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August 9, 2011 > Obon Festival brings joy

Obon Festival brings joy

By Mekala Neelakantan
Photos By Mike Heightchew

Also known as the "Gathering of Joy," Obon is a time to honor, welcome, and free ancestral spirits. On Saturday, August 13, the Southern Alameda County Buddhist Church (SACBC) hosts its annual Buddhist Obon Festival, a celebration and remembrance of life, joy, and departed loved ones. This is a time of reflection to understand life, death and unity, originating from the Buddhist legend of Moggallana.

In the story, Moggallana, a disciple of the Buddha, perceived that his deceased mother was suffering in the "World of Hungry Devils." To free her from this torture, the Buddha instructed Moggallana to give offerings to one thousand Buddhist monks, allowing this good deed to cleanse and relieve Moggallana's mother. Overjoyed that his mother was free, Moggallana began to dance, contributing to today's Obon dance and festival.

The SACBC has been celebrating the Obon Festival for over 48 years, attracting 200-300 participants and attendees. This year's festival includes Japanese food sales in Sangha Hall from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. followed by the Obon dance in the parking lot from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.; dancing will be accompanied by a Japanese Chidori band from San Jose. The Obon dance features members in colorful kimonos, dancing to traditional Japanese folk music. A taiko drum performance will be included in the day's entertainment as well. Rehearsals for the Obon dance will be held August 1, 2, 4, 8, 10, and 11 at 7:30 p.m. All are welcome to watch and participate.

The Obon festival will be followed by an Obon service on Sunday, August 14. This consists of a ceremony to honor all deceased loved ones, with a specific service for the Hatsubon, or those who passed away within the past year. The service also includes lighting lanterns to reflect upon one's ancestors. Reverend Kenshin Fujimoto of the San Jose Buddhist Church Betsuin will be the guest speaker.

Buddhist Obon Festival
Saturday, August 13
5 p.m. - 9 p.m.
Obon Service
Sunday, August 14
10 a.m.
Southern Alameda County Buddhist Church
32975 Alvarado-Niles Road, Union City
(510) 471-2581

Event Schedule:

Saturday, August 13
5 p.m. - Food sales in Sangha Hall
7 p.m. - Obon dance and entertainment

Sunday, August 14
10 a.m. - Obon ceremony/service

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