Parinirvana Day is a Buddhist holiday which commemorates the death of Buddha and is celebrated on February 15th. This day – also known as Nirvana Day – is celebrated because it is believed that Buddha’s death should be celebrated because at his death he had reached Enlightenment and had finally reached the stage of Nirvana. Many of the celebrations and festivals observed on this day mark the end of the cycle of death and rebirth. While most people celebrate this holiday on the 15th, some people begin celebrating is on the 8th of February.
The Life of Buddha
Buddha, also known as Siddhartha Gautama, was a prince which was born in Nepal during the 6th century B.C. While there are many different versions of his story and how he became the “Enlightened One,” the most common is that it was after he shed all of his worldly possessions and meditated underneath a tree. It was during this meditation that all of the answers that he was seeking became clear to him and he achieved full awareness. This is when he became Buddha.
Siddhartha Gautama was born to the Shakya clan in Lumbini; His father was the king of this tribe and his mother died a week after she gave birth to him. However, the family’s holy many prophesized that many great things would come to the young prince during his lifetime. It was predicted that he would either become a great military leader or a great spiritual leader. Upon hearing this news, his father determined that he should be protected from the misery and evil of the outside world, so he had a palace built just for Siddhartha. In that way, he could shelter him from the burden of human suffering.
At the age of 16, he married, but he continued to live a life of seclusion until he was about 29 years old. This is when he decided to live an ascetic life and began studying with various religious leaders of the time. Following this practice, he endured fasting and self-inflicted pain in his search for the truth he was seeking. No matter how hard he tried though, he just couldn’t find the answers to his questions. However, he did become the spiritual leader to a group of 5 ascetics who decided to become his followers.
Eventually, he ran into a young girl who generously offered him her bowl of rice. It was at this moment that he realized that the ascetic life wasn’t providing him with the answers he sought, so he decided to try a new path he named the Middle Way. He ate the rice, drank some water and took a bath in the river. After his 5 ascetic followers so him partaking in these pleasures, they decided that he had abandoned the ascetic lifestyle and was now pursuing the path towards the “pleasures of the flesh.”
Later that night, he sat under a Bodhi tree and meditated until sunrise. He would then remain under this tree for the next few days as he sought the answers to his questions, cleared his mind and meditated. It was during this time that he saw the entirety of his life – as well as all his former lives – unfold in his mind before him. He was becoming Buddha. Of course, his enlightenment wasn’t as easy. During this time, he was approached by a demon named Mara who wanted to assume the role of Buddha for himself who used visions of beautiful women to try to lure him away from his position of Buddha. This didn’t work, however, and Buddha was able to successfully resist Mara and all his temptations. It was then that he was able to see the entire Wheel of Life, Death, and Rebirth. This is when he reached true enlightenment and fully became Buddha.
Once he had reached enlightenment, however, he was very reluctant to teach others the lessons he had learned. That’s because he wasn’t sure if he could communicate these concepts to people in a way they could understand. According to legend, it would take Brahma himself to convince him to teach his lessons to other people. And so he set out to do spread the word of what he had learned. Eventually, he happened upon the 5 ascetics who had abandoned him and preached to them his first sermon. A sermon that is now known as Setting in Motion the Wheel of Dharma. During this sermon, he explained the Four Noble Truths and the Eight-Fold Path. These concepts would then become the basis of Buddhism.
Death of Buddha
At the age of 80, Buddha uttered his final words: “All conditioned things are subject to decay. Strive for your liberation with diligence.” He also told them to keep teaching his methods so that future generations could benefit from his enlightenment. He then died and Parinirvana Day was established to celebrate his enlightenment and honor his death.
Celebrating Parinirvana Day
Parinirvana Day is celebrated by different people in different ways. Some people reserve the day for intense meditation and for reading excerpts from the Parinibanna Sutta. It is an especially important time for Buddhists to reflect on the impermanence of life and upon their inevitable death. Other people use the day to go on pilgrimages. These people head to different Buddhist shrines, also known as stupas. These include the Wat Thai Temple, The Ramabhar Stupa or the Nirvana Stupa. Festivals all over the world are also held on this day to honor the life and death of Buddha.