Parinirvana or Nirvana is a celebratory Mahayana Buddhist holiday, which falls on February 15 and is celebrated by most people practicing Buddhism. However, some people may prefer observing it on February 8 instead. It commemorates the transcendence of Buddha outside his physical body on the day he died, attaining complete Nirvana, which is the ultimate goal of Buddhism.
The celebration includes reciting excerpts from the Nirvana Sutra, recounting the final days of Buddha’s life. On this day, people often engage in meditation or visit Buddhist temples or monasteries. This is a day of reflection, contemplating one’s own life, future, and death as well as that of loved ones.
Siddhartha Gautama, known as The Buddha, was born in the sixth century B.C. in what is now modern Nepal. Born into a ruling family, the young prince Siddhartha grew up in lavish surroundings secluded from the outside world. At the age of 29, he ventured out into the world and saw suffering for the first time. He then began an ascetic life determined to “relieve universal suffering.” After six years of austere practice, when a young girl offered him rice, he realized balance was more important. “That night, Siddhartha sat under the Bodhi tree and meditated until dawn. He purified his mind of all defilements and attained enlightenment at the age of 35, thus earning the title Buddha, or Enlightened One” (Wahiawa Hongwanji Mission).
The Buddha attained Nirvana when he came to understand the Four Noble Truths. These truths are:
- Life involves suffering,
- Suffering is due to having desires,
- Suffering can be ended by overcoming desires
- The way to end suffering is by following the Eightfold Path.
The Eightfold Path is as a wheel, known as the Wheel of Dharma. Buddhists may celebrate Nirvana Day by meditating or by going to Buddhist temples or monasteries where celebrations include food preparation and presents such as money, household goods or clothes .On Nirvana Day, people think about their lives and how they can gain the perfect peace of Parinirvana. They remember friends or family members who have recently died and reflect on the fact that death is a part of life for everyone. The idea that nothing stays the same is important to Buddhism - loss and change are parts of life rather than causes of sadness.