Nirvana Is Eternal Peace
Written by Bhikkhu Thich Nguyen Tang
Translated into English by: Dr Tam Tinh & Hoa Chi
“Nirvana Is Eternal Peace”, four words on the banner on Quang Duc Buddhist Homepage about the funeral of the Most Venerable Thich Nhu Hue, as congratulations to His Holiness on the path to the Buddhahood end of June, 2016. In the Saha World, death means grieves but in Buddhism, death can be a joy (Nirvana Is Eternal Peace), is it and contrary difficult to understand?
That’s why Buddhism appears, that is to deal with this contrary. That is to radically remove the roots of birth and death cycle. If there is still birth and death, there is still suffering. No birth no death means happiness or bliss, it is simply so. In the Great Nirvana Sutra, the Buddha declares:“All formations are impermanent. They have birth and death. Birth and death ends, then comes Nirvana”.
The Buddha’s dharma keeps reminding us of the timeless saying “Birth and death is of great importance, impermanence can occur all of a sudden”, that “daily self-cultivation of marvelous will bring happiness and an escape from the cycle of birth and death”. Then we can speak words stated by Tu Minh Zen Master “Birth as put on a cotton blanket in winter. Death as undressed in summer”. That is when you are already enlightened, you are always at ease and stay calm at the face of birth and death. Birth is like putting on a blanket in the winter and death is like taking off your coat to get cool, to return to your peaceful dharma body, then why worry and fear?
For a Buddhist follower, birth and death is a non-stop flow like a clock pendulum. We must be able to manage it, that is to control your birth and death.
As our Original Master Sakyamuni has proved to us his teachings, he took control of his birth and death, leaving life when he meant to. The Blessed One informed his diciples 3 months in advance that he would enter Nirvana. In that year, 544 BC, as soon as he reached Vasali, an earthquake shake the whole city. He said: “Ananda, there are 8 reasons why the earth shakes: The Buddha said: “Ananda, there were 8 causes for great earth shaking: 1. This earth is supported by water, the water by air, the air by space. At times great winds blow strongly and the water is shaken. When the water is shaken, the earth is shaken. 2. When a recluse or deity of great power conducts his contemplation on the great earth or waters. 3., 4. & 5. When a Bodhisattva comes down from Tushita Heaven mindfully and deliberately to be conceived in his mother’s womb, takes birth on this earth, attains unsurpassed Enlightenment. 6. When a Buddha turns the wheel of Dharma. 7. When a Buddha announces the time of his death. 8. When a Buddha passes away and attains parinibbāna. Ananda, I have made decision, I will enter Nirvana in three months”. (Great Nirvana Sutra).
Buddha has entered Great Nirvana at Sala Forest in Kushinagar
The Author, Bhikkhu Thich Nguyen Tang and his Quang Duc Monastery members
inside the Nirvana Temple in Kushinagar, India
Then the Buddha arrived at Sala Forest in Kusginagar under the rule of Malla kingdom and enter Nirvana between two sala trees. He was lying, head to the North, on his right side, his right hand under his face, his left hand along the left side, his left leg on his right leg, with soft and steady breath. His Holiness’ final words are “All composite things pass away. Strive for your own salvation with diligence."Then the Buddha enters and leaves meditation of four levels and right up to his final entering into Nirvana. At the time, the earth greatly shakes, thunder and thunderbolt comes,sala flowers fall like rain. Everyone feels a spiritual shaking. Everyone knows the Buddha has entered Great Nirvana. That was on a Full Moon Day of the lunar month of Vaisakha when the moon was full around a Vesak month in 544 BC, eg the Full-Moon Day in February of a Fire-Snake Year of the Lunar Calendar.
From then, millions of His deciples like Him, have cultivated and reached the state of “calmness in the face of birth and death”. The First Patriarch Mamakasyapa after looking after the Dharma herritage from the Buddha, declared His leaving the Earth, passed on the Dharma herritage to the Second PatriarchAnanda, went to sit for meditation at Jizu Mountain,to wait to pass on the robe and begging bowl to Maitreya when he comes down from Tushita Heaven. Ananda is considered a record keeper for a great memory. He can repeat correctly the Buddha’s dharma speech of 60.000 words without difficulties. (Good memory is the result of 5 good deeds: no sexual desire, no wicked thoughts, no drowsiness, no restlessness and no doubt.(Sutta Pitaka, Anguttara Nikàya, V 193). Second Patriarch Ananda lived up to 120 years and entered Nirvana. He came to Vasali and flight to the air with power, use Tumo (one of Yoga forms) to burn his own body, relics dropped down in an amazing order to two teritories which were Vasali and Magadha that are in conflict. The two countries collected and worshiped such relics at the Towers in their own lands!
