’t get the black stuff at short notice, we’ll recreate a ‘pale imitation’ of the dish using white sticky rice bathed in creamy coconut milk. And it proves to be a bowl of salty sweet deliciousness.
Happy Bodhi Day.
Sweet Sticky Rice
250 sticky rice (from Asian grocery stores)
1/4 cup palm sugar (crushed into powder)
1 pandan leaf
¼ teaspoon salt
270 ml coconut milk
Fresh fruit to serve (banana or mango works well)
- Soak the rice in cold water for an hour then rinse and place in saucepan with pandan leaf.
- Cover with water and simmer until all the water is absorbed and the rice is swollen and sticky.
- If the rice is still too hard, add 1 cup more water and cook until absorbed.
- Once the rice has become sticky but firm in texture remove pandan leaf and remove rice from heat.
- In a bowl, mix two-thirds of the coconut milk with salt and sugar until dissolved.
- Add the rice and mix together then cover and leave for about 20 mins.
- Once milk mixture has been absorbed, serve warm in bowls with a drizzle of the remaining coconut milk and fresh fruit.