The Contradictions of Obon

Writing doesn’t come easily to me. But I have to write at least one article a month for my temple newsletter. It takes me a long time to get started – once I get started I can usually bash something out and then edit it into something readable. But one of the problems with using the computer as a word processor is that you have to remember to save your most recent draft before sending it! I neglected to do so for my August article about Obon, so when the draft came out I was surprised how short it was. I thought someone had taken editorial liberties and cut what I had so painstakingly crafted. But I finally found out that it was my fault. Fortunately I didn’t express how upset I was out loud, and instead crafted a modified version that fit the available space, but still wasn’t what my final was supposed to be. So for posterity’s sake, here is the original article, just in time for our Obon Festival and Service this weekend, August 1 & 2, 2015:

The Contradictions of Obon

Obon captures so many of the contradictions of life. A festival is connected with a memorial service. Even the memorial service is called a “Gathering of Joy” (Kangi-e). The service comes from an event where a high level monk, Mogallana, has left his family and yet still cares deeply for his mother. However, despite being one of the most powerful disciples of Shakyamuni Buddha, he is unable to help by himself.

I believe that this is part of why Obon is one of the most important times in our Buddhist calendar of holidays. These contradictions speak deeply to us. Whether we have lost a loved one this past year or many years ago, in the midst of our sadness and loss we hear of the deep joy and gratitude that the Obon Service and Dance express. We can participate, dancing in memory of our loved ones, lighting a lantern at the Hatsubon Service if our loss is recent, offering incense and listening to the Dharma at the Obon Service.

So please join us for our Obon Festival and Dance on Saturday, August 1 and Obon Service on Sunday, August 2. At 9:30 AM will be our Hatsubon Service, for those families who have lost a loved one during this past year. At 10:30 AM we will have our Obon Service, which is open to everyone. Our guest speaker will be Rev. Carol Himaka from the Southern Alameda County Buddhist Church.

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