Celebration of Ullambana
Ullambana is Sanskrit. It means “rescuing those who are hanging upside down.” It’s very painful to be hanging upside down, and so now we are going to rescue those who are that way. Rescue whom? We are going to rescue our parents and other ancestors from previous lives. We don’t know whether our past relatives created merit, in which case they may have been reborn in the Land of Ultimate Bliss, or in the heavens, or among people as presidents or emperors; whether they created offenses in which case they may have fallen into the hells, into the realm of hungry ghosts, or into the animal realm.
The fifteenth day of the seventh lunar month is the anniversary of the day when the Venerable Mahamaudgalyayana saved his mother from the hells. When his mother was alive, she didn’t believe in the Triple Jewel. She killed many fish, turtles, shrimps and crabs and she was stingy and unwilling to give to those in need. Because of these offenses she fell into a hell of hungry ghosts. The venerable Mahamaudgalyayana quickly sent her a bowl of food, shielded the bowl with her left hand and used her right hand to take the food. However, once in her month, the food turned into burning coals which were impossible to eat. The Venerable One went to seek the Buddhas’s help, and the Buddha told him to make offerings to the angha of the ten directions during the Pravarana (the last day of the summer retreat when Sangha members repent of their offenses before the assembly.) Because of the Sangha’s great virtue and awesome spiritual power, if one makes offerings to the Sangha, his parents and close kin in this life and seven lives past, will escape the three evil paths.
In the West, there has rarely been a Way-place which help this kind of celebration. Every One of us should act as a filial descendant for our parents and ancestors of former lives.