The Ullambana Festival is an important Buddhist event, the origins of which can be traced to the “Ullambana Sutra.” Over the centuries, the occasion (known as also the Hungry Ghost Festival) has taken culturally Chinese overtones, the result of the confluence of Buddhist, Taoist and Confucian beliefs.

According to the “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 food offerings to the Sangha on the last day of the rainy-season retreat (fifteenth day of the seventh lunar month). The merit gained from this act eventually liberated his mother from her misery. Today, the same ritual is practised in many parts of Asia.

Thekchen Choling observes this Festival for the entire seventh lunar month. Sutra recitations, extensive offerings and food charity rituals are some of the highlights of Thekchen Choling’s Ullambana programme. For many, the highlight of the event is the much-anticipated visit to the cemetery, where Lama lead disciples in performing rituals and making offerings to the dearly departed. In 2010, a rainbow miraculously manifested around the moon as the congregation was in the midst of the food charity rituals.

Below is the general outline of the programme of activities held during Ullambana at our temple.

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