The History of Uraabon Sutra

The Urabon Sutra, the basis of Obon, is believed to be a sutra compiled in China and not of Indian origin. Originally, Buddhism was about reincarnation and liberation from reincarnation, not about ancestors.
It is thought to be a scripture that was formed by adding the Chinese tradition of cherishing ancestors to the original Buddhist elements.




He is said to be the first of the ten great disciples of the Buddha and, together with Shārihā, is also called the second great disciple.

The world of the Hungry Ghosts
Contemporary translation

I hear this way. When Shakyamuni Buddha was in Gion Shosha and Mokuren first obtained the divine power of Rokushin-tsu, he wondered if he could do something for his deceased parents who had nurtured and raised him.
With his spiritual sight, he stared at the world and found his late mother in the world of hungry ghosts.
She could not eat or drink and was reduced to skin and bones. Saddened, Mokuren immediately put some rice in a bowl and brought it to his mother. She got the rice, supported the bowl with her left hand and tried to eat it with her right hand, but before she could put it in her mouth, the flame turned it into charcoal and she could not eat it. Mokuren cried out and returned to Shakyamuni and reported this to him.
~ omitted~.
The Buddha said to Mokuren. On July fifteenth, “the last day of the abode of the ascetic practice,” the monks of the ten directions, from the ancestors of the seventh generation to the present parents, should offer the following items for those in distress. Rice, many side dishes and fruits, water jars, incense oil, candlesticks, rugs, and bedding. Make offerings to the great virtuous and sentient monks of the ten directions.
~ omitted~.
At that moment, Mokuren and the assembled practitioners were all filled with great joy, and Mokuren’s cries soon faded away. On that day, Mokuren’s mother was saved from the long and dreary suffering of the hungry ghosts. He again said to Buddha, “My mother, who gave birth to me, is the only one who can give birth to me. My parents, who gave birth to me, were able to receive the merits and virtues of the Buddhas and Dharma monks. It is thanks to the divine power of the sentient monks. Will all future disciples of the Buddha also dedicate this Ura-Bon to save their parents and the ancestors of the seventh generation? Will they be able to fulfill such a wish?”
The Buddha replies and says.
Good question.
Now you heard what I was going to say.

Good men and women, if monks, nuns, kings, princes, ministers, aides, secretaries, officials, and the people at large are willing to do mercy and filial piety for the sake of their parents who gave birth to them and their ancestors for seven generations, on this day of Buddha’s joy, the day of the monks’ self-indulgence, July 15th, then you should all be grateful for their kindness.
Prepare plenty of food and drink and offer them to the monks of the ten directions during Ura-bon, and ask them to pray for you.
The present parents’ life expectancy has been extended, and they are free from disease, suffering, and illness.

The Purpose of the Urabon Sutra

As stated in the Uraobon Sutra, the purpose of this ceremony is that ancestors up to seven generations can leave suffering by giving offerings to Buddhist monks on July 15.
Here, there is no element of ancestral spirits returning, as in the current Japanese Obon festival. The purpose is to liberate the ancestors by making offerings.

Thus, the Chinese custom of ancestor worship was added to the idea of Ura-Bon, which came to Japan, and it is thought that an element of ancestral spirit belief was further added. Specifically, the belief that the deceased return during the summer season, especially the recently departed, are special. The idea of dancing was also formed in Japan.

History of Urabon Festival and Obon in Japan

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Urabon festival came from China, and there are records that the event has been held since the Asuka period.

Literary nameauthorJapanese CalendarADContent
Nippon Shoki Saimei EmperorEmperor Saimei 3rd year657Petit Ox, Sushiyama statue Asukaji Nishi, Tsukasa Diran Kaikai, Ryojin Freet, Kinjin, Kenrin
Kagerou-nikkiFujiwara Michitsuna no hahaTwo years962On the 156th, it will be a tray. If you look at it, Ayashiki -sama will be responsible, and you will see the gathering in various ways, and you will see it. By the way, it doesn't happen here, and if the anniversary passes, it won't go to Kyoto.
Kagerou-nikkiFujiwara Michitsuna no hahaTenroku first year970If it gets caught on the 10th of July, as the people of the world make a noise, "Bon, and the old man will be separated from the political office around the year." Once upon a time, I looked at it for a while, and when I continued to think about Sai here, I was in the middle of tears and living. (Michizuna) I wrote, "I can't forget the deceased person, and I'm sorry to be sad."
Makurano-soshiSeishonagonAround 1000He has a man who can be a lord of Uemon, who is a man who can be, and when he sees people, he thinks that he will come to the end, but as a country of Iyo, it will be in a row. On July 15th, I looked at the Bon Festival, Ajarashi, so that I couldn't do anything about the people's heart.
I'm going to be in the watatsu sea and this Lord's Bon
It's just a good idea to hit it.
MeigetsukiFujiwara TeikaJosei July 15th year1180On the 15th, the host, the lord, the royal royal Buddha, Kaneto Yogo, the Hyoshin -gosan -ho, the 45th wife, the 45 of the wife, the whole arrival, the high food, the Higae, the Echinaka, and the Sandhin -ji Temple. Lanterns
Azuma Kagami2nd year of Bunji1186July 15th Korotora. To the Yulan Bon, you will be on the manbank in Katsunago -in. I will cross the Imperial Hall in two items. He is Toshiya, who has taken off the religion of his parents.

chojuin temple ruins

TaiheikiAround 1330In July, the Saku Day announcement. It is possible for the festival of Hirose Tatsuta. Fifth place. A female officer's compensation book. The two -course Temple of the two -day Temple, Tanabata's begging. The Bunjukai on the 8th. Fourth day, Yannan Bon.

There are records that Urabon festival was held continuously in Japan from Heian, Kamakura, Muromachi, and so on. (As shown in the above document.) In the Japanese Chronicle of the early Edo period, there is a description of welcoming ancestral spirits on the 13th, and it is also noted that it has spread to the common people. Therefore, it is thought that the confluence of the Japanese belief in ancestral spirits and the Bon custom spread to the general population and became “Obon” during the Edo period. The fusion of Nenbutsu Odori (Buddhist prayer dance) and Urabon festival had been observed since the Muromachi period (1333-1573), and it was in this process that led to the formation of Bon Odori.