7th lunar month (commonly known as Ghost Festival)

#1

It is believed that hungry ghosts are released from hell during the 7th month. As such, should we not go home late during the 7th month?

#2

农历七月俗称「鬼月」,也就是所谓鬼门开的日子。这其实是民间的信仰,认为到了阴间的人变成鬼,一年之中阳间的人只有在中元节才能与阴间互动,亡者也只有此时能回到阳间探视亲人、享用供养,所以人们都在此时祭祀祖先,表示对祖先的感恩。所谓的鬼门开,并非真有一道鬼门会被打开,鬼道的众生便跑了出来;必须是人们为阴间众生做功德的心念与之相应,他们才会来接受祭祀。

《佛说盂兰盆经》所述,佛陀十大弟子中神通第一的目犍连,因为担忧生前悭吝的母亲过世之后的下落,便以神通观看,结果发现母亲堕落在饿鬼道,受尽饥饿的痛苦。于是运用神通力想帮助母亲脱离苦痛,无奈即使是神通第一的他也使不上力,只有向释迦牟尼佛请示解救的方法。

   由于在当时的印度,从四月十五日到七月十五日是长达三个月的雨季,所以释迦牟尼佛制定在此期间,出家人必须结夏安居、闭关修行。经过三个月的密集修行,很多出家人得到很大的进步,甚至证果成为圣者,而供养初成道的圣者功德很大。所以佛陀告诉目犍连,可以在这一天,借着大众聚集在佛前的机会,以饮食供养这些出家众,以此功德超度母亲的罪业,这样母亲便能脱离饥饿的痛苦。

    因此,以后每到七月十五日这天,佛教徒便会供僧以救度饿鬼道的众生,这就是盂兰盆节的由来。《佛说盂兰盆经》传到中国之后,正好与华人文化的「鬼月」传说相应。华人在中元节祭祀祖先,是对祖先感恩的表现,而佛教的盂兰盆节也是孝顺的表征。

参考:圣严法师开示精选

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#3

another common question is whether burning or offering hell or ghost money for our ancestors works? We see much of this practice during the 7th lunar month Ghost Festival.

Master Sheng Yen gives his discourse on this:

Burning ghost money is not a part of Buddhist culture, nor is it a Buddhist belief. This is a part of Chinese culture that has more of a comforting effect rather than any substantial use for the dead. Therefore, Buddhism advocates reciting the Buddha’s name, preaching the Dharma or reciting the sutras for the deceased, to enable them to become detached, let go of the suffering, and be reborn in the Buddha’s Pure Land.

#4

Even a news portal has picked up on this topic and produced a commentary on the practice of burning paper offerings:

Seems like quite a balanced view. I like this passage in the article:

“There is a Chinese saying that ‘no possessions can be brought along to the next existence; the only thing that follows one is his deeds, or ‘karma’ ( 万般带不去,唯有业随身 )… Witnessing how fire consumes every ‘former possession’ of the deceased, even an illiterate peasant or young child was able to understand this sense of total relinquishment at death.”

#5

So what can we do to benefit our ancestors?

BW Monastery’s own Venerable Bensi talks about how doing Pujas (法会) can help: