Nirvana Day, the annual festival celebrated by Buddhists and non-Buddhists alike on February 8, is a time to remember the Buddha’s journey to enlightenment: death, rebirth and Nirvana—the state achieved when one is relieved of all suffering. While the day is an observance of the death of the historical Buddha, who passed over in a state of deep meditation at the age of 80, it also celebrates the release of the soul from the body so that it can experience Nirvana.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama, in his 2002 book, Essence of the Heart Sutra, described Nirvana as the “state beyond sorrows.” Because Nirvana is believed to be the end of the cycle of death and rebirth, this is also a time to reflect on impermanence and death (a central concept of Buddhism) and the fact that life itself is transient.

Some schools of Buddhism believe Nirvana is a state of bliss that can be experienced in life as well. Here at Bodhi Tree, we contemplate how we can all work toward finding the peace of Nirvana.

7 Ways to Celebrate Nirvana Day

  1. Read passages from the Nirvana Sutra, the ancient Sanskrit text that describes the Buddha’s final days and his “true self” or “Buddha nature” teachings.

    “All mortals have the Buddha-nature. But it is covered by darkness from which they can’t escape. Our Buddha-nature is awareness: to be aware and to make others aware. To realize awareness is liberation.” —the Nirvana Sutra

  1. Take a meditation class or download a meditation app and try one at home.
  1. Visit a Buddhist temple or monastery and offer food, money, household goods or clothes to the monks and nuns.
  1. Contemplate the recent deaths of friends and relatives, as well as reflect on your own future death. The day is meant to help accept loss and impermanence without grieving what is inevitable.
  1. Make a list of times in your life when you’ve experienced change. Reflect on how you can learn to embrace those events.
  1. Burn some incense, which symbolizes the releasing of negative energy and breathe in the fragrant aroma.
  1. See how long you can go without speaking. The Noble Silence technique is used by many Buddhist followers to help clear one’s mind and speak with purpose and positivity.

 

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About the author

Justine Amodeo is a contributing editor to Bodhi Tree and the editor of Pacific Coast Magazine and Montagemagazine.com. She holds an MFA in creative writing from the University of California, Irvine, and has been a student of Kashmir Shaivism and the Feminine Wisdom Tradition work of Nisha Bhairavi for many years.