By Nhat Quan
The issue of ancestor worship is a tradition of the Vietnamese people, but because they do not fully understand the meaning, there are also many people who act in the wrong way, thus unintentionally losing the sacredness and value of the offerings worship.
Because there is no understanding, some people think that death is the end, nothing is left, or if someone believes that there is an afterlife, then that person has been reincarnated, when offering someone to eat and how to eat. ?
For clarity, you can split it into two time periods. The time of new death is up to 49 days and the second time is after 49 days onwards.
The time of death: According to the Buddhist concept, when a relative, grandparent, or parent dies…. They die, which means they leave behind the physical, material body. They are left with only the body by the consciousness called the consciousness body and also called the Bardo body or Bodies of nouns. As the body's consciousness lives in the inner world without appearance, their food and drink are only by the Consciousness and their food is the flavor of all things, which ordinary people call oxygen. Body consciousness is a body in an invisible state that cannot contain tangible things, so they cannot enjoy material food like human eating. Therefore, the eating and drinking of the dead is often called enjoying food, that is, eating by realizing the flavors of the offerings that the descendants offer and if there is no offer, how can there be any flavor to give? ancestors, grandparents enjoy.
The second time is after 49 days, which is also the time to go to reincarnation to live in the next life. During this time, the Consciousness Body merges with the matter of the parents' sperm and embryo, so that the Consciousness Body becomes the physical body. When there is a physical body, that is, the fetus, then the fetus can eat and drink the same materials as the human diet. Or if they are reborn in other realms, outside of the Human World, they will eat and drink the same way as beings in those realms.
At this point, the question arises again:
- Ancestors, Grandparents have been reincarnated into a certain World long ago, so what does it mean for us to worship?
In this case, if you are a descendant, you still worship because there are two meanings:
- The First Meaning,
You worship for the purpose of being grateful and repaying those who gave birth to you, nurtured and taught you to be a human being, as well as built your sect family. At the same time, you also educate your children and grandchildren to know your ancestral lineage, which will later inherit the role of, making the family glorious. Just like Buddhists celebrate Buddha's Birthday that sacred image is deeply ingrained in the hearts of each believer.
- Second Meaning,
When you donate items, you are using your spiritual energy and devotion to turn the donated items into oxygen and convert that oxygen into nourishing material to bring to the person you donate through the spiritual system. At that time, the worshiper who was in a certain realm naturally received a lot of luck without knowing where it came from. In this case, ordinary people call it the blessing of their family, ancestors, grandparents, or parents.
To make it easier for you to understand, I give an example. This case is similar to a broken electric light bulb because you changed the light bulb, but you replaced a fan. The form of a fan is not a light bulb at all. Now you use the current of the old bulb wire, but in fact, the natural fan is affected right away. In the same way, the person you worship is no longer in the form of your grandparents, parents, or relatives, but their spirituality is still in the same spiritual line as your ancestors. You use the power of prayer on the spiritual line of the family, the person you worship will enjoy it immediately.
Thus, when ancestors and grandparents were born in certain invisible worlds, their living and eating activities were only by conscious food, unlike the eating and drinking of humans. Therefore, children and grandchildren should always make offerings to be grateful and repay their ancestors, grandparents, parents, etc.
          According to this tradition, as a Vietnamese, every family worships grandparents, ancestors, parents... Particularly in Buddhism, worshiping has great meanings and values. First of all:
          A. The meaning of offerings
          Offering, that's a commonly used Buddhist term. This word is transliterated from the word nurture. First of all, you need to understand two words: Nurturing and offering.
          a. Nurturing:
          That is, to provide and to nourish, that is, to supply according to the material needs of the needy and to nourish them when they are hungry and torn, etc.
          The provision here is alms-giving with extended love, providing the necessary means of life to those in need through the altruistic spirit of the wealthy.
          b. Offering:
          It means offering to the venerable ones with sincerity, devotion, and remembrance of the ancestors, the saints full of merit and virtue that the underlings are obliged to be grateful and repay.
          B. The difference between offering and nurturing
          a. Nurturing:
          It means taking care of people who are currently living in the world with available love, which human obligations need to cover in mutual survival relationships, such as:
          - Take care of your parents, brothers, and sisters, take care of your relatives, etc.
