Thursday, March 14, 2013

Carpe Diem #145, Nehane (Nirvana Ceremony, Buddha's Nirvana anniversary)

Dear Haijin, visitors and travelers,

Today is a special day. Today it's March 15th and on that day in Buddhism they have Nehane (Nirvana Ceremony, Buddha's Nirvana anniversary) on this day they have a ceremony in the temples in honoring and remembering Buddha's Nirvana, or in other words, Buddha's Journey to Heaven.
As you maybe know Buddhism is one of the spiritual origins of haiku. Several haiku poets, e.g. Basho, Issa, Sokan and Onitsura, were Buddhists.
Haiku is often used by Zen-Buddhistic monks to write down their lessons. Those lessons, called KOAN, are helping the young novices to understand the questions without an answer.
Buddhism as one of the spiritual origins of haiku brings us also nice kigo. Nehane, our prompt for today, is a kigo for mid-spring and it's about Buddha's Nirvana entrance. It's one of the greatest ceremonies in loving memory of the passing away of Shakyamuni, the Buddha, traditionally on the full moon of the second lunar month, February 15th. Nowadays Nehane is on March 15th in many temples.

Credits: Nehane (Japanese website)

A few examples of haiku on this event:

Buddha's nirvana day -
wrinkled hands together
the sound of the rosaries

(c) Basho, he wrote this haiku shortly for his own death in 1694.

within the fence of the shrine -
what a surprise to find
Buddha lying down to die

(c) Basho, he wrote this one on Nehane in the Ise Shrine

Credits: Ise Shrine

Or what do you think of this one written by Issa:

let us all lie down
and recline like Buddha -
Nirvana Ceremony

(c) Issa

Another one by Issa:

dead flowers suddenly
are made to bloom ...
The Buddha!

(c) Issa

Or this one written by Ozawa Minoru (1956 - ), a modern haiku poet:

the shell on the Nehanzu -
I wonder how it came
to be there?

(c) Ozawa Minoru

Or this wonderful haiku by Kakimoto:

on the human body
butterflies are assembling -
Nirvana Festival

(c) Kakimoto

And to enclose this list of examples a nice set of haiku written by Narayanan Raghunathan which he wrote in September 2009. By the way Narayanan is one of the co-founders of Wonder Haiku Worlds an international website on haiku and other Japanese poetry forms. I am also a member of that website and have published there several haiku, haibun and essays.

Nirvana Ceremony -
a butterfly buddha flutters
among human buddhas

reclining Buddha -
a little fly settles on
his closed eye

Nirvana Ceremony -
the maitreya buddha
wakes his children

A wonderful series of haiku on Nehane don't you think? I think that these haiku can be a source for your inspiration. Of course I have written my own haiku inspired on Nehane.

spring breeze
caresses the dying Buddha
heavenly tears

shedding tears
in front of the dying Buddha
Nirvana Ceremony

butterflies dancing
around the lying Buddha
Nirvana is calling

even on his way to heaven
Buddha smiles


I was on a role with this prompt as you can read. I was really inspired. OK ... a last one:

Buddha smiles -
on his nose, butterfly asleep -
light of dawn

Nirvana Ceremony -
I praise Lord Buddha
tears in my eyes

I hope you enjoyed the read and of course I am looking forward to your inspirational haiku on Nehane. This prompt will stay on 'til March 16th 11.59 AM (CET) and I will post our next episode later on today around 10.00 PM (CET) That will be Tsubame (Swallow).


  1. You were definitely inspired. I love your haiku for this prompt. Emotional...sad and happy at the same time.

  2. Wonderful one Kristjaan. I really like how you do it. This prompt was very difficult for me.

  3. Nice work. As a Zen Buddhist, I am always delighted to have a chance to write about Buddha, although in Zen the philosophy is to help everyone else achieve enlightenment before taking it for yourself :)

  4. Very educational post ~ didn't know about March 15th ~ and have different take, of course, on 'nirvana' ~ Feel very 'out of the loop' lately with group at Carpe Diem haiku ~ oh well ~ enjoy and thanx ^_^

  5. wow! your haiku's inspired. lovely... i found this prompt challenging

  6. Thank you for enlightening us. I had no idea what Nirvana was, but now I understand it is the seeing of God. I have a good lexicon, though, and I will look it up there. By the way I find the haiku quite suited for wisdom. Maybe I have found a new art form!

  7. A fascinating post! All ideas on Nirvana fascinate me.

  8. the set of 4 was so wonderful, espec. the first 2 - heavenly tears - I felt a clenching in my chest for some reason...

  9. One of your most interesting lessons.
    Thank you.