First Zen Patriarch of China, BodhiDharma
The Twenty-Eighth Patriarchof Indian Buddhism and the First Zen Patriarch of China, BodhiDharma, who was the Student of Twenty-Seventh Patriarch Prajñādhāraand the Master of Huike. No more oppornities for promotion of Buddhism in Inda, He traveled to China by boat in 520 BC to spread Buddhism. Failed to persuade Emperor Wu of Liang, His Holiness left Citidel of Liang Kingtom to come to Luoyang, Shaolin Monasteryat Shongshan, siting in mediation facing a wall, for nine years, awaiting the time to come again for Buddhism propaganda. His first student is Huike(name Than Quang). He lived up to 150 yearsand passed on the heart dharma to his closest follower Huike và passed away at Định Lâm, Hùng Nhĩ Mountain (part of Dabie Shan) on 9 September 529 BC (a Chinese Year of Dragon). A few days later, Tong Yun on his way back from his mission from India met Him at Thong Lanh Mountain, with one sandal only on the other end of his cane and walking like flying. Reaching Citidel, Tong Yun reported to the King. As per the King’s order that the grave was exhumed and was found to contain a single sandal, not His body. The shoe was brought to the Shaolin Monatery for worship. From then, all the temples of the Northern Buddhism in China, Vietnam, Korea, etc… have a statue of Him carrying a cane with a shoe on one end, as reflected in his instructive verse: “Nodeath nor Birth, BodhiDharmawent to the West…”.
The story of Daman Hongren’s reincarnation is another proved evidence for the achivement of calmness in the face of birth and death. One day, the Fourth Patriarchof Daoxin on his mission in Long Phong met an old monk Tai Tong, who is planting a Cedrus. He asked the Fourth Patriarch: “Can I have some Tagatthas Dharma please?” The Fourth Patriarchreplied: “You are old so you can hear but too late for you to promote Buddhism. But if you can be reborned, I can wait”. Tai Tong bowed down to thank and went down from the Mountain. He came to Huang Mei and saw a girl washing clothes by the river. He approached her and asked: “Where is your home? Can I have an overnight there?” She replied: “I can not make decision, please come to the house to ask for permission of by parents” He then asked: “But will you be happy yourself?”She responded: “I will be”. With a positive response, He came back to the mountain, sat down in a crossed-legs position and passed away. She was the youngest daughter of Chu family. She got pregnant after saying yes toTai Tong. She gave birth to a cute baby 9 months and 10 days later. However, scared of the bad fame due to having baby without getting married, she put the baby on a small basket so it will flow along the river to reach anyone who have the causes and conditions to bring him up. Next morning, she came to check out and found that he was sitting there on a lotus leave, smiling with an amazingly fresh expression on his face. She found it remarkable and was touched so she took him home. When reaching the age of 7, the boy metthe Fourth Patriarchof Daoxin again could converse in an abnormal manner. The Fourth Patriarchof Daoxinasked and was allowed to take him to his temple for ordaination,. He was given the Dharma name of Horeng, which means patience, as practised by His mother to bring him up and by his Dharma Master to teach him and wait for him to blossom to spread Buddhism. He later became the Fifth Patriarch (extracted from the Senior Venerable Thich Thanh Tu’s translations).
The Sixth Patriarch Hui Neng
The Sixth Patriarch Hui Neng was born in 638 BC, well known as an achiever of enlightenment before ordaination, as a student of the Fifth Patriarch Hongren. His family was poor and his father died when he was young. He worked as a firewood collector to earn money to support his mother. One day while delivering firewood to a store, Huieng heard a customer reciting the Diamond Sutra and had an awakening. He immediately decided to seek out the Fifth Patriarch and became his student and then got passed on the rob and the begging bowl by the Fifth Patriarch after presenting his stanza “Bodhi is originally without any tree”. After 15 years of quiet cultivation, living with a group of hunters, He publicly promoted Buddhism độ sanh. Thousand people have come to listen to his Dharma talks and pratise. On August 3rd 713 BC, he summoned the mass to say goodbye. On the 3rd time span, He said “I’ve got to go” and passed away in the full lotus sitting position, enjoyed a life expectency of 76 years. His whole-body relic still remains and is worshiped at Nanhua Temple in Shaoguan, Guangzhu, China.
