http://SupremeMasterTV.com – Ullambana – Remembering the Divine Love that Saves Humanity. Episode: 1795, Air Date: 14 August 2011.
Greetings, wonderful viewers. Once again it is the middle of the seventh lunar month. Once again it is time to rejoice in the Ullambana Festival, an occasion to celebrate the Divine love that helps and saves humanity. The Ullambana Festival has long been a tradition wherever Buddhism is cherished, and is particularly well-known in India, Âu Lạc (Vietnam), China, Japan, Singapore, Formosa (Taiwan) and South Korea. The word Ullambana is a Sanskrit term literally meaning “rescue those who are hanging upside down,” and translates to mean “deliverance from suffering.”
It originates from the tale of Maudgalyanana, a disciple of Shakyamanu Buddha who wished to save his mother from hell. The filial practitioner was only able to do so through the compassionate help of his Master and other spiritual practitioners. Ms. Joyce Lye, co-founder of the charity group Kampung Senang in Singapore, shared the story of Maudgalyayana in more detail.
He was diligent in spiritual practice and had great magical power. After his mother passed away, he missed her very much, and therefore used his magical power to look for her. When his mother was alive she was often greedy. Therefore, after she died, she entered into the state of a hungry ghost. Maudgalyayana found his mother in this state and so he really wished to relieve her hunger.
So he used his magical power to manifest some food for his mother. Unfortunately, his mother’s greedy thoughts arose again. She was afraid that other beings would share her food. As soon as this thought arose, all the food turned into fire and she couldn’t eat it. So Maudgalyayana returned to the Buddha, asking for his advice on how to help his mother. The Buddha reminded him of the collective spiritual power of the sangha (spiritual practitioner community).
Mr. Takuji Iizuka is a respected Buddhist monk from the Zojyoji Buddhist Temple in Japan.
In Japan we call this Obon or Bon Festival, but it comes from the Ullambana sutra of Buddhism. When Maudgalyayana, who was a Buddha’s disciple, used his supernatural power to search how his mother was doing after passing on, he saw her suffering after she had fallen into the realm of Preta, or realm of hungry ghosts.
She was hung upside down there. Then, honorable Mokuren begged his Master Buddha to tell him how to release his mother. Buddha instructed him to make offerings to many Buddhist ascetic monks, such as various delicacies, food to drink, which is called ango. This act of charity would become a merit which enables him to save his mother. Based on this legend, Obon takes place every year in July or August in summer in the Japanese culture.
At Ullambana, people pray and offer fruits at the temples or at home, chant sutras, make lanterns to put on the rivers, dance, and/or gather with parents. In Japan, Ullambana is one the nation’s most important festivals.
In the temple, a Buddhist memorial service is performed. In addition, we display a family's Buddhist altar at home and make an altar for the ancestral spirits of the deceased. I understand that it is our custom that relatives gather at home on this occasion in order for a priest to hold a service with sutra chanting, and to make offerings of food and flowers.
During Obon, many events are performed all over Japan in order to console and cheer up the ancestral spirits of the deceased, including Bon dance, bonfire of Kyoto, and floating a straw boat or lanterns or offerings on the water at the end of the Bon Festival.
Inspired by Maudgalyayana’s filial piety to his mother, some countries like Âu Lạc (Vietnam) celebrate Ullambana in thanksgiving to the mother or both parents. We spoke with some Aulacese (Vietnamese) citizens about how they observe the festival, which they call Lễ Vu Lan.
On Lễ Vu Lan Day, one often goes to the pagoda. Children whose parents are alive often pin a red rose on their chest and white roses are for those whose parents are deceased. When going to the temple, we can commemorate our parents’ favor of raising us. We can do charity work or do good deeds as a dutiful child. The Lễ Vu Lan Festival is very meaningful to the Aulacese (Vietnamese). There’s a saying:
“Father’s favor is as high as the tallest mountain. Mother’s kindness is like the water flowing from the source.” We should always remember our parents’ favor of raising us.
It is a day for children to have a chance to show gratitude to our parents and ancestors. One can go to the pagoda or stay at home to get together with one’s family, parents, grandparents. Such days are to give the descendants a chance to know more about their ancestors and parents.
Lễ Vu Lan is the day when children can show their filial piety to their parents who gave birth and bring them up. Usually, our Aulacese people celebrate Lễ Vu Lan by activities such as going to the pagoda, praying for the liberation of our parents’ souls, floating paper lanterns to pray for the salvation of the dead.
