ATTENTION: Feb. 15 NEHAN-E Celebration for Buddha, Family & Nishijima Roshi Memorial
Please join our Memorial & Celebration on and about February 15th of NEHAN-E, the traditional day to mark the historical Buddha's death and passing from this visible world. This will also be a day for each of us to remember in our homes those family and friends who have gone before. As well, we would mark the passing of Nishijima Gudo Wafu, my Teacher (and Taigu's Grand-Teacher) at this time.
There will be a portion of our Memorial & Celebration for you AT HOME, and also a commemoration during our 4-Hour Treeleaf Monthly Zazenkai, which will be moved this month to February 15th (details in a post below). We recall (as appropriate to each family) our parents, grand-parents, siblings, our relatives near and distant, all our ancestors reaching back through the generations, and our dear friends and other cherished ones who have passed. As mentioned, our Memorial is also in honor of Master Nishijima, who passed from the world this week.
First, what is NEHAN-E (BUDDHA'S PARINIRVANA DAY)?
How will we mark this event?
This is the day that Shakyamuni Buddha died near the town of Kushinagara on the banks of the Hiranyavati River. A big scroll depicting the Buddha entering Nirvana is hung and a ceremony expressing our gratitude to the Buddha is performed. The Sanskrit term ‘Nirvana’ literally means ‘extinction, the extinction of the worldly illusions and passions.’ Wherever the extinction of illusions and passions is being achieved, there will be a calm and peaceful Nirvana, but the term which applies to this particular day means the death of the Buddha Shakyamuni.
It is said that at the time of his death the Buddha was sleeping on a bed that had been prepared between two sala trees; his head to the north, his face to the west, and his right hand for a pillow. At that time, white flowers bloomed on the sala trees and fell continuously. The story is related how many of his disciples, men and women of all ages, and even birds and animals gathered, sighing with sadness. The Buddha gave his last discourse, expounding the fundamental truth – even though the physical body dies, the Dharma is unbounded by time; in order to see the Buddha, it is simply necessary to see the Dharma. In this way, he taught his disciples the Precepts and the way they should maintain the practice of Buddha’s Way. This sermon is called the Yuikyogyo, the Last Teaching of Shakyamuni Buddha (or "Sutra of the Last Teaching Bequeathed by the Buddha"). He passed away at the age of 80 and entered into "Mahaparinirvana", that which cannot be truly "entered" or "departed", the absolute free state of Enlightenment.
Though marking events of some 25 centuries ago and far away, the moment is truly beyond count or time, found here and all places.
And so, might we encounter our lost loved ones and friends as neither gone nor far away, beyond time ... found here and all places ... gassho1
First let me speak about the "AT HOME" Portion:
Parinirvana Ceremony (At Home)
Evening of February 14-15th, 2014
(This Portion is to be conducted at each family's home in the evening,
sometime before ceremony at Treeleaf Japan.
However, the date can be adjusted a bit earlier or later due to family needs and schedules.)
Please frame an image of the "Reclining Buddha" (Buddha on His Death Bed) ... There are many available online ...
CLICK HERE FOR OTHER PARINIRANA PICTURES AVAILABLE ONLINE
At home, after dark, this framed picture should be placed on a table with incense (incense burner to be placed in front of the picture of the Buddha) and/or candles (to be placed in front of the picture of Buddha if without incense, to the sides of the incense if with), photographs or other reminders of the loved ones and friends to be remembered (to be placed to the right and left of the picture of the Buddha), all surrounded by fresh flowers and fruit (such as apples or oranges; this time of year also happens to be the start of Spring on the old Lunar Calendar, the "Chinese New Year", a time of new birth), and a small cup containing sweetened water or tea (representing an offering to quench all thirst). It is fine to place a small toy on the table for any children whose passing is being remembered. Family members will gather, dressed neatly. Family members can stand in Gassho or simply respectfully, as one adult representing the family lights the incense and/or candles, offers Three Standing Gassho Bows, and (holding the paper in the following way) recites the following before the image of Buddha:
Family member leading the ceremony then announces that “A moment of silence will now be held in memory of those commemorated here, all our Ancestors and Friends who have departed this visible world.” After the moment of silence, the family leader will then say some words, speaking from the heart in a relaxed and conversational way, in memory of the individuals (remembering some specifically by name, others more generally) who are being recalled, telling something to the others who are gathered (especially any children present) about the people being remembered. The theme of the short talk should emphasize love, friendship, gratitude and (if needed in some cases) forgiveness of the past.
This is the day of the Buddha’s Parinirvana, the time some 25 centuries ago when the Thus Come One entered Parinirvana, Final Nirvana, the day of the historical Buddha’s passing from this visible world. With each passing day, let us cherish life. Mindful of transiency, let us live this life and pursue our Path with diligence and care.
We remember our dear (say as applicable, and add their first names where possible) parents, grand-parents, siblings, our relatives near and distant, all our ancestors reaching back through the generations, and our dear friends and other cherished ones who have passed from this visible world. All in their way, by their lives, made our lives in this present moment possible and are the root of our being. They supported us, befriended and nutured us, each in their way, both in ways clearly seen and ways sometimes obscured and hidden to our eyes. To each we express and offer our caring, boundless love, greetings, embrace, gratitude, mutual understanding and forgiveness, tolerance and hope for their peace and rest.
As was taught in the Sutra of the Last Teaching Bequeathed by the Buddha, spoken by the Tathagata with regard to his own passing …
O good followers of the path! Do not grieve! Even if we were to live in the world for as long as great aeons of time, our coming together would someday have to end. There can be no coming together without parting. A life which benefited both self and others has reached completion. What has been said, has been said. What has been done, has been done. Even if we were to live longer, there would be nothing to add. …
Therefore, you should know that all things in the world are impermanent; coming together inevitably means parting. Do not be troubled, for this is the nature of life. Live and Practice diligently with right effort, find liberation immediately and, with the light of wisdom, remove the darkness of ignorance. Thus the Body of the Tathagata’s Dharma will be realized as timeless and indestructible. Yes, nothing is secure, and everything in this life is precarious. Yet, do not think that “The light has ceased.” It should not be seen like this. For what I have lit shall be your light, all living beings shall be the light, this bright world, and your very mind itself, shall be this same light continuing on.
Now, good followers of the way! You should always wholeheartedly seek the path of liberation. Yes, all things in the world, whether moving or seemingly non-moving, are characterized by disappearance and instability. Yet, be as lamps unto yourselves and pass on that light throughout generation after generation and to everyone in this world.
Stop now! Do not speak! Time is passing. I am about to cross over. This is my final teaching.
The ceremony is closed with the words, “We will carry each of you in our hearts, and wish peace to you and peace to all who remain behind.” That is followed by Three Standing Gassho Bows, and the ceremony is over.
The altar at home should be kept until after sundown the next day. Candles should not be left burning after the ceremony in the interest of safety.
NOTE: If the person wishes in respect of the religious sensibilities of other members of the family, the images of Buddha and Incense need not be included, and the content of the Ceremony and references to the Buddha can be altered as felt appropriate.
I HOPE OUR SANGHA MEMBERS WILL JOIN US IN THIS MEMORIAL of PASSING and CELEBRATION of LIFE!
Details on our Memorial and Celebration during our monthly Zazenkai will follow ...