Master Yin-Kuang isthe 3th Patriarch of Chinese Pure Land Buddhism. On the 20th of the enth lunar month of the 29th year of the Republic, Dharma Master Yin Guang knew that he would pass away soon, he asked that the mass gather at Ling Yun Shan Temple. During the session, he appointed the monk Miao Zhen to post of Abbot, gave them instructions and advised “‘If you all recite the Buddha’s name without stop and keep your vows, you will be reborn in the Western Paradise!” During the early morning of the fourth day of the eleventh lunar month he felt unwell but continued reciting the Buddha’s name. He asked for water to wash his hands and stood up and said “Amitabha has come to escort me. I’ve got to go. You should dedicatedly recite his name to seek rebirth in the Western Paradise!” Then said in the full lotus position with his hands joined to each other and peacefully passed away as the mass were chanting. The Great Master Yin Guang was in his 80th year of life and his 60th of dharma life.
Gedun Drupa is the First Dalai Latma of Tibet. He was born in 1391, ordained when he was 7 years old and was a close disciple of the Great Master Tsongkhapa. He is the religious leader who made it possible for all the Tibetan people to practise Buddhism.He was highly self-disciplined and always practised cultivation of bodhisattva’s deeds as a standard in the Dalai Lama incarnation line. He is also well-known for his effort to maintain discipline in the monasteries. This is the most remarkable thing of Yellow Hat School or Gelupa. He went for fasting to practise Tara and Kalachakra methods for many years. He left many valuable works, including thousand-page 7 series, containing many writings on “methods for mind training” or “lojong” for spiritual training as one among his extensive and greatest works. Although he was one of the most highly respected religious figures in the country and was in the highest leadership, he was always modest, calm and very kind. In 1474, at the age of eighty-four Gendun Drub intentionally passed away. He notified his disciples of his “passing away” and passed on the final advice to them, that they should be dedicated in cultivation. Then he went into deep meditation, using unique techniques to manage wind and essence in his pulses and energy. He changed from an old monk to a younger person, radiating brightening light. He died and maintained the full lotus position for 49 days. Two years later, he was reincarnated as Gedun Gyatso, the Second Dalai Latma of Tibet.
Hakuin Ekaku (1685–1768) is regarded as the reviver of theLinji Zen in Japan, well-known for the meditation koan “You know the sound of two hands clapping; tell me what is the sound of one hand?”. He was a genius as he was not only an outstanding Zen Master but also a talented painter, writer and sculpturer. Many always recall His popular story of “Is that so?” as an expression of his extreme patience exercised during His life. During his 84th years of age, he felt unwell so he summoned the mass to give a final speech, appointed the Great Master Torei, lied on his right and passed away in peace.
In Vietnam, some cultivators have also achieved the state of being at ease at birth and death. Lots of people know and appraise Thich Quang Duc. He made a vow to burn himself on May 27th1963 to protest against the severe persecution of Buddhists by the South Vietnamese government led byNgo Dinh Diem and did that on June 11th 1963 after two weeks of preparation. After the event, the Buddhism congregation has organised the cremnation of his body and his unburned heart has been kept as a undeniable evidence for his vow. He adorned the Lotus Sutra and attained what described in the Section of King of Medicine Bodhisattva long before his death. He soaked himeself in the scented perfume then burned his body as an offering to the Dharma. He definitely achieved with the SaddharmapuṇḍarīkaMethod when alive so he was sitting in the fame as it was a cooling lotus pond. No feeling of pain or suffering were expressed on His face.
Great Zen Master Lieu Quan (1667-1742)
Great Zen Master Lieu Quan (1667-1742), a Vietnamese Senior Monk from Phu Yen, who was ordained at 6, practiced at An Ton (Tu Doan) Temple in Hue
6 and achieved enlightenment with Tu Dung Zen Master by the koan “All things return to the one; where does the one return to?”. He was smart and of a superior character. He become the founder of Linji Lam Te Lineage Line in Vietnam with the poem: “The great Way of Reality is the pure ocean of the true nature. The source of Mind has penetrated everywhere. From the roots of virtue springs the tradition of compassion… …”. At the end of Year of Dog (1742), He summoned the mass and said: “My conditions with the world have finished, I am leaving soon!” Everyone was crying. He said: “Why are you crying? Even the Buddha went into the Nirvara? I am completely aware of where I’ve come from and will go to? You should not be sad but diligently dedicate yourselves to practice!”. In November of the same year, a few days before passing away, He composed the following poem:
“During the seventy or more years I have been in this world
Form and Emptiness have always been the same.
