Today is the day that Buddhist traditions mark the death of Shakyamuni Buddha, often known as Nirvana Day. Nirvana literally means blowing out or quenching, there is a sense of cooling or extinguishing to it.
In Buddhist terms Nirvana points to a state of profound well-being where a person is released from the grip of attachments and aversions. As I understand it this points not to not having things you prefer or want to avoid, it’s more about not being emotionally and mentally flung around by them. Knowing that nothing stays the same, and that loss and change are natural parts of life are deeply reflected on in Buddhism, as is the idea that we are none of us really separate from each other, or from life more widely. The idea, is that with the practice of meditation and with deep spiritual development, the relationship to want and suffering is transformed, and a deep acceptance of the human condition, and an equanimity that infuses all arises, in its ultimate form, this is Nirvana.
On Nirvana Day, Buddhists think about their lives and how they can gain the peace of Nirvana. They remember friends or relations who have recently died. They reflect on the fact that death is a part of life for everyone. This year this seems particularly poignant with the coronavirus pandemic and the sense of loss not only of life, but also of ways of life, of livelihoods, of physically coming together and of so many other aspects of our previous ways of being.
Wishing you a day of reflection and a sense of peace with all that is passing, however we may wish it to be different.