Savannah Buddhist community honors ancestors

Carl Elmore/For the Savannah Morning News The Chua Cat Tuong Buddhist Temple welcomed visitors to its “Ghost Festival” on Sunday. The temple in Garden City used colorful celebration and feasting to help area Buddhists commemorate their ancestors.

Carl Elmore/For the Savannah Morning News
The Chua Cat Tuong Buddhist Temple welcomed visitors to its “Ghost Festival” on Sunday. The temple in Garden City used colorful celebration and feasting to help area Buddhists commemorate their ancestors.

Savannahnow.com
Posted: August 10, 2014 – 10:56pm | Updated: August 11, 2014 – 7:19am

By Katie Martin
Dozens of members of Savannah’s Buddhist community came together Sunday at the Chùa Cát Tuong Buddhist Temple to celebrate the Ghost Festival, also known as Vu Lan in Vietnamese.

In the Buddhist community the belief is that the realms into the afterlife are open, and the spirits of the deceased return to our world. As the spirits return, Buddhist monks and temple members partake in activities to honor their familial ancestors with food offerings and burning of incenses and symbolic paper signs. It was the second year the festival had been held at the Garden City Temple located on U.S. 80.

An Nguyen, president of the Vietnamese Buddhist Association of Savannah said that the festival serves as a way to pray for those that have died and as a way to honor mothers and fathers.

“In Vietnam we are very respectful of the teacher and in Vietnam we consider the mother a teacher so we pay tribute to them,” said Nguyen.

Those parents over the age of 70 are presented with a small gift from their children during the ceremony and then both parents and children share memories of each other.

“It’s very happy. You see the emotion between the parents and children, it reminds them to remember where they come from,” said Nguyen.

The ceremony also included visiting monks from California, Oregon, Tennessee and Florida. During the ceremony monks spoke to the congregation about the responsibility of children to parents as well as pray for parents whether they are living or dead. Each member was also presented with flower to pin on their chest, a pink flower if their parents are living and white flower if their parents are dead.

“Today’s main purpose is parent day and to pray for all we’ve lost, to pray for peace…,” said Nguyen. “We believe their spirit is still around and they don’t have any family, so we invite them here and place the food offerings… And we call them to pray for them.”

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