          As for those who have passed away, you should not use the word nurturing, but you must use the word sacrifice to show your sincerity to those who have passed away. Sacrifice is bringing offerings according to the ritual sacrifice, such as making sacrifices to ancestors, grandparents, gods, etc.
          b- Offering:
          That means remembering those who have great graces with you, such as parents, religious teachers, and those who are grateful to you. You not only make offerings to those who are still alive but also make offerings to those who have passed away. Moreover, in Buddhism, it is also called offering the Three Jewels (Offering to Buddha, Dharma, Sangha), making offerings to ancestral teachers, making offerings to the Sangha, etc.
          Most, people see the value of the Offering. They only know how to act according to the traditional customs left by their grandparents, but it is the duty of their descendants to preserve that spirit. That is a very good thing, but it is also very harmful to children who lack faith. Because they do not understand the meaning of the Worshiping ceremony, the successors of the Ancestors cannot explain it specifically for the descendants to understand and also distort the noble value of the Cultural tradition. In this situation, if unfortunately encounter bad guys who misrepresent, descendants are easy to despise and lack sincerity in worshiping.
          Because they do not understand and do not see anyone enjoying food when making offerings, some people consider making offerings to be superstitious. Also, because they do not understand, some people use Worshiping as an excuse, aiming to gather friends to eat, drink and have fun rather than to commemorate gratitude and return gratitude.
          You human beings are currently living in the world of appearances that are completely dependent on matter, while beings in worlds without appearances and are built on the foundation of Consciousness should never be dependent at all on any material thing. Since you are living in the world of form or matter, it is not possible to see beings in the invisible world which is also the world of consciousness. And also because you can't see it, it's not strange that you don't believe that there are grandparents or gods to enjoy the offerings.
        When I first heard that the physical world, that is, the visible world, and the invisible world, that is, the spiritual world, it seems that they have nothing to do with each other, but in fact, these two worlds are very closely related.
          As I once said, after a person dies, even though he has given up his tangible physical body, to goes through the intermediate state of the body and enters the invisible or spiritual world, then depending on merit or karma, then chooses a next incarnation, that is, from the spiritual or invisible world, people go back to the visible or material world through the help of their parents in the human world, or some other realm that of the six samsara paths. Thus this Inner World or the invisible and the other Worlds or visible are very closely related to each other in dependent origination. Therefore, without the invisible or spiritual world, human rebirth would not happen. In other words, if the invisible world does not have substance as a foundation, this visible outer world definitely cannot be established.
          Although you do not see the beings of the Inner Worlds in the formless state, do not rush to assume that this world is not present in the universe. Because even scientists, having discovered a lot of secrets in space, but so far have not discovered all the worlds in the universe, do not know all the Planets present in space, know only certain limits in this solar system of matter. Especially not knowing at all about the metaphysical field, but according to the Buddha said:
          - In the vast universe, there are many worlds that exist, of course, there are also many kinds of beings currently living in it.
Scientists use the word Planets in the universe, but Buddha did not use the word Planet, he used the word world. Since these Worlds are combined by dissimilar elements, the beings in these Worlds are not alike in their appearance, nor are their activities the same. This means that the activities of beings in this world cannot live in other Worlds, and vice versa. Indeed, what you can easily see is:
          - The world of fish or the habitat of fish is water. The human world or human habitat is the ground and the air.
Fish cannot live in an environment without water, and humans cannot live in an environment with water. Likewise, what you are doing, living in this present world cannot know, cannot see the activities of other worlds is also understandable.
          The concept of the world universe, according to Buddhism, is the vast universe has an infinite number of Worlds, that is, Worlds are as many as grains of sand in the Ganges, in which they have various relationships with each other, Buddha divides them into three different groups: Desire Realm, Form Realm, and Formless Realm
          1. Desire World:
          These are the Worlds in which sentient beings live in shape and form. These Worlds include Human World, Hell World, Preta World, and Animal World.
          2- Form-World:
          Considered a higher realm than the human world. This is the lower deva realm. Beings in this realm do not have lusts and desires, only good physical bodies. However, because they have not been liberated from the defilements of matter, there is still samsara of birth and death.
          3. The Formless World
          It is a world made only by Karma Consciousness. In the Formless Realm, there is no physical body, and the beings residing there lead a life free of pain, worry, or afflictions, but this is considered unsatisfactory from the Buddhist point of view. Because even though the lives of beings in the Formless Realm are in the heavenly realms or higher than in the Form Realms because they have not yet been liberated, sentient beings in this realm are still enjoying blessings, but at some point, it will be over. When the blessings are exhausted, the life in this realm also ends, these beings are still reborn in the lower realms such as the human realm, the hungry ghost, hell, and the animal realm...