Today, all vows fulfilled, I am going back to my home.
Do not tire yourselves out asking questions concerning schools and patriarchs.”
On the 22nd of November (that was 18/12/1742), after having some tea and delivered a short directive speech, he asked what time it was? His disciples said it was the Hour of the Goat, he peacefully passed away. He reached 75 years of expectancy, 34 years of service, with 49 ordained disciples, and thousands of lay followers. Martial Prince – Khoat Phuc Nguyen (1738-1765) highly respected his great virtue therefore offered him the title: “Perfectly Enlightened the Most Senior Venerable” to be carved into his memorial stele at the bottom of Thien Thai Mountain in An Cuu in Hue Ancient City.
Another story about knowing time of passing away in advance can be told of the Senior Venerable Hai Duc, the Abott of Hai Duc Temple in Hue and the inheritant of Hai Duc Temple in Nha Trang. He offered the Hai Duc-Nha TrangTemple to the Buddhist Association and open the Central Region Buddhist Academy with suggestion that the Most Venerable Thich Tri Thu being the Principal. He wat 80 years old and was not sick, knowing that he will go to the Buddha’s land soon. On April 8 (Lunar Calendar), he told the cook, Ms Bay: “Could you please go to the market to buy some fruit and flowers to celebrate the Buddha’s Birthday, I will leave for Pure Land later today.” Ms Bay said: Dear Sir, the Buddhist Association will have the ceremony on the Full Moon Day, not on the 8th.” He responded: “We will do it on the Full Moon Day then.” Ms Bay bought fruit and flowers on the day. His Holiness asked the lead monk to order all monks to clean the temple, organise the decoration, arranged the fruit and flowers and at noon conducted the ceremony. His Holiness asked that some flowers be used to create some scent for the water to be used for his bath. He took a bath, changed clothes, had a bowl of boiled refinery casava powder. His Holiness asked the lead monk, “Is it noon yet?” The monk said:, “Nearly His Holiness.” His Holiness told all the monks: “Put on your robes and prepare the incents and candles, play the Big Drum, I will leave this life.”The lead monk did what was asked, came back to the House for Ancestor Master Worship and saw His Holiness sitting in the Lotus position. He came to check His Holiness’ breath at his nostrils and realised His Holiness had passed away. The lead monk came to Tu Dam Temple to advise the Buddhist Association representatives of the news. All the Senior Venerables, Venerables, Monks and Nuns who had just finished the Buddha’s Birthday Anniversary, went to Hai Duc Temple to joint the Buddha’s Name Supportive Chanting. One hour later, His Holiness was helped to lie down on his back and the Funeral was conducted. Obvisouly His Holiness knew in advance His passing away time and could even postpone it for another week. He left at ease and with dignity.
Most Venerable Thich Dong Minh
The Most Venerable Thich Dong Minh, Vinaya-Pitaka Master of the Buddhist Association in the modern time, is an great example of his morality and his cause of Buddhist propaganda. He had always led a virtous life, lived on the minimum, strictly observed precepts and put all his efforts in training and developing monks and nuns. He had specialised in translating Vinaya-Pitaka. He established the Board for printing the Dharma Treasure of Vietnamese Buddhism which had many imporant Vinaya-Pitaka Series and Prajna Sutra of 11 Volumes translated by the Senior Venerable Tri Nghiem published, On the May 11th of the Rooster Year (17/06/2005), He started to feel weak. He asked the assistant to bring Him to the bed. At 18.35 pm, He easily passed way, lying comfortably on his right at Long Son Temple, Nha Trang City, Khanh Hoa Province. He lived for 79 years including 59 years being part of the Shangha.
Most Venerable Thich Tam Thanh
The Most Venerable Thich Tam Thanh (disciple of The Senior Venerable Long Tri, and brother of The Senior Venerable Nhu Dien) prepared for his life a year in advance. He was a famous Lecturer before and after 1975. Starting to feel less strong, He decided to spend all his time for his sefl-cultivation. Every day, Hedid the recitation of Nikaya and Mahayana Sutras. During his recitation, he extracted all the main ideas in the sutras with notes on items and details and composed the book “Key points in the Mahayana Sutras” and then put all his efforts in practice of Buddha Name chanting. His chanting resounded day and night. On the morning of February 5th, the Monkey Year (2004). The Senior Venerable asked Nguyen Hien, the Abott of Vinh Minh Monastery and other followers to his room to pass on the encouraging words. Then he joined the hands and chanted the Amitabha Buddha’s Name and left his body at 6.15 am on the February 3rd, the Monkey Year (2/4/2004), enjoyed a life expectancy of 72 years and 40 years of serving in the Shangha.
