TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 8: It’s the death anniversary of Buddha that’s marked by Mahayana Buddhists today, and it’s with good reason: Although Buddha achieved Enlightenment when he was 40, he didn’t actually achieve Nirvana, or freedom from the death-rebirth cycle, until his death. (Wikipedia has details.) At age 80, the Buddha passed on while in meditation—and today, devotees remember this event on Nirvana Day. (Some Buddhists observe this event next week, on Feb. 15.) It’s believed that Buddha passed into death without the pain of physical existence, since he had already achieved Enlightenment 40 years prior.
Buddhists spend the majority of Nirvana Day at Buddhist temples and monasteries, where meditation is often interspersed by plenty of food. Laypersons bring money and clothes to monasteries today, and all meditate on behalf of the newly deceased. (The BBC has a full description.) Passages from the Nirvana Sutra, describing the Buddha’s last days of life, remind the faithful that life is full of impermanence and loss. Rather than grieve over the impermanence of life, Buddhists accept it so that they can move on to higher spiritual understandings.
Understandings are also at the top of the Dalai Lama’s list right now: According to recent news, the Buddhist spiritual leader suggested the presence of libraries in the many Buddhist temples popping up around the world. The Dalai Lama discouraged the overuse of Buddha statues in temples, pointing out that, “a Buddha statue does not speak.” Rather, the Dalai Lama believes more libraries in temples would encourage people to pursue knowledge and a deeper understanding of the Buddha’s life and teachings.