1) Ullambana = Yu Lan = Yu Lan Phun, is a Buddhist, Taoist, or folk's customs?

Sanskrit “Ullambana” in Chinese transliteration is Yu Lan (Ur Lam in Mandarin), means “hang upside down”, a metaphor of a deceased one suffer, such as hung upside down, extremely painful. “Phun” in Chinese transliteration is a “basin”, according to Sutra, this “basin” described as a salvaging device of releasing the extreme-suffer from sentient being who is in lower realm. By putting all the foods and other requisites into the basin, then offers to Buddha and Sanghas from all directions. With the wishes from Buddha and Sangha transform the merits you gained to release the deceased relative from hanging upside down. This is written in Surtra, therefore, the Ullambana is beyond any doubt one of the Buddhist festivals.

Chinese Confucian, Taoism advocates the spirit of "filial piety", and evolve into folk Shinto July Ghost like Halloween; in this complex situation, "Hungry Ghost" spin-off the track; however, the significance and nature is a far from the Buddhist Ullambana true meaning.



2) Ullambana's origins?



"Ullambana Sutra" is a discourse given by Buddha principally to Venerable Maudgalyayana on the practice of filial piety. In the Sutra, Venerable Maudgalyayana out of his filial piety used his deva vision to look for his deceased parent. He saw that his mother had fallen into the realm of the hungry ghost (Preta). Maudgalyayana immediately went forth to his mother with rice in his almsbowl. When his mother saw Maudgalyayana, she was very pleased, to receive the bowl, she used her left hand to cover the bowl and right hand to pick the food. When she tried to eat the food, the food had turned into burning charcoal.

In great grief Maudgalyayana went to seek Buddha's help. Buddha explained to Maudgalyayana that his mother's offences were deeply rooted and that Maudgalyayana's individual effort and supernatural power could not help his mother. Maudgalyayana would need the help of other Sangha members (monks).

Buddha advised: on the 15th day of the seventh month, Maudgalyayana made offerings in a basin containing rice, fruits and other delicacies as well as the monk's requisites then offered to all the Sangha members in ten directions. Since all the Sangha members finished their summer retreat and hold pure and complete precepts on this day, their meritorious power can deliver the donor's parents of 7 births from great sufferings in the lower realms. If the-parents are already in human or deva realm, the merits thus gain in this of¬fering to the Sangha members will also benefit the parents with happy and long lives.
The Sutra quoated from the Great Tripitaka in Volume 16, page 779.



a: Karma – the law of cause and effect

According to "Ullambana Sutra", Buddha had described Maudgalyayana’s mother "the offense of deep-rooted knot"; because she in her past lives, maltreat and encroach upon the property of others, did all evil things, greedy and parsimonious; for the previous five hundred births she was a miser. Her covetous and envy mind traced herself crazy, getting her into a quagmire, unable to escape.

In the Sutra, Ven. Maudgalyayana immediately went forth to his mother with rice in his almsbowl by his supernatural power. With the inborn latency of stingy and envy in the her mind, the first thing his mother did after receiving the bowl from Maudgalyayana was to cover the bowl with her left hand so that other hungry ghosts could not share the food! This had proved the attitude of greed and meanness which had been the cause of her falling down to the hungry ghost realm. Just because of this quick thought of greedy, the food immediately turned into burning charcoal. This is exactly like your fruition is the kind of seed you plant, obviously this is the proof to show anyone to understand karma.



b: Supernatural powers lost to Karma

Maudgalyayana is among Buddha’s disciples known as the one having the best “supernatural powers”. However, he could not help his mother to change her karma. This is a very strong evidence to show that supernatural power cannot overcome the law of cause and effect; karmic power is surprisingly powerful.

Neither the Supernatural power nor the power of gods can manipulate, the karma. Once it is done, it is fixed: good deed cultivate good karma and lead to merits and reborn in the Pure Land or Paradise. Evil deed cultivate bad karma and lead to wicked recompense and reborn in the three lower realms. Even Deva or god cannot change the “fixed” karmic cause and the karmic effect. The only way is heartily to confess and repent, with the blessing of Triple Gems, obtain the chance of liberation.



3) What is the exact meaning of the 15th day of the 7th month?


There are two Buddhist meanings on the same, July 15; one is the “Buddha Delightful Day” other is called “Pravarana Day”.

Buddha's disciples have "summer retreat" system; annually from April 15 to July 15. Summer is the rainy season in India, Buddhist monks stayed in one place for a three month retreat (Varsa). All monks practice meditation and study Buddha’s teaching the summer, at the end of retreat, a lot of monks obtained enlightenments, all Buddhas from all directions are so delighted, this is why this day named “Buddha Delightful Day”.

At the same day before retreat ended, all monks confess one’s mistake in front of the others at the assembly with great regret, then seek the forgiveness from the Sangha. This self-confess makes a resolution to help one not to make the same mistake again, the repent and reform makes a monk purified. This day is “Pravarana Day”(Self-confess Day).

Buddha Delightful Day or Pravana Day is a great day for Buddhists, they line up in the monastery, place their offerings to Triple Gems. Wishing their benevolences becomes good fortune.



4) Why Ullambana basin can remove obstacles and accumulate good fortune?


On July 15, "Budda Delightful Day" one can widely make an offering to monks, he or she will cultivate with good merits and fortunes. Buddha said if one made a donation/offering to support the needed is a kind blessing, for example, in the farm plants the good seeds will collect good fruit, if plant the evil seeds will be in consequence of bad obstacles. For charity, we use a compassionate-loving heart to make offer will obtain good fortune; this action called “Compassionate Field”. For parents, we use a thanksgiving mind to support, this action called “Kindness Field”. For offering to Triple Gems, this action called “Respectful Field”.

Buddha advised Maudgalyayana, on July 15 "Budda Delight Day" prepare rice, fruits and all kinds of delicacies available in a basins, together with robes and other requisites and made offering to Sanghas. Have confidence in Triple Gems, this power transfer to your mother and help her to reach liberation. With the three kinds of “Field”, this merit transference is “Respectful Field”. Buddha says, “If you want to seek Dharma to improve yourself, you need to learn from “respect””, with the offering and respect we obtain fortune and to vanish obstacles, finally obtained ultimate liberation and freedom”.