Today our Mahayana Buddhist friends in Tibet, Nepal, India, China, and Japan are observing Parinirvana Day (commonly known as Nirvana Day)—the day the Buddha achieved Parinirvana, or complete Nirvana, through physical death.
Nirvana Day doesn’t celebrate the Buddha’s death. It celebrates his entry to Nirvana, breaking the cycle of suffering and rebirth and reaching the highest happiness. In Buddhism, death is simply a change, and change should be accepted, not mourned.
Celebrations vary throughout the world, but Nirvana Day can be both a meditative and a social occasion. Within Buddhist monasteries, Nirvana Day is a day to welcome the community in. Families and children visit their local monastery and bring offerings of food, household items, money and other gifts to the monks.
At home, Buddhists read passages from the Nirvana Sutra, which describe the last days of the Buddha’s life on earth. They reflect upon their own lives and contemplate their own eventual deaths, and remember loved ones who have recently died. The goal of these meditations is to make peace with the inevitability of death and change. Instead of grieving over death, we should focus on living our lives to the fullest. As the Buddha taught, “Even death is not to be feared by one who has lived wisely.”
We are joining with our friends around the world by focusing our daily meditations on the positive aspects of change and by remembering loved ones we have lost in this past year. Learn more about the life and teachings of the Buddha here.
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