The Origins of Vu Lan festival

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On Vu Lan day, Buddhists honor their living parents and elders; they also pray for their deceased parents and ancestors. It is generally believed that one who performs a good deed accumulates spiritual merit. In addition, it is considered virtuous when the merit earned is shared with departed souls. This act helps the dead to be reborn in good realms and alleviate his suffering.


V
u Lan is a Sanskrit-Chinese phonetic transcription of Ullambana, also called Vu Lan Bon. The original Sanskri [1] term Ullambana means “hang upside down”; this meaning symbolizes the extreme suffering that tormented souls in hell must endure.


The term Ullambana appears in the Ullambana Sutra, also called the Sutra of Filial Piety. This sutra consists in a brief discourse that Sakyamuni Buddha – the Buddha – gave to one of his great disciples, Maudgalyayana [2], on the practice of filial duty.

 

The Origins of Vu Lan festivalThe Vu Lan traditions began with the legend of Maudgalyayana, known as “Mục Kiền Liên” in Vietnam. After his mother had died, Maudgalyayana, by means of his supernatural power, saw that she had been reborn as a hungry ghost in the realm of hell as a result of her evil actions in her past life.


Maudgalyayana pleaded with the Buddha to save his mother. The Buddha instructed his disciple that only a combined effort of all Buddhist monks could soothe the suffering of the tormented soul. He then directed Maudgalyayana to organize an assembly of monks so that Maudgalyayana could make offerings for the benefit of his mother’s soul. Thus, the accumulated spiritual merits resulted from the prayers of all monks helped his mother awaken; consequently, she obtained liberation.

 

To this day, Ullambana, or Vu Lan, is a festival that advocates and reinforces the concept of filial affection andduty. The word “Ullambana” translates into “deliverance from suffering”, and specifically refers to the salvation that is granted to tormented souls in hell.



On Vu Lan day, Buddhists honor their living parents and elders; they also pray for their deceased parents and ancestors. It is generally believed that one who performs a good deed accumulates spiritual merit. In addition, it is considered virtuous when the merit earned is shared with departed souls. This act helps the dead to be reborn in good realms and alleviate his suffering.


Ullambana is also known as the Ghost Festival; it is believed that, on this day, the “Gates of Hell” are opened and the dead souls pay visit to their loved ones. People make offerings of food to the hungry ghosts and pray for their salvation to practice Compassion and Charitable Giving. People also offer food, medication and clothes to monks and nuns in monasteries.


Ullambana is celebrated by Buddhists all over the world on the 15th day of the 7th month of the lunar calendar.


Although there are slight variations in certain customs and beliefs in different countries, the fundamental rituals and spirit remain essentially the same.

While the Westerners have Mother’s Day and Father’s Day to be proud of, Vietnamese treasure their seventh lunar month festival in general and the Vu Lan day in particular as a time to show gratitude to their parents and to practice Compassion and Charitable Giving, two of the most revered virtues in Buddhism. 


The Origins of Vu Lan festival



Du Yen
Source: vedepphatphap.vn


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[1] Although the Buddhist scriptures were first recorded and collected in Pali scriptures, Sanskrit is the primary language of Hinduism and Buddhism.

[2] Moggallana in Pali