Next month, we observe Nirvana Day, the day the Buddha passed away.
The historical Buddha, usually called Shakyamuni Buddha (referring to his family’s clan) or Gautama Buddha (referring to his family name), died at age 80 in Kushinagara, located in present day Uttar Pradesh in India.
Buddhist tradition describes the Buddha’s passing as his parinirvana—“pari” meaning “complete” and “nirvana” meaning “extinction” or “peace.” Therefore we commemorate this event as “Nirvana Day” on February 15.
To read more about the Buddha’s parinirvana and thoughts about Nirvana Day, please read the article Light to a World of Awakening by Hawaii Bishop Kenjun Kawawata.
In Jodo Shinshu Buddhism, Shakyamuni Buddha is revered as a great teacher of Buddha dharma—universal truths and teachings that help us understand life. However, similar to other Mahayana Buddhist traditions, Jodo Shinshu focuses more on what the Buddha taught and the great truths he illuminated. These teachings are embodied and symbolized by Amida Buddha, which is the main figure in Jodo Shinshu temples.
At our Higashi Honganji temples in the United States, Nirvana Day services are held on or close to February 15. If you’d like to attend a Nirvana Day service, please check the calendar or contact your local temple.