I think that the Lễ Vu Lan festival is the day to fulfill our filial duty to our mother. If our mother is alive, we pray for our mother’s peace. If our mother is not alive, we also pray for the salvation of our mother’s soul.
On that day, Aulacese people go to the pagoda, setting free animals, praying for our mother’s peace, and doing good deeds to pray for blessings.
The 10th Vice President of Formosa (Taiwan) Annette Lu also shared precious memory of her late mother, while expanding the love for her biological mother to embrace Mother Earth, the planet.
My mother, for her background, she was a very typical Formosan (Taiwanese) woman. She was adopted since little, so in that environment, she was not able to receive a very good education like we modern women. Nevertheless, she had a strong sense of independence. She and my father fell in love and married each other in that kind of era. They worked very hard. Her daughter went as far as being a vice president.
I think they never expected that. I feel that all women are very hard working and very amazing. When there’s something good, they always think of their daughters, their husbands, and their children first. And they take up the hardest work themselves. Of course, our shared mother is the Earth, so I also hope everyone together takes good care of the Earth.
In Formosa (Taiwan), China, and Singapore, the Ullambana Festival has found affinity with non-Buddhist traditions and has become one of the most auspicious festivals during the year.
In Singapore, the festival in July is usually not called Ullambana, it’s called the Middle Yuan Festival. Historically, people started to celebrate the Middle Yuan Festival after the Wei Dynasty. According to the historical record, it says that there are three Yuans in a year: the first one is the Upper Yuan, which is January 15 of the Lunar Calendar, the Middle Yuan falls on July 15, and October 15 is the Lower Yuan. To celebrate the Upper Yuan Festival, people express their gratitude to the Lord of Heaven. Then in July, they show gratitude to the Lord of the Earth. Why should we thank the Lord of the Earth? It’s because the Earth is our mother who nourishes all the crops to ensure harvests and to provide bountiful food for us to eat.
Therefore, it’s a festival to show respect to Heaven and gratitude to the Earth. And that’s the meaning of this festival from the Wei Dynasty. Here in Singapore, we have Indian culture, the Buddhist culture, and folk traditions, or the local customs. Therefore, the celebrations of the Middle Yuan Festival can be completely different depending on the organizer. The Buddhists celebrate the Middle Yuan Festival in their own way. They think about all the beings who are like their mother, and deliver them. Then the Taoists make offerings to thank the Earth.
For major cities, Ullambana is an occasion for many eateries to offer vegan cuisine. Many people, Buddhist and non-Buddhist, are able to enjoy the lighter feeling of consuming food that is free of suffering.
According to the teachings of the Buddha, all sentient beings in all realms and in nature are like our mothers. They were once our mother. Therefore, on such a festive day, also known as the Ullambana Day, they would help sentient beings to recognize the Truth. They would spread the nectar water, and even give medicines to relieve pains caused by people’s greed, hatred and ignorance. Therefore, it’s a very meaningful festival and a very auspicious day, because many spiritual practitioners would gather together and many hearts would become sincere.
The Ullambana Festival also reminds us about the merits of offering vegetarian or vegan food to the Buddha, Bodhisattvas and others. During a February 2011 videoconference Supreme Master Ching Hai revealed that food is a significant medium through which spiritual Masters can assist humanity, and shared new insights about food and merits through the Maudgalyayana story.
So, food, drinks are a convenient tool for masters to intervene in the give-and-take drama of this world. It connects almost all members of our society, from farmers, harvesters, etc., down to machine operators, refinery workers, and even builders for storage, for road, for transport, you see?
So, as we consume even vegan food, we have to also practice diligently in order to have enough merit to repay the kindness of all the workers involved, as well as to cleanse the bad karma (retribution) of the things that we use in this world, and to bless whichever trees or plants that give us food, or their groups, for example, so that they also can elevate in the spiritual evolution.
Remember when the Buddha’s disciple, Maudgalyāyana, his mother was punished in hell because she because she made meat to feed the sangha and lied to them, saying it was vegetarian.
So after Maudgalyāyana brought the food and fruit offering to the whole congregation of monks there, then his mother was liberated immediately.
Yes, because when they partake of this food, then they partake of the connection with the humankind in this world – you see what I mean? – (Yes, Master.) including the mother of Maudgalyāyana. That’s why she was liberated. So it took a lot of monks, everybody took a little bit of bad karma (retribution), so she was liberated.
We wish everyone who is celebrating, a joyful and meaningful Ullambana Festival. May it be for everyone a time to reflect on Heaven’s grace and the virtuous, filial, and spiritual way of life.
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