SALT LAKE CITY — The smell of incense filled the air as family members came up one by one to honor the Buddha and pay respects to their deceased ancestors.
Each took a pinch of incense, fed it into an incense burner and bowed to Amida Buddha before one family member placed a tealight candle in front of a placard bearing their loved one's name that sat on a table near the front of the room.
Thirteen names sat placed behind the candles in the hondo, or chapel, that was filled to capacity with members of the Sangha or their family and friends.
"Those people that we love are not gone. They are a part of each of us and continue to hope and encourage that we have a good life," said Salt Lake Buddhist Temple Rev. Jerry Hirano in his remarks to those gathered for the Hatsubon service Sunday at the Salt Lake Buddhist Temple, 211 W. 100 South.
The Hatsubon, or first Obon, is memorial service for families of those in the Sangha who died over the past year. It is part of the Japanese Obon festival, held Saturday near the Salt Lake Buddhist Temple. Saturday's events included food, vendors and traditional dances.
For the Japanese, the Obon holiday is similar to Americans' Memorial Day. People go to their hometowns and often visit graves as part of the holiday.
Obon comes from the Ullumbana Sutra given by the Amida Buddha to one of his disciples, Maudgalyayana, or Mokuren, who was grieved upon discovering that his mother had gone to what Buddhists call the realm of hungry ghosts.
The Amida Buddha told the disciple to perform selfless acts, or dana, to redeem his mother's soul.
Hirano interpreted the disciple's vision of his deceased mother to be a reflection of the guilt he felt for not doing more for his mother when she was alive. By doing service for others, he was able to lift that guilt. Hirano encouraged those gathered to remember that their loved ones would have wanted them to be happy.
"When I think of all these people who have died, nobody here would say, 'Don't have a good life. I want you to feel pangs of guilt because you didn't do enough for me when I was alive.' I think everybody here would want to tell you, 'Have a good life.'"
Rev. Hirano explained that the festival celebrates the interconnectedness of families. He encouraged those gathered "to enjoy whatever time you have in this life you have to be able to realize how you are connected to everybody else."
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