Nirvana Day Zazenkai

2/19/2021, 7:00am - 2/21/2021, 8:00am at Online

Nirvana Day Zazenkai will take place online February 19-21 2021. This zazenkai commemorates the passing of Shakyamuni Buddha into parinirvana. As the Buddha lay between the two Sala trees preparing to depart from this sphere of teaching, his disciples were understandably grief-stricken and begged him to stay in this world longer. They pointed out how much more was to be done – that all had not yet been freed from delusion. The Buddha used this opportunity to teach his students many lessons about impermanence, essential nature and expedient means. During this retreat, we will look at and reflect on some passages of the Maha Parinirvana Sutra. This dramatic sutra recounts the Buddha's final time with his disciples and the important messages he wanted to convey.

This is the eleventh online retreat we have had since the pandemic necessitated moving to virtual retreats starting in April 2020. All of us, especially those families who have directly lost someone to the pandemic, are coping with the reality of impermanence so tangibly during this time. Many of us report experiencing mental and emotional fatigue, watching the death toll climb and coping with drastic changes to income, job security, and lifestyle. This feels like a very appropriate time to return to the cushion, to experience the unborn nature of our existence, as we say in our sutra dedication “Vast ocean of dazzling light, marked by the waves of life and death” and “the vows of great compassion seem to come and go.” The Buddha's steep but compassionate teaching directly addresses a time such as this.

Friday evening at 7 PM, we will begin with three periods of sitting, which will include opening remarks and precautions. The evening will end with the Four Bodhisattva Vows and three bows. On Saturday morning, we begin at 6 AM with the chanting of the Verse of Atonement and Three Refuges and two sitting periods. Morning service (as well as noon and evening services) will consist of a group reading, followed by a breakfast break.  There will be two late morning sitting periods starting at 9:30 AM, followed by the talk/discussion on the Maha Parinirvana Sutra at 10:50 and lunch service (online) and lunch on your own. There is a self care period at 2 PM during which you can do a body work practice (such as yoga, tai chi or qigong), take a walk, attend to family needs or another activity. This will be followed by a work period, during which you can do a work task of your choice at home, followed by a period of zazen and then evening service.  After dinner break will be three more periods of sitting (online) beginning at 7:00 PM and ending with the  Four Bodhisattva Vows  and 3 bows. On Sunday morning, we will have two periods of zazen starting at 6 AM, followed by the Gate of Sweet Nectar at about 7:15 AM.

This schedule is only a framework.  Feel free to participate as you are able or to substitute a body mind practice or walking for a sitting period. During the sitting and walking meditation periods, we will turn off our audio and video. 

There will not be a formal charge for the Nirvana Day Zazenkai. Instead, we invite you to make a free will donation of any amount you would like on our Dana Page. Please indicate in the comments that your donation is for the Nirvana Day Zazenkai. Register by Monday, February 15. For more information or questions about the zazenkai, email Roshi at