Q079: Master Lu, Ullambana Festival is approaching, what should we be aware of?
- Ullambana Festival is also known as the “Ghost Festival” and it is celebrated on lunar 15th July. During the month of lunar July, people tend to experience conflicts and unhappiness at home, and family members are likely to become ill and get involved in arguments. Even the weather during this time tends to be not as good, with many cloudy and rainy days. This is because prior to lunar July, many spirits are released from the underworld to collect or repay their karmic debts in the human world. On lunar 15th July, it is mandatory for the spirits to return to the underworld. On their returning day, we should respectfully farewell our Karmic Creditors or deceased relatives by performing recitations for them.
- During this period, if we have not repaid enough karmic debts or we do not respectfully farewell the spirits, they will become unhappy or harbour hatred in their mind. After they return to the underworld, they can apply to come back to human world. This is the reason why some people are constantly having Karmic Creditors.
- You should mindfully and sincerely perform recitations. It is best to recite 2 Little Houses (Hsiao Fang Tzu) for each deceased relative. You can also recite several Little Houses and address them to the “Karmic Creditor of <your full name>”.
- If you do not have enough time to recite Little Houses, you can recite the Heart Sutra (Hsin Ching) for the foreign spirits. Each foreign spirit would require you to recite the Heart Sutra 49 times.
- When you recite the Heart Sutra and you know the full name of the foreign spirit (for example, a deceased relative), you can say the following prayer, “May the Great Merciful and Great Compassionate Guan Yin Bodhisattva protect and bless me, <full name>, and help me to transfer merits to <full name of the deceased relative>.” If you do not know the name of the foreign spirit (i.e. your Karmic Creditor), you can say the following prayer, “May the Great Merciful and Great Compassionate Guan Yin Bodhisattva protect and bless me, <full name>, and help me to transfer merits to the Karmic Creditor who is currently asking me to perform recitations.”
- You may feel particularly regretful towards one of your deceased relatives, or that you owe a lot to this relative. Then in addition to performing recitations, you can also make some donations to help yourself to repay enough karmic debts in time. This can assist in the reduction or elimination of calamities right at this moment.
- On lunar 15th July, you should perform meritorious and virtuous deeds, and refrain from committing wrongdoings. You should remain mindful and respectful throughout this day, and do not behave inappropriately.
- It is best to repay your karmic debts by performing recitations, instead of burning joss papers or spirit money.
- In the past, during this special festival time, people in many Southeast Asian countries including Japan stayed at home with the purpose of performing recitations, and praying for peace and harmony for the year ahead.