Nirvana Day - 15th February
To gain an insight into Buddism and Hinduism you need to read as many different accounts as possible and so build up a 3 dimensional picture of these beliefs.
Nirvana Day is the celebration of Buddha's death when he reached total Nirvana, at the age of 80. Thus Nirvana Day, February 15th is a time for contemplation of the Buddha's teachings. Some monasteries and temples hold meditation retreats. Others open their doors to laypeople, who bring gifts of money and household goods to support monks and nuns.
The word Nirvana means "to extinguish," such as extinguishing the flame of a candle. Some schools of Buddhism explain Nirvana as a state of bliss or peace, and this state may be experienced in life, or it may be entered into at death. The Buddha taught that Nirvana was beyond human imagination, and so speculation about what Nirvana is like is considered by some to be like foolish.
The Buddha died at the age of 80 in the company of his monks. As recorded in the *Parinibbana Sutta, the Buddha knew his life was at an end, and he assured his monks that he had withheld no spiritual teaching from them. He urged them to maintain the teachings so that they would continue to help people through the ages to come.
Finally he said, "All conditioned things are subject to decay. Strive for your liberation with diligence." Those were his last words.
*Writings translated as: The Last Days of the Buddha
There are many distinct setcs of Hinduism and Buddhism. While there are few beliefs you can attribute to Hinduism or Buddhism as a whole, there are a number of ideas that broadly characterize both religions.
The concept of nirvana is associated with both Hinduism and Buddhism. The belief refers to a higher state of being, howwever, the two religions view this state differently.
Nirvana is mainly associated with Buddhism, which was born out of Hinduism as a movement based on the philosophy and life of a man named Siddhartha Gautama.
Siddhartha Gautama was born to a ruling family in Nepal in about 563 B.C. As a young man, he began to question the spiritual worth of this luxurious life style and decided to give up all his possessions. He wanted to understand the true nature of life and saw all his attachments as distractions, in keeping with Hindu thought. Thus he came to be a shramana and spent his time travelling and meditating. Eventually he became Buddha ("the awakened one").
According to legend, Siddhartha achieved enlightenment. One day as he meditated under a tree, he saw all of his past lives, and then the past lives of others. Eventually he gained a perfect, omniscient knowledge of this world and the world beyond it.
In Buddhism, this state, which the Buddha couldn't relate in language, is called nirvana. The word is Sanskrit for "to extinguish." In this case, it means to extinguish ignorance, hatred and earthly suffering.
Through achieving nirvana, you can escape samsara, the cycle of reincarnation that characterizes both Hinduism and Buddhism. In each life, a soul is punished or rewarded based on its past actions, or karma, from the current life as well as earlier lives. It's important to note that the law of karma isn't due to a god's judgment over a person's behavior; it's closer to Newtons law of motion - every action has an equal and opposite reaction.
When you achieve nirvana, you stop accumulating bad karma because you've transcended it. You spend the rest of your life and sometimes future lives "working off" the bad karma you've already accumulated.
Once you have fully escaped the karmic cycle, you achieve parinirvana - final nirvana - in the afterlife. As with Hindu nirvana, souls that have achieved parinirvana are free of the cycle of reincarnation. The Buddha never specified what parinirvana was like. In Buddhist thought, it is beyond normal human comprehension.
Diwali, also called Deepavali or Dipavali, the Hindu festival of lights, is the most popular and special of all Hindu festivals. It is also an occasion for celebration by *Jains and *Sikhs.
The festival of Diwali extends over five days. The date of Diwali is set by the Hindu calendar so it varies in the Western calendar. It usually falls in October or November and because of the lights, fireworks and sweets involved, it's a great favourite with children.
The festival celebrates the victory of good over evil, light over darkness and knowledge over ignorance, although the actual legends that go with the celebration are different in different parts of India.
*In Jainism people come together over three days and celebrate the Nirvana of Lord Mahavira and welcome in the New Year. Whereas for Sikhs, Diwali celebrates the release of the Guru, Hargobind Ji from imprisonment and people celebrate by lighting the way to the Golden Temple.
Holi is a Hindu festival enjoyed in India and commemorates the victory of good over evil, brought about by the burning and destruction of the female demon named Holika. This was enabled through unwavering devotion to the Hindu god of preservation, Lord Vishnu.
Holi got its name as the "Festival of Colours" from Lord Krishna, a re-incarnation of Lord Vishnu, who liked to play pranks on the village girls by drenching them in water and colours. See more on Holi Festival of Colours.
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