In Japan, Obon has been held since 657 CE. It is observed in July or August. A commonly held belief among people in Japan is that the disembodied spirits of the dead return to visit at this time of year. This belief is not supported by Jodo Shin Buddhists, who consider such a belief to be an unfounded superstitionI searched around the Buddhist blogs for other mentions of Obon and sadly found only a single post by Rev. Danny Fisher with a couple links he plucked out of his daily news scan. Obon is a major holiday for Japanese American Buddhists, and by extension one of the longest held Buddhist festivals in North America. This weekend, you can catch the Revs. Usuki at West LA Buddhist Temple’s Obon festival. You’ll find me there and also in downtown LA at Higashi Honganji Buddhist Temple’s 50th annual Obon festival!
Most Japanese-American Buddhists belong to the Jodo Shinshu school (including the sangha of West LA Buddhist Temple), so it is important to understand the history and significance of our Obon Festival. It is not, as some mistakenly believe, to welcome back the spirits of the dead. Instead, it is a time of gratitude, giving, and joy in the Truth of Life. Hence, it is also known as Kangi-e, or the Gathering of Joy.
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