Observance of the Feast of Nirvana Around the World

February 15, 2018
Tokyo, Japan

February 15th marked the annual Mahayana Buddhist celebration of the Feast of Nirvana, the day on which Buddha Shakyamuni entered final nirvana. Although the day commemorates his passing away, it is not celebrated with sadness but with joy, as it celebrates the completion of his path of ending the cycle of transmigration. The observance is particularly important for Shinnyo-en members, as a reminder of the Mahayana Mahaparinirvana Sutra, understood in Shinnyo Buddhism as the ultimate and last teachings of Shakyamuni.

At Shinnyo-en’s Ogen Center in Tokyo, Japan, members commemorated the day unveiling a great scroll of the Nirvana image, dating from the early Edo era (1603-1868), which was a gift from the Shingon Daigoji monastery in Kyoto on the 100th anniversary of the birth of Shinnyo-en's founder, Shinjo Ito. The scroll depicts the moments of Shakyamuni's final teaching, attended by all earthly and celestial beings.

Addressing members during a ceremony at the Ogen Center, Her Holiness Shinso Ito also called attention to a coinciding occasion in Shinnyo-en history. The Feast of Nirvana, 80 years ago on February 15th, was the day on which Shinnyo-en Founders, Masters Shinjo and Tomoji Ito, had decided on the site for their Founding Temple, Shinchoji based on a visual inspiration.

Her Holiness explained, “Later our Shinnyo Founders came across the teachings that Shakyamuni gave us 2,600 years ago before He left this world, and they worked hard to manifest the liberating power of the Nirvana Sutra. It is special that we share this day with the 80th anniversary of finding the site for our Founding Temple Shinchoji which would serve as a foundation for sharing the Nirvana teachings with people around the world.”

On the day we mark Buddha Shakyamuni’s passing away, Her Holiness also reminds Shinnyo-en members that it is a time to commemorate the Buddha’s true existence: that he is always present, a timeless existence within his teachings, and that everyone has buddha nature and the potential for enlightenment. Enlightenment or “awakening” are real, and are synonyms for shinnyo.

There is hope for everyone to ultimately attain nirvana, even those who have lost sight of their inner goodness can eventually find their way to spiritual awakening: a state of nirvana that is timeless, joyous, personal, and pure.