By Nhat Quan
When the Blessed One was in his residence at Sangharama, Nigrodharama, Kapilavatthu City. The Buddha said that the short Dharma period was full of monks, bodhisattvas, gods, humans, etc. Particularly, Venerable Ananda is sitting in another quiet place.
On the third watch of that day, there was a hungry ghost with a tall body, a dry body, and a red mouth like a blood pot. Every time it breathes out, fire comes out, when it breathes in, it sucks in, that is, fire burns in and out with the breath. Its hair is tangled and bouncing, each strand of hair is hard and flat, sharp like a knife, in the hair, fire, and smoke are coming out, it looks terrible!
The fire-mouthed demon stood in front of Venerable Ananda and shouted:
- Dear White Venerable An Nan, in three days you will have to die and become a Fire Mouth Devil like me!
Venerable Ananda was terrified! Fire Mouth Devil continued:
- You want to not die, there is only one way that you have to give each part of 77 wooden vessels of food and drink to countless species of Fire-mouthed Demons, The spirits of the dead person, hundreds of thousands of times more numerous! And on behalf of us to make offerings to the Three Jewels,…Not only you, but all those who work together like you have a long life, immeasurable merit, and virtue….
Venerable Ananda returned to Monastery and told the Buddha, and asked the Buddha to teach him how to have enough food for each part of 77 wooden vessels for hundreds of thousands of countless times and save countless Fire Mouth Devils!
For that reason, the Buddha taught the rites of worshiping spirits.
 In the spirit of Mahayana Buddhism, it not only saves birth but also saves death. Sentient beings who fall into hell without a method of relief will never be free from all suffering and will sink to hell forever. Therefore, saving birth is a responsibility, and saving death is a vow of the Buddha's children, of the spirit of great kindness, great compassion, and the great vow of Buddhism. Therefore, Ksitigarbha is a bodhisattva who made a vow:
-- When I save all sentient beings suffering in hell, I will become a Buddha.
If you want to save sentient beings, you have to use means, just like if you want to have enough rice to eat from hunger, you have to use firewood, coal, electricity, etc., then the rice will become ripe to eat. In the same way, Buddhas and Bodhisattvas want to help living beings or the dead, and they use many means to make the living people feel at ease with what they have done to the deceased. People who die through this merit are freed from suffering.
Therefore, the Festival of Worshiping the Spirits, Offering the Souls is a must-do for the Buddha's children. However, the establishment of festivals and worshiping hungry ghosts must be in accordance with the Buddha's teachings and should not be displayed in forms of waste of money such as burning gold and silver paper, or making effigies, all these things are not in accordance with the spirit of the Buddha's teachings. Faithful Dharma here needs to point out a few basic things:
1- The monks prove that sacrifice must be pure of heart.
2- Festival organizers must be sincere.
3- The decoration must be dignified, and the ceremony grounds must be clean and not noisy.
Because of these basic things, the worshiping ceremony will have good results, the spirits of the dead person, the forsaken spirits, the hungry ghosts who direct their hearts to practice good, give up evil for the righteous, and take refugee to Three Jewelry rely on this merit transcended. The Buddha's son who can make this vow is a great charity, creating good karma, expanding Bodhicitta, a clear path of cultivation, and developing wisdom.
Someone asked, grandparents, and parents, have passed away a long time ago, so does the requiem, or the Festival of Worshiping the Spirits have any effect?
You should know, in the endless cycle of birth and death of each human life, there is no one without relatives. The life of certain sentient beings has not had the good fortune to meet the Buddha's Dharma, the cause and effect, and karma are not clear, so when they die, it is difficult to avoid falling into a place of suffering, torture, extreme hunger, and thirst wandering here and there, caves and alleys there. Only the enlightened Buddhas and Bodhisattvas can clearly see the good and bad karma of sentient beings and teach you. If you are not enlightened, you cannot see their suffering! Therefore, with infinite compassion for those who have died of various karmas, the Buddha taught you to set up a festival to sacrifice, to help the deceased quickly escape the torment. Therefore, those who are children, parents, brothers, and sisters cannot ignore the scene of their loved ones groaning in pain in the dark.
Therefore, this tradition is preserved today. Especially in each monastery, when there are great Buddhist events, such as the mass Pray for Peace, the inauguration, the requiem for the Elder master or patriarch in the temple or the requiem for the deceased lay Buddhists, or the offices and companies set up forums requiem for the spirits of the region.
Among the offerings of forsaken spirits, the festival requiem for the spirits of the dead person is held on the largest scale. Since it covers both literary and philosophical aspects, almost all the essence of Tantric Mahayana Buddhist thought and literature is included here.
