KENT, Ohio (TBD) -- Today is Bodhi Day, which is observed by many Buddhists to mark Siddartha Gautama's attainment of enlightenment under the Wisdom Tree in Bodh Gaya in northern India, an event that took place about 2,500 years ago. When Guatama got up to preach his first sermon, he was the Buddha, the Awakened One, and some say this day, Dec. 8,
symbolizes the beginning of one of the world's great religious faiths.
On Kent State University's ''religous/cultural" calendar, Bodhi Day is one of 25 such sectarian holidays that are listed as taking place during the public school's 2006-07 academic year. Surprisingly, Christmas --ostensibly the birthday of the founder of the Christian religion -- is not among them. Palm Sunday, Good Friday, and Easter are there. So is Erev Pesach (Passover). Wesak, which takes place on May 2, is mentioned on KSU's calendar as: "The most important of the Buddhist festivals. Wesak, or Buddha Day, celebrates the Buddha's birthday."
Social conservatives have long been suspicious that college campuses are rife with humanism and anti-religous fervor. Kent State's religious/cultural calendar shows that is not exactly true -- 25 events appear.
But why is Christmas missing? The holiday -- despite commercial trappings -- is still central to the beliefs of most Americans that Christ was divine, became man, and rose from the dead. It is at least equally significant as Wesak, and should have been mentioned on KSU's religious/cultural calendar.
Before any federal lawsuits over religious discrimination break out, and before Fox News' anchor Bill O'Reilly can mount an attack that this is proof the ''War on Christmas" exists, campus officials ought to quietly order a correction and give Christmas its due. (Another reason to act: Santa might be checking his list.)
Or maybe outgoing Gov. Bob Taft should step in and demand the change. Or maybe Ted Strickland, his successor, should speak up. Strickland was a Methodist minister and knows the importance of Christmas to his faith tradition.
About the only explanation I can think of for omitting Christmas from a ''religious/cultural" calendar is that there are legal rulings declaring it a public holiday. Those rulings, however, are based on arguments that government offices shouldn't close on the day set aside to celebrate the birth of Christ. Courts have said the Yule tradition is ingrained in western culture, and trumps any religious connotations. But that interpretation still leaves Christmas a ''cultural" event.
For those who might be wondering, here's what I learned about Bodhi Day, compliments of Faith, Religion & Theology, a textbook used at several private universities that are affiliated with religious denominations.: "When Guatama, now the Buddha, got up from under the Bodhi Tree and preached his first sermon, the wheel of the Dharma (the word used for Buddha's message) began to turn. And it has been turning and gaining speed ever since. Two centuries after Buddha's death, King Ashoka converted and was instrumental in spreading the Dharma throughout most of India and Sri Lanka. By the first century of the common era, Buddhist monks moved into China. From there, Buddha's message of liberation spread throughout most of Asia."