2022 August Ullambana Festival & Prayer Ceremony
On the fifteenth day of the seventh lunar month, we celebrate Ullambana Festival, also called Zhongyuan Festival or Ghost Festival, one of the most popular Buddhist festivals. It is also regarded as the Sangha Day and the day of the Buddha’s delight.
On this day every year, it is believed that the gateways of upper, living, and lower realms are wide open and all the energies from different realms commingle. It is a day to venerate and pray to help liberate the deceased, and absolve the sufferings of the deceased through ritualistic activities. During this festival, ritualistic food and incense offerings are made by the Sangha to the spirits of the deceased and to the hungry ghosts in the lower realms in order to grant salvation to the tormented souls. Prayers are also offered to all departed ancestors and our living parents and elders. The positive power and effect of a group ritual is mentioned in the Ullambana Sutra. The text begins with:
“Thus have I heard. At one time, the Buddha dwelt in the kingdom of Sravasti in the Garden of Anathapindika, the Benefactor of Orphans and the Solitary. Maudgalyāyana had just obtained the six penetrations. Wishing to repay the kindness of his parents for raising him, Maudgalyāyana used his Way Eye to observe the world and saw that his deceased mother had been reborn among the hungry ghosts. Not being able to consume any food nor drink, she was but skin and bones. …”
— Ullambana Sutra
Maudgalyāyana is a historical figure associated with Ullambana. He is considered the second of the Buddha's two foremost male disciples, together with Śāriputra. The Ullambana Sutra gives an account of how the Buddha gave teachings to Maudgalyāyana to help his mother who was suffering in the lower realm of the Hungry Ghosts. Maudgalyāyana embodies the pure quality of filial piety and compassion. His story can be read here.