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.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.
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.