On Saturday, September 5, 1998, nearly a thousand Buddhist devotees from the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond came to join in the Ullambana ceremonies at the City of 10,000 Buddhas.
Ullambana occurs on the last day of the traditional three-month Buddhist monastic retreat which, according to the Mahayana or Northern School, is held from April 15 to July 15 (lunar calendar).
The term Ullambana refers to rescuing living beings who are suffering in the lower states of existence within Samsara. The Buddha instructed his followers that to make offerings to the Buddhist monastic order (the Sangha) on this final day of the retreat generates an exceptional degree of merit and good karma. One should dedicate or transfer the merit from these acts of pure giving to one's parents in this present life, as well as to parents from previous lives. The merit and good karma so dedicated can help them to escape from states of suffering that they may be experiencing at the present time.
The ceremonies at the City included recitation of the
Ullambana Sutra, bowing practices, and a liberating life ceremony, in which creatures destined for slaughter were set free.
The speakers of Dharma at the noon vegetarian meal included the Co-abbot of Abhaygiri Monastery in the Redwood Valley, Venerable Ajahn Pasanno, who was formerly the abbot of the renowned International Forest Monastery in Ubon, Thailand, founded by the late great master of the forest traditation, Venerable Ajahn Chah. Ajahn Pasanno shared some of his experience in the Thai forest monastic tradition, and explained that in the Theravada or Southern School of Buddhism there is a similar event held shortly after the three-month monastic rains retreat, which occurs a few months later. At this time after the retreat, which is called the Kathina, lay-followers also make offerings of robes and the other essentials of life to monastic community. In the Theravada School making offerings at this time is also an event that generates tremendous merit and good karma, that may be dedicated to help beings who are undergoing suffering.
Other monks and nuns expounded on the importance of Ullambana as being a day to recollect the profound kindness of our parents and to seek to show our gratitude by creating merit on their behalf.
It was certainly an auspicious day for people from numerous ethnic background to come together and participate in the recitation of sacred texts and to venerate the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, thereby accumulating much wholesome karma for the benefit of parents and the entire world.