Parinirvana Day in Bhutan / Buddha Day in Mongolia Date in the current year: May 23, 2024

Parinirvana Day in Bhutan / Buddha Day in Mongolia According to Buddhist tradition, at the age of 80, Siddhartha Gautama (Buddha) reached parinirvana, the final state after the death of the body that implies a release from the Saṃsāra, karma and rebirth. Most Buddhists celebrate Parinirvana Day that commemorates this event on February 8 or 15. However, in Bhutan it is celebrated on the 15th day of the 4th month of the Bhutanese calendar. It is also a public holiday in Mongolia, where it is known as Buddha Day.

The state religion of Bhutan is Vajrayana, also known as Tantric Buddhism or Esoteric Buddhism. Naturally, some of the major Buddhist holidays, including Parinirvana Day, have been declared as public holidays here. Bhutan has its own lunisolar calendar based on the Tibetan calendar, so the dates of traditional holidays change every year from the point of view of those who use the Gregorian calendar.

Parinirvana Day in Bhutan is celebrated on the 15th day of the 4th lunar month. It is dedicated to the end of Gautama Buddha’s earthly life. According to Buddhist tradition, when the Buddha turned 80, he announced that he would soon achieve the final nirvana (parinirvana) and abandon his earthly body. After achieving the deathless state of parinirvana, his earthly body was cremated.

On Parinirvana Day, Bhutanese Buddhists read passages from the Mahāyāna Mahāparinirvāṇa Sūtra, also known as the Nirvana Sutra, describing the last days of the Buddha’s life. They also visit Buddhist monasteries and temples, meditate, and reflect on their own future death and on the deaths of their loved ones.

In Mongolia, the predominant religion is the Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism, which was introduced here in the 13th century. In the 16th century, it essentially replaced traditional Mongolian shamanism, although even today some 55,000 Mongolians practice shamanism, which has been influenced by Buddhist rituals and traditions.

During the Mongolian People’s Republic (1824–1992), when Mongolia was strongly influenced by the Soviet Union, all religious activity in the country was suppressed. However, the transition to democracy triggered by the Mongolian Revolution of 1990 has resulted in a general revival of faiths. According to the 2010 national census, more than half of the Mongolians identify as Buddhist.

To highlight the importance of Buddhism in Mongolian society, the day of birth, enlightenment and death of Gautama Buddha was declared a public holiday in 2019. It is celebrated on the 15th day of the first months of summer in the Tibetan calendar and coincides with Parinirvana Day in Bhutan, since the two countries have similar calendars. While discussing the new holiday, members of the Mongolian parliament emphasized that its key goal was to encourage compassion, empathy and kindness, as well as love to one’s family, parents and Mother Nature.

Basically, Parinirvana Day in Bhutan and Buddha Day in Mongolia are the same holiday as Vesak, which is observed by Buddhists in South and Southeast Asia. However, because of the difference between calendars, they don’t fall on the same day as Vesak.

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