This week in Buddhism: Vesak Day

by | May 21, 2024 | Blog

Vesak Day is widely celebrated by Buddhists all over the world on the full moon day of the fourth Lunar month. It is considered to be the most important Buddhist celebration in the year. Buddhists commemorate the birth, enlightenment (nibbāna/nirvana) and final passing (parinibbāna/parinirvana) of the Buddha on Vesak Day.

We extract excerpts from the book, Buddhism for All to share the Buddha’s Parinirvana:

“Siddhattha became the Buddha at the age of thirty-five.  He taught for the next forty-five years or so until he was eighty.  At the ripe old age of eighty, he passed away, or more accurately, he entered final nirvana.  His last days were documented in an unusually long discourse in the canon called the Great Discourse on the Final Nirvana (Mahāparinibbāna Sutta). This discourse is also unusually heavy with mystical elements that you seldom see in the rest of the early canonical texts.

The Buddha was in the town of Kusinārā.  As it became increasingly clear that the Buddha’s passing was very imminent, Ānanda started crying.  The Buddha chided him gently, “Ānanda, do not cry.  Have I not already taught you that all things that are pleasant and delightful are impermanent and subject to separation?  So how could it be, Ānanda, that whatever is born should not pass away?”

As the Buddha laid dying, he said to Ānanda and all the monks present, “After I pass, you may think, ‘We have no teacher!’  It should not be like this.  After my passing, the Dharma and the discipline (dhamma-vinaya) I taught you shall be your teacher.”

Finally, the Buddha spoke his last words.

“Now, monks, I declare to you:
all conditioned things are of a nature to decay — strive on untiringly.”

handa dāni, bhikkhave, āmantayāmi vo,
vayadhammā saṅkhārā appamādena sampādethā”ti.

Having said his last words, the Buddha moved through the jhānas one last time.  He entered the first jhāna, and then went into the second jhāna, and then made his way up the successively subtler jhānas all the way to the base of neither-perception-nor-non-perception.  After that, he made his way back down all the way to the first jhāna.  And then he made his way back up again to the fourth jhāna.  From there, he passed into final nirvana.”

Read the story of Buddha’s final nirvana in these sections from the Buddhism for All book:

Chade-Meng Tan

Meng is an award-winning engineer, international bestselling author, movie producer and philanthropist. His work has been nominated eight times for the Nobel Peace Prize. (Read Meng's story)

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