Community Chapel honors Nirvana Day


Davis Marks/Chronicle

Reverend Sumi Lounden Kim, who works at Yale University, explains Nirvana Day and its significance to Community Chapel virtual attendees.

Davis Marks

To honor the Buddhist holiday Nirvana Day, which celebrates when Buddha is said to have achieved complete Nirvana, Reverend Anne Gardner hosted Reverend Sumi Lounden Kim at the weekly Community Chapel on Tuesday. Reverend Kim serves as a Buddhist Chaplain and Coordinator of Buddhist Life at Yale University.

Gardner said she thought Nirvana Day falling on the day when Community Chapel events are usually held provided an opportunity to highlight Buddhism’s traditions and teachings.

“Because Nirvana Day, an important observance in the Buddhist community, fell on a Tuesday this year, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to shine a spotlight on this ancient tradition,” Gardner said. “I am so very grateful Reverend Kim agreed to bring her expertise and faith perspective to our community here at Harvard-Westlake.”

Gardner, who joined the school community as Chaplain in 2019, launched the Community Chapel program in September of 2019, which focuses on delivering messages to attendees rather than focusing on specific religious beliefs. The program has featured reflections based on a variety of texts and music, from both Jewish and Christian scriptures, excerpts from literature and poetry, popular music and hymnody.

Elizabeth Johnstone ’24 said as a Roman Catholic, she attended the event because she wanted to learn more about Buddhism.

“I joined Chapel because I was very interested in learning more about Buddhism,” Johnstone said. “As a lifelong Roman Catholic, I’ve been to a fair share of Masses and Christian services, but I know very little about non-Judeo-Christian religions. I was excited to join in and learn [more].”

Reverend Kim began the event by talking about the meaning of Nirvana Day and how the Buddha’s last day on Earth was not a day of mourning, but a great lesson to his students to focus on the truths within themselves. In recognizing Nirvana Day encouraging practitioners to look inward, Reverend Kim led a meditation and reflection process in which attendees could quietly breathe and think in order to find a deeper peace within themselves.

Alexa Sen ’22, who also attended the event, said she appreciated that the Community Chapel event featured a non-Judeo-Christian perspective and enjoyed the reflection and meditation practice Reverend Kim led.

“I attended this week’s Community Chapel in order to have some spiritual grounding and to see how a traditionally Christian service would give voice to a different spiritual tradition,” Sen said. “I learned about Nirvana Day and the importance of regular quiet self-reflection and mindfulness, [and] I really enjoyed the meditation that we did together [as] it made me feel peaceful and calm for the rest of the day.”