Rinpoche Teachings
Parinirvana Anniversary vs Birthday

WHY ONLY PARINIRVANA DAY OF A MASTER IS BEING REMEMBERED?

"Rinpoche, we noticed that in Vajrayana, only the parinirvana day of a master is being recorded and commemorated, but not their birthday. Why is that so?"

Parinirvana is not death, but enlightenment according to Tibetan Buddhism. In Vajrayana, parinirvana has never been seen as a death day, but is being contemplated as an enlightened day. For enlightened being, of course they are enlightened; they have done so much practices. Naturally, they are already enlightened; at death, there is a further opportunity for them to be fully enlightened. So dying time is the enlighten time. What could be more joyful than that? Even for ordinary people, the most important and crucial time is at the dying time if one had ever done practice.

Traditionally, in the ancient Tibet, birthday is only noted, there is no such thing as birthday puja or celebration; but, there are death or parinirvana anniversary pujas. Birthday, is just birth; a day marking the appearing of someone in this world. From the mundane perspective, birthday may be celebrated as a joy day. However, in reality, the death day is the true joy day.

For meditators and Dharma practitioners, the biggest and highest opportunity to get enlighten, occurs at the moments of death, during the merging of the son and mother luminosities. The mother luminosity, also called the ground luminosity, is the base luminosity of inherent awareness within oneself. Every living being, including animals has it. The son or path luminosity referring to the luminosity one attained through their life-long Dharma practices, particularly from meditation. When a person passed away, there is a moment when the luminosity of inherent awareness or one's awaken nature (mother luminosity) will dawn by itself. If one (the son luminosity) is able to recognize it, and merge indivisible from it, he or she will experience the luminance of wakefulness, the moment of awakening, i.e.: enlightenment. This flash of moment is what being described as the merging of son and mother luminosity. However, there are many levels of enlightenment, which you may read from some other credible sources.

For ordinary people, even though they also experience the ground luminosity, but since they are not being trained or having no sufficient practices during their lives, they failed to recognize this mother luminosity, and therefore, missed the opportunity of liberation. For enlightened beings, given that they are already enlightened, so there is a further potential for them to heighten their levels of realization and get fully enlightened. Thus, for them, death is never considered as deceased or gone, nor a day of suffering or sorrow. Dying time is the enlighten time. What could be more meaningful or better than that?

However, to the ordinary people, the passing of a great master is an extremely painful and sad day, in the sense that they have lost someone whom they can truly depend on, and receive teachings. The greatest sun has set! His compassionate and enlightened activities that benefit countless beings are temporarily halted. Thousands of disciples lost their precious guide. That's the reason why we constantly prayed for the enlightened masters to live long. Not for their own benefits, but for the sake of all mothers sentient beings.

When a great master entered into parinirvana, his physical appearance may have gone from this world. However, the intensity of his blessings will not only remain, but grow even stronger and more powerful compared with the time when they are still alive due to the leap of their enlightenment level.

In terms of blessings and importance, the parinirvana is the most crucial day for practice and the most important time for merit accumulation. It's the best opportunity for practitioners and meditators to attain realization. That's the reason why, on the parinirvana day of a great master and on all his parinirvana anniversaries, the monasteries will perform extensive Guru Offerings (Lama Chopa) and special prayers. Nothing is related to sorrow. All are centered around praising the sublime qualities of the master, confession of wrong deeds, fulfillment of broken samayas and merit accumulations. It's the most essential day for practitioners to engage seriously in their practices, particularly meditation, as it's an exceptional day that carries the great blessings of the master. It's almost like merging your ordinary mind with the enlightened mind of the master. It's the best possible time for meditators and practitioners to attain or deepen their realization. Engage fully in meditation and practicing Guru Yoga with fervent and yearning devotion on this day is extremely beneficial.

Excerpted from Choegon Rinpoche's Q&A teaching on "Making Full Use of Your Human Potential."

 

 
  
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