In terms of form, this festival is based on the philosophy of Tantric Buddhism. Instant layout in a simple form of a mandala. Within it is a circle, represented as a lotus flower in full bloom, and this circle is the basis of the tantric cosmology. Usually, there are two sets of mandalas:
1- The Realm of Diamond Elements (Vajradhàtu-mandala) symbolizes the wisdom of the Buddha's attainment. That is, taking human beings or sentient beings as personal, but above all, taking the personality of the Buddha as a symbol of the absolute essence.
2- Garbhadhàtu-mandala symbolizes his means of saving birth. This Mandala takes on personality, which is the inconceivable dharma of the Buddha and the inconceivable life span. Personality has five factors, called Five Aggregations: form, feeling, perception, mental formations, and consciousness. They gather into a fictitious self, so they are called aggregates. The world of personality is composed of five elements, called the Five Great: Earth, water, fire, wind, and space.
On the basis of the teachings of these two Mandalas, first The Realm of Diamond Elements is established to express the Buddha's wisdom and evidence. Vajra is a solid that cannot be destroyed by anything. Therefore, Vajra is used as a concept that concretizes the essence of the existence of the Buddha body, called Vajra's indestructible body (vajrasauhatanakaya). That body, like the body of all living beings, is composed of the five aggregates and the five great elements. But the existence of the Buddha's body is not different from the function of the Buddha's knowledge. Therefore, the five elements correspond to the five wisdoms. And the personality of the Buddha, as the unified whole of existence and perception, is expressed in the corresponding five Tathagatas, the Five Wisdom Tathagatas, or the five Zen Buddhas.
Both sets of mandalas can also represent two hands. The right hand is the Vajra world. From the little finger to the thumb, in order: Regarding the five aggregates, the little finger is the aggregate of form, and respectively the aggregate of feeling, the aggregate of perception, the aggregate of formations, and the aggregate of consciousness. Regarding the five greats, the five kinds of knowledge, and the five Tathagatas are also in the same order. Regarding the paramitas, counting from the little finger: generosity, morality, patience, and diligence to the thumb is the perfection of meditation.
The left hand is the Garbha world; also count from little finger to thumb in order, with five elements, five aggregates, etc. like the right hand. Regarding the Paramitas: Wisdom, means, vows, power, and meditation.
Thus, when the two hands are joined, both the compassion and wisdom of the Buddha are complete. The festival of sacrifices is arranged on the basis of cosmology, with a few changes. Simply put, the forum is arranged as a reduction of the cosmic world into a reality that exists before our eyes.
The purpose of the arrangement in this Festival of Sacrifice is to develop the Buddha's supportive blessing power. Tantra says:
- The Buddha demonstrates the means of saving sentient beings by means of his blessing power. Blessing in three respects, which the term calls:
- The Three Secrets of Yoga
Corresponding to the three karmic actions of a being: body, mouth, and mind.
Blessing, the supporting power of the Buddha, is manifested through the body of a being in sitting postures and the mudra, that is, the fingers of two hands intersecting in a certain posture stipulated. Blessing in the mouth is expressed through the recitation of mantras.
Mahayana Buddhism, regardless of skin color, race, living or dead, is pervasive through many means of which the festival of sacrifices is one of them. When living beings have created many karmas, when they die, there are many forms:
- Death by water, being hit by a car, dying in war, being stabbed to death, drinking poison, biting by other species, falling into rivers and seas, collapsing tunnels... in so many ways, not yet free from suffering, so still wandering here and there, in many different forms. Feeling sorry for those souls that poet Nguyen Du, in the literature of the sacrifice of ten kinds of sentient beings, wrote:
- Each person has a different karma,
The floating soul does not know where now
The requiem festival is a practice among countless dharma disciplines. It is a form of giving, which includes both material giving and dharma giving. Of course, in the festival's donation of material things, although the mortal eyes of the living do not see any damage, all of them have been used by beings in the hungry ghost path, and they use them by means of methods. Mindfulness and also the way of eating thoughts. However, the most important thing is still the Dharma giving. Because only dharma giving can help sentient beings receive gifts, and only dharma giving can help sentient beings escape from the realm of suffering and be reborn in the Pure Land.
The main object of the festival of sacrifices is sentient beings in the hungry ghost path, which you often say are ghosts or Forsake spirits. Those are the dead who have not yet been liberated. Those people may include your grandfather, grandmother, father, mother, brother, sister, relatives, friends, etc. Much previous life. Many elements die in many ways, collectively known as the Ten Types of Beings or the Ten Types of Souls. According to the collection of Yoga Practices for the Practice of Fire Mouth Offering Ritual, translated from Sanskrit into Han by Amogha Tripitaka Dharma Master in the Tang Dynasty, the ten types of Forsake spirits include:
1- The soul of the dead died for the country.
