Asian Buddhist traditions have a diversity of festivals that celebrate different aspects of Buddhism. This diversity developed within different nations and cultural settings as Buddhism became established. Buddhist Action Day is a Buddhist festival for Britain. It is intended to be a regular annual event taking place on the 3rd July.
The name ‘Buddhist Action Day’ was chosen from a range of options by representatives from some well-known Buddhist organisations. Alternatives such as Dhamma Action Day were rejected because ‘Dhamma’ is not a specifically Buddhist term, or because they were too closely linked with a particular Buddhist tradition. The intention for Buddhist Action Day was that it was inclusive of anyone who felt an association with the path established by the Buddha. This also includes more secular movements such as ‘mindfulness’ groups whose members may wish to feel part of a burgeoning community who regard ‘awakening’ as of great value.
‘Action’ was included in the name to counter a common stereotype of Buddhists as being un-involved (detached?) and on the side-lines of life as well as emphasising what brings everyone (including Buddhists) together – right or skilful action. Buddhist Action Day is intended as a day when all well-intentioned folk can meet together and get involved in voluntary action for the good of local communities. This might be focused on the environment or recycling - as in this years 'earthkind' Buddhist Action Day - or on helping a particular part of society such as the elderly and infirm, or some other form of social action. We also intend that the day should be enjoyable and include a meal and be open to those from all faiths or none.
Many Buddhist organisations already undertake a range of out-reach and social action projects and Buddhist Action Day could be a way for you to publicise and showcase the good work that you are already doing.
The closest association between a traditional Buddhist festival and Buddhist Action Day is Asalha Puja Day, also known as Dhamma Day, which celebrates the Buddha’s commencement of his teaching - a very appropriate inspiration for Buddhist action.
Some will have noticed that the acronym of Buddhist Action Day is ‘BAD’ and perhaps felt a little ‘bad’ about this. Having selected Buddhist Action Day as the best name and noticed the BAD acronym, we decided that this was in fact a benefit – not only does it make the name easily memorable and probably quite appealing to some parts of the community, but it gives us the opportunity to turn BAD into good.
We hope that BAD becomes an exciting annual festival driven by enthusiastic individuals that helps to make clear that those interested in the path to awakening are also interested in their broader responsibilities and their interdependence with local communities, and in alleviating common forms of suffering.
For inspiration and to see where Buddhist Action Day could go, have a look at the Mitzvah Day site. Mitzvah Day was set up some five years ago and has become very popular.
The Network of Engaged Buddhists - the NEB - is working alongside the NBO in supporting Buddhist Action Day. Their web site has a growing library of useful material here.