Buddha (copy)

Depending on the tradition of the Buddhist adherent, either Feb. 8 or Feb. 15 is Parinirvana Day, also called Nirvana Day. Observed primarily by Mahayana Buddhists, it marks the death of Buddha, the day he is said to have reached nirvana.

Nirvana is considered achieved when one gets rid of every suffering and need. It comes from a Sanskrit word meaning “to extinguish.”

According to the Oxford Dictionary, Mahayana is one of the main Buddhist traditions and is practiced in China, Tibet, Japan and Korea. Out of compassion, its followers work to save suffering people, even if it means delaying nirvana.

The actual celebration varies throughout the world. Activities can include:

  • Reading passages from the Parinirvana Sutta describing the Buddha's last days. Visit accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/dn/dn.16.1-6.vaji.html to read the passage.
  • Visiting temples or monasteries. Some meditate, often focusing on the fact of one’s own death coming or of loved ones who recently died.
  • Monasteries treat it as a social occasion with food, and visitors brings presents including money, household goods or clothes.
  • Making pilgrimages to shrines known as stupas or to special temples, including Wat Thai Temple, Ramabhar Stupa or Nirvana Stupa.
  • In Theravada Buddhism, the holiday Vesak, observed in May, marks the Buddha’s birth, enlightenment and achievement of Nirvana.

Orthodox Christians prepare for Lent

On Feb. 9, Eastern Orthodox churches start a period called Triodion, the four preparation Sundays for Lent. Triodion is named for the liturgical book used during Lent.

In Western churches, fasting starts immediately after Mardi Gras. In Eastern churches, the fasting starts in stages. The four Sundays and their fasting requirements are:

First Sunday: This is the Sunday of the Tax Collector and Pharisee, based on Jesus' parable in Luke 18:9-14. No fasting is allowed. It is a feast week, a celebration.

Second Sunday: This is the Sunday of the Prodigal Son, based on the parable found in Luke 15:11-32. Wednesday and Friday fasts observed throughout the year return.

Third Sunday: This is Meatfare Sunday or Sunday of the Final Judgment, on Feb. 23 this year. Services this day recall Jesus' parable in Matthew 25 about the sheep and the goats being separated at the final judgment because of their deeds on earth. No flesh from a vertebrate is to be eaten after this Sunday. It is a “farewell to meat” until Easter. People include shellfish in this fast. Normal fasting continues on Wednesday and Friday.

Fourth Sunday: This is Cheesefare Sunday or Sunday of Forgiveness, on March 1 this year. Lessons this day include Adam and Eve being forced from the Garden of Eden. Matthew 6:14-21, a lesson on forgiveness, is also used. Many people attend a Vespers service based on forgiveness. No products from a vertebrate are to be eaten after this date. This includes things such as milk, eggs, butter and cheese.

Great Lent: Clean (or Pure) Monday, March 2, starts the 40 days of the Great Lent and its fasting. It includes seven Sundays, each with a theme:

1. Sunday of Orthodoxy

2. St. Gregory Palamas

3. Adoration of Cross

4. St. John of Climacus

5. St. Mary of Egypt

6. Palm Sunday

7. Easter Sunday

Sources: bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/buddhism/holydays/parinirvana.shtml, britannica.comworldreligionnews.com/religion-news/why-buddhists-celebrate-nirvana-daybeliefnet.comholidayscalendar.comlearnreligions.com, lent.goarch.org, mliles.com/melkite/paschacycle.shtml, orthodoxwiki.org/Main_Page, World Book, orthodox.net/greatlent, oca.org

Facets of Faith runs every other Saturday in Living. Reach Leila Pitchford at lpitchford@theadvocate.com.