Last Sunday there was a story about the San Luis Obispo Buddhist Temple’s Obon Festival (“SLO County Buddhists honor ancestors, celebrate culture at Obon Festival”). The article states that part of the purpose of the celebration was to “give thanks to relatives and ancestors for their support and guidance.” The focus on ancestors is from the Shinto, the indigenous Japanese religion, not Buddhism. Traditional Buddhism does not celebrate ancestors.
There are three major traditions in Buddhism. The oldest is Theravada. They concentrate on the Pali Canon, a collection of writings (sutras) that convey the original teachings of the Buddha. The Zen and the Vajrayana/Tibetan are the other two major traditions. They study the original writings and the Perfection of Wisdom writings. The Buddha, whose name was Siddhartha Gautama, left us his teachings, the Dharma (the Buddha is not a god; he was a man who came to realize a profound truth through his meditation and practice). While each of the traditions are influenced by the cultures where they arose and vary on their meditation methods, the Dharma taught across all of them is the same.
There are several Buddhist communities (sanghas) in SLO County if the readers are interested in pursuing freedom and peace for themselves and others.
Mitch Paskin, Atascadero
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