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Why do we make Ullambana offerings? 七月十五为什么要供养 “盂兰盆” ?

(阅读华文请往下)

Why do we make Ullambana offerings?

According to Ullambana Sutra, Maudgalyayana, one of the Buddha’s chief disciples, thought of his parents and wondered what had happened to them. By the power of his clairvoyance, he found his father in the heavenly realm. To his dismay, his mother was found in a lower realm known as the Realm of Hungry Ghosts. She could not eat because her throat was very thin and no food could pass through, yet she was perpetually hungry because of her huge stomach. She was reborn in the Realm of Hungry Ghosts because of her miserliness. Maudgalyayana had instructed her to make generous offerings to the Sangha members that she encountered. Instead, she withheld her kindness and her money.

To help his mother, the Buddha instructed Maudgalyayana to make Ullambana offerings of food and other necessities to the Sangha on the last day of the rainy-season retreat (15th day of the 7th Month), also known as Buddha Joyful Day. The merit gained from this act eventually liberated his mother from her misery. Buddha expounded that making Ullambana offerings is beneficial to our parents of seven lifetimes. Parents who are living will gain merit and live life at ease, with good health and long life. Parents who are departed will be liberated from the lower realms and get reborn in the fortunate realms.

The practice of making offerings to Sanghas (monks and nuns) on the 15th day of the 7th month, has become a tradition to pray for the wellbeing of our loved ones as well as our ancestors.  

七月十五为什么要供养 “盂兰盆” ?

“盂兰” 是梵文音译,意思是 “救倒悬” ;“盆”是汉语,指的是盛供品的容器。“盂兰盆” 加起来的意思,是说供养 “盂兰盆” 可以解救先亡的倒悬之苦。 

关于供养 “盂兰盆” 的缘起,根据《佛说盂兰盆经》记载:佛陀住舍卫国祇园精舍时,“十大弟子 ”中“ 神通第一’ 的大目犍连尊者,以神通力见到过世的母亲生在饿鬼道中,因没有食物可吃而瘦得像皮包骨。看到这一幕,目连的心里难受极了。为了报答母亲的养育之恩,他便以钵盛饭给母亲送去。可是,母亲左手抓钵,右手抢饭,这饭还没送进嘴里,就化成了火炭,母亲怎么也吃不着。目连尊者见状,不禁痛哭流涕,跑去向佛陀请教让母亲离苦的办法。 

佛陀对目莲尊者说:“你母亲的罪业深重,单靠你一人的力量是不能拯救她的。虽然你的孝心能感动天地,但天地间的神灵对你母亲的情况也是束手无策啊。我现在告诉你一个办法。每年的七月十五是 “佛欢喜日”。你应该在这天,以百味饮食、床敷卧具等等,置入盆中,虔心供养十方大德僧众。只有靠出家僧人的功德,才能够拯救你父母及六亲眷属的痛苦。”目连听后,即按佛陀所说的方法去做。后来,他的母亲果然脱离饿鬼道,往生天界享受福乐。 从此,七月十五日也称为 “盂兰盆节”。 

目连又对佛陀说:“我的母亲已成功脱离苦难,其他人也能办得到吗? ” 佛陀回答说:“无论比丘(男出家众)、比丘尼(女出家众)、国王、太子、宰相、大臣、达官贵人、平民百姓等等,凡是要行慈悲与孝道的人,只要依这个方法去做,就能利益七世父母,使现世父母身心康泰,无病,无烦恼,长命百岁,假如父母已故亡,则能使已逝父母及过去世的父母众苦解脱,生于人天之中,享受无尽的福乐。所有佛弟子,都应该以这个方法来报答父母的长养慈爱之恩。”从此,目连尊者等弟子,都欢喜地奉行这个 “盂兰盆法”。 

在七月十五日供养 “盂兰盆” 的传统流传至今,已成为各地寺院的常年仪式。信众会在这天准备各种饮食和出家人的僧服、用品等等放入盆中,并以这个 “盂兰盆” 供养僧众,所生功德回向至亲至爱健康长寿,已故祖先离苦得乐。