Mililani Hongwanji Bon Dance
About Bon Dance
Date: August 18 & 19, 2023
What is Bon Dance?
The bon dance is also called Obon or Kangi-e (gathering of joy).
As a temple practicing Shin Buddhism, we interpret the the purpose of Obon as "...a time to remember and honor all those who have passed on before us. It is a time to appreciate all that they have done for us and to recognize the continuation of their deeds upon our lives. It is also a time to remind ourselves of our own fragile and transient nature of human existence."
(Mililani Hongwanji Membership Handbook)
About the Opening Service
The minister starts every bon dance with a short opening service. Our current minister, Rev. David Fujimoto, first reads an aspiration.
San Bú Jo is then chanted. This chant recognizes Amida Buddha (the personification of compassion & wisdom), Shakyamuni Buddha (the historical founder of Buddhism), and all those who have come before us, as they have become apart of the Buddhas (those free of suffering) of the Ten Directions (a Buddhist term used to describe everywhere). The chant prepares us to express gratitude to our ancestors.
The phrase "Joyfully scattering flowers of welcome" is chanted several times. Rev. Fujimoto is pictured (left) scattering flower petals at the 2022 bon dance.
Photo credit: Robin Hirata
The Origins of the
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"It [Obon] is based on the legend of the monk
Mogallana's rescue of his mother from the hell of hungry ghosts. The story dramatizes the son's anxiety for his mother's welfare after her death and how it was
resolved through Buddhist practice."
"When his mother was released, Mogallana danced for joy. His response is regarded as the origin of the Bon dance."
(Dr. Alfred Bloom, "Obon Festival - Living and Dying in Buddhism")
Rev. Fujimoto on the Meaning & Origins of Bon Dance
"Many of the songs that we dance to, immortalizes the achievements, perseverance, and hardships that our ancestors went through, as many songs are written and have dance movements portraying working in the plantation or in the coal mines, such as the beloved Tanko Bushi, Ashimiji Bushi, and, Fukushima Ondo.
So the end result really is, the dancing for joy is a result of those who have come before us, and acknowledges their contribution to our lives through their hardships, pain and suffering, and their perseverance and more importantly, the karmic conditions that led to their birth into this world.
So when you enter the ring, ask yourself that question once again, "Why do I dance during Bon Dance?" Remember those who have come before you and think about all the things they did in their lives so that we have the opportunity to live life today. Then and only then does it give meaning and purpose to the "Dance of Joy."
Excerpts from the Dharma Connection August 2023 Issue
Rev. David Fujimoto Resident Minister, Mililani Hongwanji Buddhist Temple