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Rhythm-A-Day Blog for February 15, 2020: Parinirvana of Buddha

Posted by Wolf Murphy on


The Parinirvana of Buddha

The Parinirvana of Buddha refers to the day that the Buddha transcended to complete Nirvana, after the death of his physical body. The word is used to refer to "nirvana after death," the state someone achieves if they had attained nirvana during their lifetime. They are released from Saṃsāra, the wheel of karma and rebirth. In Mahāyāna scripture, Parinirvāṇa is the realm of the eternal true Self of the Buddha.

Parinirvana of the Buddha (Public Domain/Wikimedia Commons)

Passages from the Nirvana Sutra relating the Buddha's last days are read on Parinirvana Day; meditation and visits to Buddhist temples and monasteries are common as well. The day is a Momento Mori—a day toreflect on impermanence and transcendance.

This thought process reflects the Buddhist teachings on impermanence. Some Western Buddhist groups also celebrate Parinirvana Day.

Here is a link to a beautiful article which goes into Parinirvana in greater detail. The author seeks to clarify our understanding of nirvana:

The term nirvana comes from the root meaning to ‘blow out’ or ‘extinguish’. Which unfortunately and incorrectly is sometimes taken to mean ‘annihilation’. Rather, what the Buddha was saying was extinguished were negative states of mind based upon desire, anger and [spiritual] ignorance that lead to negative words and negative actions and hence, sorrow and suffering. When those negatives states are extinguished through clearly perceiving the true nature of reality, a pervasive subtle joy becomes the field of experience.

 It is a day to meditate on the Bodhisattva vows:

“Sentient beings are numberless, I vow to save them. Desires are inexhaustible, I vow to put and end to them. The Dharmas are boundless, I vow to master them. The Buddha-way is unsurpassable, I vow to attain it.”

The Evening Gatha, chanted at the conclusion of the last meditation period of the day, is appropriate to Parinirvana Day and reminds us:

“Let me respectfully remind you. Life and death are of supreme importance. Time passes swiftly by and opportunity is lost. Each one of us should strive to awaken. Awaken! Take heed! Do not squander your life.”

There is a style of drum associated with Buddhist cant and recitation called the Mokugyo or Waking Drum. They are "Temple Blocks"; rounded wooden slit drums that produce a gorgeous, hollow note. It is used to mark time during the recitation of chants. 

Mokugyo or Waking Drum (Wikimedia Commons)

In the chanting practice, the drumbeat is extremely steady, and the text of the chant is syncopated often in very sophisticated ways to fall correctly on the Mokugyo beat. The underlying concept is to develop the powers of focus and concentration.

We are going to take a different tack and use our chant as the steady part and build that concentration by adding in drumbeats in a more complex pattern.

Our first exercise will be to chant the alphabet and play just on all the vowels.

Then we will up the mindfulness quota and count from 1 to 26 and play just on the prime numbers, with bass notes on the 1, 2 & 3.

Finally, we will return to the alphabet and we will play all the characters in our own names; mine (Wolf Murphy) will serve as our example.

Today's Video Lesson

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