Brevard Zen Center

the Japanese tradition of Obon and the Kanroman: Gate of Sweet Nectar service

The origin of the tradition goes back to a Buddhist legend. Shariputra, a close follower of Buddha, used his supernatural powers to look upon his deceased mother. He discovered she had fallen into the Realm of Hungry Ghosts and was suffering.[3] Greatly disturbed, he went to the Buddha and asked how he could release his mother from this realm. Buddha instructed him to make offerings to the many Buddhist monks who had just completed their summer retreat, on the fifteenth day of the seventh month. The disciple did this and, thus, saw his mother's release.
The Japanese believe that at the start of Obon, the spirits of their relatives and ancestors come back to the physical world and visit them. Aside from offering prayers and holding memorial services at Buddhist temples, individual houses and establishments hang lanterns believing that their lights will guide the spirits. And on the last night of Obon, people send off the spirits back to their world with the help of floating or paper lanterns, candles, bon fires, etc.

On the opening night we will chant the Enmei Juku Kannon Gyo and light a candle and give food and incense offerings in the ancestral room for our family and ancestors. This candle will stay lit throughout the sesshin. On Saturday we will perform the Kanroman: Gate of Sweet Nectar. The Kanroman is a service where we invite all of the spirits of our ancestors as well as the Hungry Ghosts and provide them nourishment and send them away on the journey they must complete.  

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