Obon is a time when families come together. It is a special time because families being together is truly special. Together they honor their parents and ancestors through the service and have fun together at the bon dances. This family togetherness is not always acknowledged and it is important to realize that the specialness of the time is made special because the family is interacting and feeling the importance of the connection that occurs with family coming together. Imagine what it would be like to not be able to be together as family? The feeling of loneliness is the direct opposite of togetherness, and this for many of us, is something we can understand well.

Obon in the Shinshu tradition is oftentimes called Kangi E or “Gathering of Joy.” Kangi, or joy as it appears in the Ullambana Sutra, should be nurtured and developed to a stage where it is synonymous with “Shinjin Kangi” of the 18th Vow. What we are saying here is that to blissfully trust in me with the most sincere mind brings great joy. The bon service addresses this understanding. Shinran addresses this in the Tannisho, saying:

Saved by the inconceivable working of Amida’s Vow, we attain birth in the Pure Land thus entrusting ourselves to the Vow, with the thought of saying the nembutusu arising from deep within, immediately do we receive the benefit of being grasped, never to be abandoned.

During obon, let us be reminded of our gratitude to our parents and ancestors. Through this awareness may we more fully realize the interdependent nature of life and be able to express it in our daily lives. Let us at this time of obon take full advantage of the opportunity for family to come together and realize the specialness of the conditions that allow the family to be together.

Namo Amida Butsu

Rev. David Nakamoto