On August 26th, 2020, also the day when the Ullambana festival was held at Ba Vang Pagoda, Thay Thich Truc Thai Minh—the Abbot had a Dharma talk about the meaning of making offerings to the Three Jewels and dedicating merit to the deceased during this time.
He explained that making oblations to the deceased is one of the five oblations Buddhists ought to make, according to the Buddha’s teachings. This is very beneficial for those reborn as hungry ghosts since they suffer from severe hunger and thirst due to their bad karma in previous lives. If we make offerings to them, their suffering will lessen. This is a way for us to nurture compassion towards sentient beings.
Secondly, though many people say that this offering ritual is for naught, it yields enormous blessings.
Lastly, organizing offering rituals is also a way to pay the debt of gratitude to our passed-away ancestors and relatives, which is an opportunity for us to practice our virtue of gratitude. This is an indispensable quality for Buddhists. Thay also concluded that the best way to help our passed-away ancestors alleviate suffering is to sow good seeds in the field of blessings of the Three Jewels.
To give an example of the practice, Thay cited a story in a Buddhist sutra. In old times, in the ancient country of Surattha, there was a king named Pingala and under him, a general named Nandaka. This general was not only an immoral man but also a fervent promoter of wrong thoughts, saying that there were no blessings in giving, but just a waste of wealth. Due to his advocacy of evil notions, he was reincarnated as a hungry ghost and had to undergo indescribable pain. However, his youngest daughter, being an ardent supporter of Buddhism, made offerings to a Monk who had attained Arhatship and dedicated merit to her father, Nandaka. Then, Nandaka was able to receive food and possess a more beautiful appearance. He then thought about his past life and decided to redeem his mistakes. As we can see, making offerings to Monks of high virtues and dedicating merit to the denizens of the evil realms can relieve their ordeal.
Despite the complicated situation of the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s Ullambana festival and Dharma talks at Ba Vang Pagoda are still held and live-streamed so that Buddhists everywhere can still attend online and listen to the Buddha’s teachings.