Buddhists consider the 7th lunar month to be auspicious, and an occasion to offer thanks and rejoice. However, Chinese tradition dictates that people should appease the dead and hungry ghosts by burning “joss paper” (or “spirit money”) and offering animal sacrifices at this time. These “Ghost Festival” customs probably stem from early agrarian culture, when poverty was prevalent and meals were meager except during seasonal feasts. So while people made offerings to gain deliverance from bad luck and ill will during such events, it was also chance for everyone to have a sumptuous meal.
There’s no need to preserve such superstitious practices today; especially if they involve killing animals, which is cruel and will accumulate bad karma; and burning large amounts of paper, which is wasteful, a fire hazard, and source of pollution. There would be many benefits if, as an alternative, people focused on the Buddhist associations with this time of year.
During Buddha’s life, the 7th lunar month was when his disciples emerged after a three-month period of seclusion enforced by the rainy season, when poisonous snakes made traveling to beg for alms dangerous. The retreat allowed them to attain great progress in their Dharma practice; so upon completion, Buddha rejoiced while his lay followers felt happy and blessed. Hence, the 15th day of the 7th lunar month is known as “Buddha’s Happy Day”.
The 15th day of the 7th lunar month is known as “Buddha’s Happy Day”
Let the 7th lunar month be a celebration of positive aspirations and qualities, and an opportunity to offer sincere prayers for world peace and happiness. We can also use the occasion as incentive to adopt a vegetarian diet, which saves sentient beings and protects the environment. It’s time to transcend ignorant superstitions, and endeavor to purify our mind and body for the benefit of all instead.