Recently, we have lost many the Senior Venerables who have contributed a lot to the development of Buddhism overseas, including:
The Senior Venerable Thich Tri Chon, Chairman of the Managing Board for the American Buddhist Association, reached 79 years of life expectancy and felt sick. He refused to go to Hospitaland said his life would have reached its end so no further resouces should be wasted on him, especially he wanted to end life one year earlier than the life expectancy of our the Thus One. He asked that he be brought back to Bat Nha Temple for refreshment. A few minutes before passing away, he was very much alert, fresh and extraordinarily dedicated as he could regconise everyone and remember everything even minimal. The Senior Venerable left his body at at 6am on the March 14th, 2011, (February 10th, The Year of Cat) in the solumn Amitabha Buddha’s Name chanting by the monks and nuns of Bat Nha Temple and his disciples and relatives.
Most Venerable Thich Minh Tam
The Most Venerable Thich Minh Tam is one of the founders and leaders for Buddhism promotion in Europe. During the European Buddhist Learning Course No. 25 organised at Turku, Findland, he fell sick but still kept going with the practice and looking after the learners until the course finished. After the Closing Ceremony, He passed away, at 9.29am (French time zone) on the August 8th, 2013 (July 2nd, the Year of Snake). His life expectancy was 75 years, including 62 years being with the Sangha.
The Most Venerable Thich Tam Chau organized a retreat at Vien Quang Monastery as planned in July, 2015 although he started to feel unwell. When the treat finihsed, He left worse and returned to Tu Quang Temple in Canada. Reaching the place, knowing that causes and conditions for his existence were ending soon, he aksed that all the disciples assemble at the Temple to hear his teachings. Then they started to do the supportive Amitabha Buddha’s Name chanting. It was in this chanting by his disciples and followers that he left life at 10.15am on August 20th, 2015 (July 7th, the Year of Goat at Tu Quang Templewith life expectancy of 95 years including 74 years being with the Sangha.
Most Venerable Thich Tam Chau (Canada)
Most Venerable Thich Tam Chau (Canada)
Most Venerable Thich Tam Chau (Canada)
and the author, Senior Venerable Thich Nguyen Tang
The Most Venerable Thich Nhu Hue ordained when he was very young and used to be one of the four “Big Leaders of Buddhism in Quang Nam” and a great leader of Buddhism in Australia for 30 years. He started to prepare for his final trip 3 months in advance before passing away. He fell sick on 15/03/2016 and since then started to let go radically and wholeheartedly cultivated until his last day. He lelf in the Amitabha Buddha’s Name chantingby the mass at 9.25am on Thurday, 23/06/2016 (May 19th, the Year of Monkey) at Phap Hoa Nam Temple in Australia, reaching 83 years of exsistance including 60 years being a monk.
As per a teaching by Dalai Latma: “We all want a peaceful death but we cannot hope to die peacefully if our lives have been full of violence, or if our minds have mostly been agitated by emotions like anger, attachment, or fear. So if we wish to die well, we must learn how to live well: Hoping for a peaceful death, we must cultivate peace in our mind, and in our way of life”. We should learn from this quotes that if we lead a mindful life we will die with a mindful mind, that is we can direct our spirits to avoid the karma’s influence and escaped from the birth and death cycle. The Senior Venerable Thich Nhu Dien, the Most Senior Leader of Vien Giac Temple in Hannover, Germany also said: “Knowing one’s death in advance, only 5 words but we have to try hard the whole life to win ourselves and keep continuously cultivating to achieve”.
Final words for each practitioner, please prepare for your last days. If you wish to be at ease and comfortable to leave this world, even to make jokes with the Death Devil as done by Masters mentioned in this writing, we have to dedicatedly practice two key methods: preventing defilements and cultivating virtues. That is to remove all the roots for birth and death and to develop the Three Studies which are Precepts, Concentration and Wisdom through meditation and/or Buddha’s Name chanting. It is the ultimate goal to be pursued by all the Buddhist followers to achieve the state of “Dying As Having Eternal Peace”.
2 .Two songs you can listen to on the radio are:
“Love My Master”and“Always In My Heart” both composed and performed by MC Lam Anh Ngoc.