Ancestor worship from a Mahayana POV

General forum on the teachings of all schools of Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhism. Topics specific to one school are best posted in the appropriate sub-forum.
Sentient Light
Posts: 162
Joined: Thu Sep 15, 2016 8:40 pm
Location: Fairfax, Virginia

Re: Ancestor worship from a Mahayana POV

Post by Sentient Light » Tue Feb 20, 2018 3:52 pm

Varis wrote:
Sat Feb 17, 2018 2:20 pm

This is actually why I asked. I wanted to know how Mahayana and Vajrayana practitioners who perform these practices in Japan, Tibet, etc. rationalize worshiping their ancestors with the view of rebirth. It seems difficult for me to imagine that they have no reasoning for continuing these practices other than cultural mores, considering when you look at other practices adopted from non-Buddhists, like sang, they're always rationalized/reformatted within a Buddhist context.

I bet the Bonpo would have interesting answer.
From a Vietnamese perspective, we aren't told the ancestors are 'still around' in any real form. Some have gone to the Pure Land, many others have taken rebirth. But in whatever birth they are in currently, the hope is that the merit can reach them in some small way. If they are already in the Pure Land, then our merit adorns the Pure Land with more jeweled trees and whatnot. And we tend to extend the invitation out to any wandering ghosts when we do ancestor worship offering ceremonies, so part of it is also just general merit toward sentient beings. We do try to remember the ancestors, their lineage, etc. and it's widely acknowledged that ancestor worship came from indigenous practice, but there isn't much rationalization going on. There's the meritorious aspect of it, there's the mindfulness of death aspect of it, but I think the biggest thing is the community aspect: the ancestor worship rituals are something that the entire family can participate in, whether they are Buddhist, Catholic, or other. So the Buddhists have our take on it, and I'm sure the Catholics have a different take, and the folk religion people are appeased, and everyone's happy.

The offering ritual is called cúng; the practice of ancestor worship overall is called niệm chết (mindfulness of the dead / mindfulness of death). And the monastic teachers do emphasize that the ancestors are not there to receive our merit (although some merit may be able to reach them, it is not the point of the practice), that we practice these rituals mostly for our own benefit.
:buddha1: Nam mô A di đà Phật :buddha1:
:bow: Nam mô Quan Thế Âm Bồ tát :bow:
:bow: Nam mô Đại Thế Chi Bồ Tát :bow:

:buddha1: Nam mô Bổn sư Thích ca mâu ni Phật :buddha1:
:bow: Nam mô Di lặc Bồ tát :bow:
:bow: Nam mô Địa tạng vương Bồ tát :bow:

User avatar
DiamondMeru
Posts: 37
Joined: Sun Mar 11, 2018 11:24 pm

Re: Ancestor worship from a Mahayana POV

Post by DiamondMeru » Thu Mar 15, 2018 10:18 pm

Malcolm wrote:
Tue Jan 30, 2018 6:37 pm
Varis wrote:
Sat Jan 27, 2018 7:05 pm
How is ancestor worship/placation viewed from the perspective of Mahayana?
What would be the point? All of our ancestors have long since taken rebirth.
If time is just a mental construct in samsara, perhaps the ancestors when they join unconditioned reality see all in their descendent and ancestors lives and can accept offerings. Perhaps they can be reborn into any reality, before and after your current time reality.
Personally I think the concept of no-self in Buddhism negates an afterlife existence as an ancestor. But, I believe in the unconditioned self as perhaps taking on the identies of dead relatives for shamans, and mediums to communicate with the living.

Fortyeightvows
Posts: 1858
Joined: Mon Oct 06, 2014 2:37 am

Re: Ancestor worship from a Mahayana POV

Post by Fortyeightvows » Fri Mar 16, 2018 7:01 am

Sentient Light wrote:
Tue Feb 20, 2018 3:52 pm
I think the biggest thing is the community aspect: the ancestor worship rituals are something that the entire family can participate in, whether they are Buddhist, Catholic, or other. So the Buddhists have our take on it, and I'm sure the Catholics have a different take, and the folk religion people are appeased, and everyone's happy.
I think Émile Durkheim would agree to this

Fortyeightvows
Posts: 1858
Joined: Mon Oct 06, 2014 2:37 am

Re: Ancestor worship from a Mahayana POV

Post by Fortyeightvows » Thu Apr 12, 2018 2:58 pm

If someone wants a good understanding of ancestor worship in buddhism, check out a book by professor decaroli called "haunting the buddha"

User avatar
Queequeg
Global Moderator
Posts: 5319
Joined: Tue Jul 03, 2012 3:24 pm

Re: Ancestor worship from a Mahayana POV

Post by Queequeg » Thu Apr 12, 2018 4:32 pm

IIRC, since earliest times, merit earned in Dharma practice benefits not only ourselves, but our families, seven generations into the past and into the future. Since our ancestors and descendants are presently living, it would coincide with the merit that presently resonates from our practices.

