Home » Letters » Some Ullambana Queries

Question: Am quite confused about the Ullambana festival during the seventh lunar month. Is giving offerings to the Sangha then the Buddhist practice?

Answer: Yes.

Question: What about the offering of food to the unseen beings or deceased ancestors then? Is this Buddhist practice?

Answer: Ullambana used to be about offering to monastics and thereafter offering the merits accumulated from doing so to the deceased. Nowadays, it is often a combo practice – offer to both at same time.

Question: But the food does get ‘eaten’ (in essence). How does this benefit the unseen beings?

Answer: Yes, as it solves the problem of hunger for a while, while connecting them to the Dharma, with hope that they be born in Pure Land.

Question: Do the deceased only get to ‘eat’ in the bardo state or as ghosts or post-bardo wandering spirits?

Answer: All of the above.

Question: If the deceased has been dead for some years, but the family still offers food containing meat, will the person get negative karma even after being reborn?

Answer: This is unlikely, of the deceased didn’t express an endless desire for meat – which means the intention for wanting meat offerings is absent. (Karma is created by having actions corresponding to intentions.)

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