Vu Lan Festival in Vietnam
Vu Lan Festival is one of the main festivals of Mahayana Buddhism and is a nice custom of East Asian Countries (China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam). In each country, the festival has a little difference. In this demonstration, we are going to present clearly about the issues related to Vu Lan Festival in Vietnam.
Vu Lan Festival derived from the story of Venerable Muc Kien Lien (One of the great disciples of Shakyamuni Buddha) who had great filial piety. According to the Vu Lan Bon Sutta, Muc Kien Lien had cultivated successfully many magics. His mother was Mrs. Thanh De who had passed by. He remembered and wanted to know where his mother was. He used the magic to look for her and found his mother be in the hungry devil world.
Mrs. Tnanh De was extremely hungry at that time; Muc Kien Lien brought a bowl of rice to the hungry devil world to offer to her. However, because of the selfishness, being afraid that other souls would take her food, Mrs. Thanh De used her hand to cover the food. The rice bowl was just raised up to the mouth, it turned into a fire. Muc Kien Lien was extremely sorrowful.
Muc Kien Lien returned the human world and looked for Buddha to ask how to save his mother. Buddha said, “Although you are extremely good at magic, you cannot also save your mother. Rely on the energy of monks everywhere to save your mother. On July 15 of the lunar calendar, invite lots of monks and offer offerings to them, have them focus the energy to save your mother.”. Muc Kien Lien followed Buddha’s teachings, his mother got to be free. Buddha also said, “Anybody who has great filial piety and wants to save their parents from the bad world also does this way.”. Vu Lan festival was born at that time.
In Vietnam, July of the lunar calendar also called Vu Lan Season. In this season, many spirituality activities happen including Vu Lan Festival. Vu Lan Festival mainly takes place in Buddhist temples following Mahayana Buddhism in the morning of the 15th (however, some temples organize the festival on the 14th, 16th, 17th or 18th.). Every family also makes the offering ancestor, dead parents in the afternoon of the 15th.
On the festival, the lecturer or abbot lectures about the origin and meaning of the Vu Lan Festival; Buddhists express their thought and feeling to the parents; each Buddhist is set a rose on the long dress; each monk or nun is offered fabric, money and other necessary belongs; All intone Vu Lan Bon sutra. Nowadays, some pagodas also invite singers to come to service. Their songs talk about the love for parents or homeland. The festival occurs in an atmosphere full of emotion. At home, Buddhists organize to offer a meal for dead parents, and ancestors. In Vu Lan Season, Buddhists also do lots of charities to dedicate the merit for their parents and ancestor.
The custom of the rose set on the shirt derived from the essay written by Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh in 1962. With the essay, the author helps everybody see fully parents’ sweet love for children so that treasure and enjoy it; and children should also show their love for the parents. The Zen Master created the custom of the rose set on the shirt. On Vu Lan festival occasion, each Buddhist is set a rose on the shirt. A red rose shows that parents are still alive; a white rose shows that parents are dead.
According to Mahayana Buddhism, Vu Lan Festival is an occasion to children help the parents of 7 lives be rescued from the bad world and remind children who have alive parents should treasure days living with the parents, enjoy the love of the parents for children, let the parents see the love of children for the parent, do not make parents sad, raise parents when they become old. Vu Lan Festival is one of the main festival of Mahayana Buddhism and is a nice custom of East Asian countries.