Nehan-e (Memorial service for the anniversary of Buddhas Nirvana) (涅槃会)

Nehan-e, also referred to as Nehan-ko or Nehan-ki, is a Buddhist memorial service practiced in Japan and China on February 15 in the Chinese lunar calendar, the day when Shakyamuni entered Nirvana (died), to remember the illustrious memory of Shakamuni and repayment of a kindness.

Nehan is a translation of Nirvana, which originally referred to the state of mind free of illusion, but in the context of Nehan-e, it refers to the death of Shakyamuni.

The actual date of Shakyamuni's entering Nirvana is unknown, and Nanden bukkyo (Buddhism that spread from India to Sri Lanka and Southeast Asian countries such as Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia) specifies that it falls on the full-moon day in the month of Visakha (the Buddhist festival of Vesak). Because the month of Visakha is the second month according to the Indian calendar, the date was set as February 15 in China.

During the service, a Butsu Nehan-zu (painting of Buddha nirvana), depicting Shakamuni entering Nirvana under a sal tree, lying with his head pointing to the north, and his face facing to the west, surronded by ten great disciples, a group of Bosatsu (Bodhisattva), Tenbu (deities who reside in a heavenly realm, one of six realms in which the souls of living beings transmigrate from one to another), animals and insects all lamenting his death, is hung, and "Butsuyuikyogyo" (Mahayana Buddhist scripture) is chanted. Depending on the service, illustrations of the Butsu Nehan-zu are provided. In the Heian period, the Nehan-e held at Yamashina-dera Temple was particularly known. It was also called Joraku-e, and is depicted in "Sanpo-e" (a Japanese literary collection of Buddhist narratives) as the first of 'Nenchu Shuyo Hoe' (The main Buddhist services in whole year).

[Original Japanese]