Friday, February 15, 2008

Parinirvana Day

Today, February 15th, FWBO Centres across the world will be observing Parinirvana Day, the anniversary of the Buddha’s entry into final ‘Parinirvana’.

FWBO News is pleased to reproduce some excerpts from ‘Between Twin Sala Trees’, a talk given by Sangharakshita in 1983, in which he outlines the significance of the day and suggests some ways in which it might be observed.

Sangharakshita says –

“The first of my suggestions is that, if at all possible, we should observe the Parinirvana Day as a whole day’s celebration. We should read the Mahaparinibbana Sutta and chant the Vajrasattva mantra. The Mahaparinibbana Sutta is part of the Pali Canon, the sixteenth sutta of the Digha-Nikaya, and it gives an account of the last few months of the Buddha’s life, and especially it gives an account of the last day, or rather, the last night of the Buddha’s earthly existence.

“Perhaps it’s not necessary in the course of our celebration of Parinirvana Day to read through the whole of the Mahaparinibbana Sutta. We can perhaps make a selection and read only those parts, only those sections which have a direct bearing on the Parinirvana itself or on the events leading up to the Parinirvana itself.

“The Mahaparinibbana Sutta could be read aloud in the shrine room, perhaps people could take it in turns to read, perhaps Order Members could take it in turns to read. And of course one must remember to read slowly, by which I don’t mean very, very slowly - I simply mean don’t rush it. And mindfully, paying attention to what one is reading and to the meaning of what one is reading, and also loudly, and clearly, and distinctly, so that everybody can hear you.

“The second of my suggestions for observing Parinirvana Day is that in the evening, during the performance of the Sevenfold Puja, we should make our observance of the Parinirvana Day also an occasion for remembering other deceased persons - not just the Buddha’s Parinirvana all those centuries ago, but also other deceased persons, especially Order Members, Mitras and Friends, who’ve died in the course of the previous year or so. We can place, perhaps, their photographs on the shrine, below images or pictures of Buddhas, Bodhisattvas and gurus.

“And their full names, and the dates of their death should be read out either during or before the Sevenfold Puja. We can not only remember, not only commemorate Order Members, Mitras and Friends, in this way, but also the friends and relations of such if anybody wants to bring along the photograph or the name of anybody, near and dear to him or her, who has died, especially in the course of the last year. All should be remembered, on that occasion with metta”.

Sangharakshita goes on to highlight some of the more significant episodes in the Mahaparinibbana Sutta: the Episode of the Mirror of the Dhamma; the Episode, or Teaching, of Subjective and Objective Refuges; the Episode of the Untimely Flowers; and the Episode of the Last Disciple. There are also some very interesting reflections on the different characteristics and ‘moods’ of the Buddhist Holy Places: Bodh Gaya, Kusinagar, Lumbini, and Sarnath.

‘Between Twin Sala Trees’ is available on FreeBuddhistAudio as either audio or text.

FWBO News would be very pleased to hear from readers around the world how they chose to mark this anniversary, either individually or in company of others at Buddhist centres. Simply click the ‘Comment’ link below and send us your comments.

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