August 18 Obon Festival

Obon Festival

“At the end of the day Buddhism is a religious tradition that dates back more than 2500 years and not a fad or something you “discovered” on your holiday to Thailand. And while easily accessible teachers – such as some of the works of the Dalai Lama – should be welcomed and celebrated, it’s important to remember that you don’t know everything there is to know about Buddhism from reading one book of quotes. There’s a point at which “appreciation” mutates into “appropriation” – and it’s a line we should all be weary of.” Jarni Blakkarly

The Festival of Souls also known as Obon, is an annual Buddhist event for remembering and honoring one’s ancestors. It is believed that each year during Obon, the ancestors’ spirits return to this world in order to visit their relatives. Traditionally, lanterns are hung in front of houses to guide them home. This is the time when the living can guide their ancestor’s souls to find peace. The festival is observed in mid August in China and mid July in Japan (depending on use of either the lunar or solar calendar).

Tall Handsome Son and I went to an Obon Festival at the Botanical Gardens tonight. There was no mention of this festival’s Buddhist history or cultural relevance that I could tell. It was basically a festival in the park, with a band, hula hooping, food, alcohol and lantern-making to be released into the koi fish pond. The koi fish was the most Japanese/Chinese /Buddhist thing in this whole equation. Cultural (mis)appropriation much?

Releasing the lanterns at the koi pond

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