Hungry Ghost Festival and Buddhism

I personally think it’s aptly to talk about Buddhism now.

I’m going to touch on a few things here.

Firstly, what has the Hungry Ghost Festival do with Buddhism? Simple- nothing. Hungry Ghost Festival, as I know it, is a Chinese culture, so it Mooncake Festival, Chap Goh Meh and all the praying done during Chinese New Year. And as far as I know, alot of people around me has a mixed idea on what’s considered Buddhism practice and what’s considered Chinese culture; my teachers used to think that when their students wrote ‘Buddhist’ as their religion, they automatically assume all these students observe all the prayings at temples come ‘special’ dates, and all those ‘weird Chinese’ street processions, such as with participants carrying huge flags and so on. Heck! Even my own grandma says that she’s Buddhist because she goes to the temple to pray and lights up joss sticks every evening at our home altars. Let me set the record straight- alot of what Chinese ppl do, it’s Chinese culture, and not Buddhism. Chinese praying at their ancestral altars, that’s a Chinese culture. Praying to kitchen God, that’s a Chinese culture. Eating Yu Shang, that’s a Chinese culture…

So what’s Buddhism? Now my second point: I see Buddhism is a way of life. Buddhism lays out certain guidelines on how one should treat oneself, how one should treat other beings, including animals as well. It is often misunderstood that, when a Buddhist pray to a Buddha deity, he’s praying to Gautama Buddha. I personally think that that’s not the idea of praying in front of a Buddha deity; rather, it’s remembering his teaching on Buddhism. It’s the same concept when I wear this yellow stringy thing around my wrist- to remind me of the very core, the very basic concepts of Buddhism (what’s the basic concepts of Buddhism? go find out yourself…) It’s not meant to be a fashion statement. It’s not merely to tell ppl that I’m a Buddhist…

And to my 3rd point: what I’ve heard of others talking about Buddhism. Besides my teachers and my grandma, I’ve heard other comments related to Buddhism.

1) From a Christian friend: Buddhism and Hinduism… they are all nonsense.

– Like I’ve mentioned, alot of people rojak-ed up what’s considered Buddhism, and what’s considered culture.

2) From a fellow Buddhist: I’m a free-thinker.

– Buddhism consists of many very versatile ideas, so versatile that some people would pick-and-choose accordingly. Yes, at some level in Buddhism, that’s encouraged, but then again, some times, the greens are good for you; so you just cannot choose just the abalones and the sharkfins dishes. To approach those ideas, there are many ways- Theravada, Pure Land, Zen, Vajrayana and so on. Confused? Let’s put is this way: Let’s say, Buddhism is the idea of making a trip. To reach the destinations, there are many ways- fly, sail, by road, by rail and so on, and all those ways are the mode of transport. Got it?

3) From a so-called ex-Buddhist: I can’t go vegetarian, so I won’t accept Buddhism.

– Do you know that the Tibetian monks are not prohibited to eat meat? Again, there are many approach towards Buddhism. Going vegetarian has its benefits and Buddhism recognises that. But in the case of Tibetians, the harsh conditions are taken into consideration. And thus, their approach to Buddhism is conditioned accordingly.

Now… instead of answering doubts, I hope I have raised interest on Buddhism. Go on and search on wiki on this topic. One source that I recommend is this book by Thubten Chodron called “I Wonder Why”. This book gives a good look into Buddhism in a layman way, which is very approachable and easy-read, especially for those who want to learn more about Buddhism.

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7 Responses to “Hungry Ghost Festival and Buddhism”

  1. Joshua Says:

    Hi,
    Although you have made many points which is valid from a buddhist point of view (esp 2 & 3), i think you have erred in your earlier remarks on “hungry ghost, and all the praying done during Chinese New Year” – as Chinese culture. Actually it appears to be the practice of many chinese (who arent Christians or muslims) – they are actually rooted in “Shenism” or a mixture of Taoism & Confusionism & Mahayana Buddhism.

    It is not Chinese Culture (hungry Ghost, Praying during CNY) – because there is a strong element of religious practice.

    But for Moon Cake & Chap Goh mei – which is more to do with history of the Chinese and the Celebration of harvest – i think more akin to Culture.

    Yeah, you are right in pointing that there can be many types of Buddhism being practiced.

  2. sh Says:

    Even though I’m a Buddhist (of Theravada tradition), I label myself as agnostic or atheist or humanist just to avoid confusion.

  3. bottle Says:

    Joshua: not true. Shenism is not a result of mixture of those religion. In fact, some ppl argue that Shenism is much older in origin. I believe Shenism is an ancient practice, which had been injected with bits of other religions over the course of history.

    sh: :p

    And to a Cheong that wrote a comment which I deem LOUSY (all 5 letters demand being capitalized), I’m not going to approve it, no matter if you dare me or anything. If you want to degrade one religion over another, do that at your own blog if you have one. I think you are highly sensitive whereby I can’t even mention the word ‘Christian’ (*hint hint*) without being accused of something I didn’t do. Please read here, and Moses Francis, see what I meant?

  4. Joshua Says:

    Which is the point i am making… and there for you have Hungry Ghost coming from Shenism

  5. tk Says:

    If, as you say, the Hungry Ghost Festival has nothing to do with Buddhism, how is it that the Gaki Zoshi scrolls depicting hungry ghosts were created by Buddhists? And the Yu-lan-pen Sutra? There is much proof of the relationship of hungry ghost practices to Buddhism… Why is it that you would deny this and print that there is no such relationship. I think you miss a key point in your own entry. “Buddhism lays out certain guidelines on how one should treat oneself, how one should treat other beings…” Other beings being the key. Even today… if Hungry Ghost Festival has nothing to do with Buddhism, how do I have film footage of Buddhists practicing hungry ghost rituals? hungryghostsmovie.com

  6. bottle Says:

    tk: go find out how yulanpen sutra is written.

    And Gaki zoshi the way i see it, is a drawing with buddhism element incorporated it; it’s like if a ancient painting of duck with a painted buddhist robe, there will be people sensationally claim: the duck is highly regarded animal in buddhism, or ducks are buddhist, or buddha said that ducks are sacred. for all you know, the artist was out of idea and painted it for amusement.

    It’s easy to look at all the materials in the world and take them as they are, or associate them to form interpretations. New discovery? Sensational? Shocking? Whatever the reasons, try to find the root in this case buddhism. Remember this, history is complex and will always be, things got recorded, things got lost. Records are accurate, some times not. records are relavant, some times changed. Go figure.

  7. ally Says:

    can u explain about parinirvana?? what ias it actually…???

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