This morning we celebrated the Festival of the Autumn Equinox. This is a time when we remember and make food offerings for those who have died. And also for those, alive or dead, who my be traveling in disquiet. Typically the disquiet is because there is an aspect that’s not getting what is longed for, which is Truth. It is that aspect one can see in oneself where one wants, wants wants but can’t seem to get enough to satisfy. So the want want want keeps on wanting. Terrible state to be in. The ceremony is about helping this aspect to wake up to what is really wanted. And to eat it. Some times this ceremony is called Segaki or The Feeding of the Hungry Ghosts. It is basically a massive offering of spiritual merit to help the hungry get what they really want.
Spiritual merit, and offering ‘it’, is hard enough to get ones head around and Segaki can be a particular challenge for westerners to appreciate since we are talking about ‘feeding’ ‘ghosts’. This ceremony was the first big one I attended when I came to Shasta to be a monk. Interestingly I was not phased by it and seemed to be able to embrace the intent behind it without much desire to understand it rationally. I guess I had faith that something good was happening. In Chinese and Japanese Buddhism Segaki is colourful, loud and very elaborate. Ours is that way too however a bit less so I suspect.
After the ceremony the Abbess gave a dharma talk titled New Beginnings.
I do so appreciate Rev. Master Meian’s refreshingly direct and simple way of talking about training. There are lessons in this talk for all of us.