In the Nichiren tradition, our merit is dedicated to ancestors who are understood to presently abide. Notwithstanding, Nichiren was living in a context in which ancestor worship was an important aspect of the spiritual landscape. Often in his letters to believers he would first acknowledge the significance of the deceased, the struggle that their death has engendered in the survivors (for instance, when addressing a young widow struggling with children), and then he would explain the merit for oneself and for the deceased from devoted practice. Its interesting how he often navigated what might be called folk beliefs, acknowledging them, but then changing the context to reorient the attention back to Dharma practice without causing a shock that might come if those closely holding such beliefs were simply dismissed. It actually presents an interesting study of how Buddhists integrate and subsume preexisting beliefs into a Buddhist framework, as opposed to what might be called a spiritual authoritarianism where the non-conforming views are simply bull dozed. We can see in the sutras that this approach started with the Buddha himself, as some have touched on above.
Those who, even with distracted minds,
Entered a stupa compound
And chanted but once, “Namo Buddhaya!”
Have certainly attained the path of the buddhas.

-Lotus Sutra, Expedient Means Chapter

User avatar
Malcolm
Posts: 27370
Joined: Thu Nov 11, 2010 2:19 am

Re: Ancestor worship from a Mahayana POV

Post by Malcolm » Thu Apr 12, 2018 7:06 pm

Queequeg wrote:
Thu Apr 12, 2018 4:32 pm
IIRC, since earliest times, merit earned in Dharma practice benefits not only ourselves, but our families,
All sentient beings have been our mothers and fathers, excluding none.
Buddhahood in This Life
འ༔ ཨ༔ ཧ༔ ཤ༔ ས༔ མ༔


[A]nything at all that is well spoken is the word of the Buddha.

-- Ārya-adhyāśaya-sañcodana-nāma-mahāyāna-sūtra

The different sūtras in accord with the emptiness
taught by the Sugata are definitive in meaning;
One can understand that all of those Dharmas in
which a sentient being, individual, or person are taught are provisional in meaning.

-- Samadhirāja Sūtra

User avatar
Queequeg
Global Moderator
Posts: 5319
Joined: Tue Jul 03, 2012 3:24 pm

Re: Ancestor worship from a Mahayana POV

Post by Queequeg » Thu Apr 12, 2018 10:32 pm

Malcolm wrote:
Thu Apr 12, 2018 7:06 pm
Queequeg wrote:
Thu Apr 12, 2018 4:32 pm
IIRC, since earliest times, merit earned in Dharma practice benefits not only ourselves, but our families,
All sentient beings have been our mothers and fathers, excluding none.
So it should follow that our practice has far reaching merit for all beings, and that's my understanding of the Mahayana view... I'm sure you are more familiar with this than I am, but the "seven generations" thing seems to be a Vedic or Brahmanical legacy, a convention from the Buddha's time that was incorporated into Buddhism, but was not commensurate to the Buddha's complete message. It would take time for the full scope and breadth of the Buddha's teachings to emerge. Perhaps these were one of the minor conventions current at his time which were not worth challenging.
Those who, even with distracted minds,
Entered a stupa compound
And chanted but once, “Namo Buddhaya!”
Have certainly attained the path of the buddhas.

-Lotus Sutra, Expedient Means Chapter

Varis
Posts: 123
Joined: Tue Jul 11, 2017 5:09 am

Re: Ancestor worship from a Mahayana POV

Post by Varis » Fri Apr 13, 2018 1:12 am

Malcolm wrote:
Thu Apr 12, 2018 7:06 pm
All sentient beings have been our mothers and fathers, excluding none.
And wives, husbands, friends, etc., right?
So presumably closer karmic affinity is what results in us getting married to certain people, being friends with others, etc? Puts a whole different spin on the concept of "soul mates", eh.

