August 11, 2012, 5:47 am ~ by ShoE in news
The OBON has started. It originates from the story of Mokuren Sonja, a disciple of the Buddha with supernatural powers. His mother had died and due to his powers he could see that she was suffering in hell, and not just any hell, but a place where any kind of food or drink brought to one´s mouth would catch flames. He was very upset about this, when the Buddha told him to bring offerings to the monks, who had just finished their summer retreat. Upon doing so, his mother was released from the hell realm, and happy with joy, the disciples started to dance.
The Segaki 施餓鬼ceremony (feeding the hungry spirits): This is where the tradition of offering dried food and water, during these days from the 11thuntil the 15th of August comes from, when it is said that the passed away spirits visit again their families. The Roshi visits all the lay followers of Sogenji monastery, the Danka, and reads a sutra at their family altar. Above you can see a picture of the Sogenji altar with offerings of water, uncooked rice, dried foods and root vegetables.
During these three days, three monks from Sogenji go and help out at the temple of Kogenji in Tokushima. This is the temple where the traditional Awa Odori = fools dances held in Yukata (summer kimonos) originated and are still practiced nowadays. One of the rymes of these dances goes: "The dancers are fools, the watchers are fools, both are fools alike so why not dance?"
The Segaki ceremony is practiced with the Sogenji sangha on the evening of the 15th ofAugust, when in the dim light of the Hondo, everyone remembers their ancestors, giving offerings to them, as well as reflecting upon their own behavior and deeds.
The Obon ends with the Toro Nagashi = floating lanterns. In downtown Okayama at dusk, lay people send paper lanterns with the names of their passed away family members written on them floating on the river. The souls are returning to the other shore and are being send off with a guiding light on the river with sutras sounding in the air.