2. The souls of the dead died because of wrongful bondholders, abortion, or miscarriage.
3. The soul of the dead for creating unfilial karma, immorality, and contempt for the Three Jewels.
4. The soul of the dead died in the river, died in the sea.
5. The soul of the dead died in a remote border place.
6. The soul of the dead died in exile, died on the road, and died in the dust.
7. The soul of the dead died by suicide, drowned in a river, fell off a mountain, died by stabbing, died by slashing.
8. The soul of the dead died of torture and humiliation in prison.
9. The soul of the dead died from being beaten and tortured
10. The soul of the dead was blind, crippled, mute, deaf when she lived, she really had no one to take care of.
These ten types of forsaken spirits live restlessly in one place, now and then in other places, depending on the situation that they rely on and appear. There are forsaken spirits with a greedy nature, seeing food as stealing each other, causing pain to each other. Or there are forsaken spirits that look at their food and turn into inedible blood, endure all kinds of indescribable sufferings, and receive all kinds of torments. The Buddha radiated light seeing all these sufferings, he had boundless compassion, devised many ways to save, regardless of species, and made a vow:
- The sufferings of sentient beings are boundless, he vows to save them all.
Or as Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva vows:
- After saving all sentient beings, I became a Buddha.
That's why there is a festival of sacrifices.
In some other faculties, there are also some forsaken spirits, such as Kings, emperors, mandarins, and martial officers of the dynasties, who died by accident being usurped or raised the dream of unification but have not yet achieved it die. The students studied day and night to raise their dream of fame and fortune, but they died prematurely halfway. The monks and Taoists for some reason were not enlightened, so forsaken spirits hung around in the old temples and shrines where they once lived...
The beings in the path of the hungry ghosts have to endure a very painful life. On the one hand, because of the karma they have created, even though they have died, they still keep holding on to hatred, attachment to worldly life, and greed for property... on the other hand, there are no people to worship or remember, so they live in a situation lost, helpless, no one to love, no refuge, no one to sacrifice...
Therefore, beings in the path of the hungry ghosts are hungry both physically and mentally. Buddha with compassion should have the means to preach many methods to save the suffering of all species, in which the ritual festival sacrifice is a special method to save sentient beings from the realm of hungry ghosts.
When performing this dharma, thanks to the power of the three esoteric means of Yoga, sentient beings in the hungry ghost path are comforted by sutras and chanted verses in a very earnest voice, imbued with human affection, but also filled with the mysterious philosophy of profound Buddhism. At the same time, they also enjoyed a feast of vegetarian food after many years of poverty and hunger.
The power of the Buddha's Dharma is inconceivable, with unobstructed compassion, regardless of caste, religion, or race, the priceless Dharma-giving session in the assembly can turn seven grains of rice into a full ten, filling you up. enough for countless sentient beings.
The festival of sacrifices to forsaken spirits has a very important character, that you always think of the unlucky souls, the unexpected deaths of your relatives, the family who are being tormented in the realm of the hungry ghosts, the lonely souls who have not yet free from suffering, they long for redemption. With a good mind remembering them, surely the spirits will be free from suffering, and you will no longer be attached to that karmic feeling.
In short, the festival of sacrifices, requiem for forsaken spirits is a practice among countless dharma disciplines. It is a form of giving, which includes both material giving and dharma giving. Of course, the giving of material things in the ashram, even through the ordinary eyes of the living, you will not see any damage, but all have been consumed by the beings in the hungry ghost path because they are used by them eating by consciousness and eating by thoughts. However, the most important thing is still giving the Dharma. Because only giving the Dharma can help sentient beings receive gifts, and only the Dharma giving will help them escape from the realm of suffering and be reborn in the Pure Land.
As it was said once, the main object of the festival is sentient beings in the path of the hungry ghosts, but among those beings, maybe there are grandparents, fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, relatives, and friends. friends… of us?
Even if you are not a close relative, how many people have died on this land for you to live? And although those beings have nothing to do with you, they are so hungry and need help, why would you turn a blind eye? Therefore, the dharma assembly is a way to repay the debt of gratitude between the living and the dead. How many injustices and hatreds are buried underground, submerged in the depths of the sea, or lurking somewhere in the souls of the dead and the living? Then in this priceless holy water festival, pray that through chanting and verses, you can convert injustice into love, understanding, sympathy, and forgiveness. Pray to turn injustice into kindness. The grace of parents, the grace of teachers, the grace of heaven and earth, the grace of fellow human beings. That grace has tightened human love through many lifetimes!
May all the dead spirits, lonely souls, and hungry ghosts rely on this merit to be transcended and direct their minds to cultivate good, correct evil, and respect the Three Jewels. The Buddha's son who can make this vow is a great charity, creating good karma, expanding Bodhicitta, clear karma, and developing wisdom.
According to the folklore, setting up a festival of sacrifices to save the dead spirits, lonely souls, and hungry ghosts, then they will repay: Business is successful and prosperous in the spirit:
- Rescue things, things to repay
When eating fruit, remember who planted the tree.
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