Obon [ お盆 ] is an opportunity for us to reflect upon the innumerable causes and conditions that continue to influence our lives and the benefits we have received from the countless lives of others. It is a time to express our gratitude and appreciation for being given those conditions to live this life. So, it is with this understanding that we visit the graves of our loved ones and attend memorial services. Our visitation to the cemetery and conducting memorial services is no more than an expression of the gratitude that arises when we embrace the Truth of those causes and conditions of our life.
Obon has given our members yet another opportunity to reflect upon the countless causes and conditions that enabled us to be who we are. The realization of this truth moves us forward to the future knowing that the thoughts, words, deeds of our past members and loved ones continue to embrace us.
This is Obon … this feeling that resonates though our hearts and minds. Therefore, in our Jodo Shinshu tradition, we call Obon, Kangi-e or “Gathering of Joy”. For it is an act of Joy to awaken to the truth of our life. It is this overwhelming sense of joy and gratitude that is the source for dancing during Obon. This is Obon and this is why we dance.
Legend of Moggallana:
Moggallana, was a disciple of the Buddha, who during a meditative trance saw his deceased mother suffering in the World of Hungry Devils, Preta (the Buddhist equivalent of purgatory). Greatly disturbed, he went to the Buddha and asked how he could release his mother from this suffering. Buddha instructed him to make offerings to the many Buddhist monks who had just completed their summer retreat, on the fifteenth day of the seventh month. The disciple did this and, thus, saw his mother's release. He also began to see the true nature of her past unselfishness and the many sacrifices that she had made for him. The disciple, happy because of his mother's release and grateful for his mother's kindness, danced with joy.