User avatar
Malcolm
Posts: 27370
Joined: Thu Nov 11, 2010 2:19 am

Re: Ancestor worship from a Mahayana POV

Post by Malcolm » Fri Apr 13, 2018 3:12 am

Queequeg wrote:
Thu Apr 12, 2018 10:32 pm
Malcolm wrote:
Thu Apr 12, 2018 7:06 pm
Queequeg wrote:
Thu Apr 12, 2018 4:32 pm
IIRC, since earliest times, merit earned in Dharma practice benefits not only ourselves, but our families,
All sentient beings have been our mothers and fathers, excluding none.
So it should follow that our practice has far reaching merit for all beings, and that's my understanding of the Mahayana view... I'm sure you are more familiar with this than I am, but the "seven generations" thing seems to be a Vedic or Brahmanical legacy, a convention from the Buddha's time that was incorporated into Buddhism, but was not commensurate to the Buddha's complete message. It would take time for the full scope and breadth of the Buddha's teachings to emerge. Perhaps these were one of the minor conventions current at his time which were not worth challenging.
It is brahmanical.
Buddhahood in This Life
འ༔ ཨ༔ ཧ༔ ཤ༔ ས༔ མ༔


[A]nything at all that is well spoken is the word of the Buddha.

-- Ārya-adhyāśaya-sañcodana-nāma-mahāyāna-sūtra

The different sūtras in accord with the emptiness
taught by the Sugata are definitive in meaning;
One can understand that all of those Dharmas in
which a sentient being, individual, or person are taught are provisional in meaning.

-- Samadhirāja Sūtra

User avatar
Malcolm
Posts: 27370
Joined: Thu Nov 11, 2010 2:19 am

Re: Ancestor worship from a Mahayana POV

Post by Malcolm » Fri Apr 13, 2018 3:13 am

Varis wrote:
Fri Apr 13, 2018 1:12 am
Malcolm wrote:
Thu Apr 12, 2018 7:06 pm
All sentient beings have been our mothers and fathers, excluding none.
And wives, husbands, friends, etc., right?
So presumably closer karmic affinity is what results in us getting married to certain people, being friends with others, etc? Puts a whole different spin on the concept of "soul mates", eh.
Indeed.
Buddhahood in This Life
འ༔ ཨ༔ ཧ༔ ཤ༔ ས༔ མ༔


[A]nything at all that is well spoken is the word of the Buddha.

-- Ārya-adhyāśaya-sañcodana-nāma-mahāyāna-sūtra

The different sūtras in accord with the emptiness
taught by the Sugata are definitive in meaning;
One can understand that all of those Dharmas in
which a sentient being, individual, or person are taught are provisional in meaning.

-- Samadhirāja Sūtra

User avatar
rory
Posts: 1445
Joined: Mon May 16, 2011 8:08 am
Location: SouthEast USA

Re: Ancestor worship from a Mahayana POV

Post by rory » Sun Apr 15, 2018 5:09 am

Queequeg wrote:
Thu Apr 12, 2018 10:32 pm

So it should follow that our practice has far reaching merit for all beings, and that's my understanding of the Mahayana view... I'm sure you are more familiar with this than I am, but the "seven generations" thing seems to be a Vedic or Brahmanical legacy, a convention from the Buddha's time that was incorporated into Buddhism, but was not commensurate to the Buddha's complete message. It would take time for the full scope and breadth of the Buddha's teachings to emerge. Perhaps these were one of the minor conventions current at his time which were not worth challenging.
the 7 generations comes from the Ullambana Sutra,the story of Maudgalyayana (Mokuren) saving his mother from the Hell realm by , making merit and transferring it to his mother so she is reborn in heaven. This is the source of Japanese Obon as on this day beings can be saved from the Hell realm by merit transferred to them.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maudgalya ... his_mother
Also the Ksitsgarbha Sutra again explains the benefits of making and transferring merit and is all about filial piety.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/K%E1%B9%A ... S%C5%ABtra

As a Pure Land practitioner I dedicate the merits of my practice to my deceased father and sister for their rebirth in the Western Pure Land and for my mother's family and my father's family. So all my relations will have birth there and can practice the Dharma!

This is a very Buddhist act as we acknowledge our interdependence, that we would not be here today if our mother had not nursed us and our father supported us, that our life happened due to our ancestors.
gassho
Rory
Namu Kanzeon Bosatsu
Chih-I:
The Tai-ching states "the women in the realms of Mara, Sakra and Brahma all neither abandoned ( their old) bodies nor received (new) bodies. They all received buddhahood with their current bodies (genshin)" Thus these verses state that the dharma nature is like a great ocean. No right or wrong is preached (within it) Ordinary people and sages are equal, without superiority or inferiority
Paul, Groner "The Lotus Sutra in Japanese Culture"eds. Tanabe p. 58
https://www.tendai-usa.org/

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 25 guests