          In order to see living beings and activities in the form and formless realms, you must rely on the Buddha's Eye to penetrate. It is impossible for the human eye to know and see the activities in these Worlds. Humans can't even see the living, eating and drinking habits of beings in the Hells, hungry ghosts and Asuras worlds, etc. belonging to the Desire realm, then of course you can't see and know to be sentient beings in the form and formless realms.
          In order for you to understand clearly ancestor worship, I have long introduced to you that in addition to the world where humans live, there are many other worlds or realms. Each realm, form, activities, and ways of eating as well as objects are also different, unlike the human realm,
          According to the Buddha, the ways of eating of beings in the three realms are divided into nine different types of food:
The four types of food of the world and the realms of the Desire Realm are:
          - Food group: Rice or round foods.
          - Touch Food: Feeling happy makes you full as if you ate: Like listening to songs, watching plays makes your body and mind comfortable and happy.
          - Thought food: thoughts or food with thoughts
          - Consciousness or food enjoyment: It is the spiritual food that feeds beings in heaven, the invisible realm of hell.
          The five types of food of the Out of Worldly or the realms in the Realm of Form and the Realm of Formless include:
          - Meditate on Food: The power to nourish the mind of meditation. When entering meditation, the body and mind are light and comfortable, helping to nourish the body and wisdom life.
          - Dharma Joy Food: Happy to hear the Dharma fill you up as if you've just eaten,
          - Praying Food: Cultivators use their vows to feed themselves just like eating and drinking in everyday life
          - Mindfulness of Food: Staying in mindfulness, such as staying in Buddha's name, also makes you feel full as if you just ate.
          - Liberation Food: It is one of the five spiritual foods that nourish good roots
          When the ancestors were born in the invisible world, their living and eating activities were only equal to Consciousness or food enjoyment, which is one of the four types of food in the world, unlike human eating. But descendants still have to make offerings to bring the taste of food to show respect, to offer to commemorate, remember favors, and repay favors. According to the Buddhist scriptures, the offerer first uses the body as well as the main act, and then they use the spirit to communicate. So they have to show two qualities: Offering Body and Offering Mind.
          a- Body Offering:
          That is, the donor must sincerely offer offerings such as food, clothing, medicine, etc. to the Three Jewels, to the Elder Master, to his parents, to the spirits, etc. Offering.
          b- Heart of Offering:
          That is, the donor feels that the mind is not bored, does not regret, and is happy in the action, which is called the Heart of Offering. Also from this meaning, in Buddhism, there are two methods of offering: the phenomenon of offering and the spirit of offering.
          1- Phenomena or form of offering:
          The offerings on the altar are the symbol of the sincerity of a descendant, of a believer who gives his full faith to the ancestors, to the Saints, and to the Buddhas. They offer sacrifices in the hope that their ancestors, grandparents and saints, and Buddhas will prove the sincerity and gratitude of the underlings. If there is no symbolic gift, it is not possible to show the sincerity of the people below to the people who are deeply grateful to them. Due to the appearance that can display nature. Phenomenon and Spirit, as well as Sign and Nature, are mutually compatible without hindrance. The Flower Adornment Sutra has a sentence:
          - Unobstructed spirit and phenomena of the Dharma Realm
          - Spirit is manifested through phenomena, and phenomena are formed through spirit.
          Phenomenon and spirit cannot be separated to form. Although all dharmas have different appearances, they all share the same essence. A person with a sincere heart, even if a grain of salt is bitten in two and offered to the superior, it is also valuable, and vice versa, if a person has no sincerity, even if the tray is full, there is no meaning, just like the sentence:
          - Buddha means mind, Buddha proves at heart, mind means Buddha, heart, there is Buddha.
          2. Spirit of offering:
          The spirit of offering means showing the truth that has been entered and offered. The Samantabhadra Sutra, the chapter on conduct and vows to say offerings have three meanings:
          a- Donation money:
          That is to use the fruits, money, and treasures often used in the world to make offerings.
          b- Dharma offering:
          That is to bring the Bodhi mind to benefit yourself and benefit everyone to make offerings.
          c- Conduct of offerings:
          That is, practice Dharma contemplation of conduct to realize that all things in the three realms are compatible with each other. That is, practice the method of contemplation on the phenomenon-phenomenon without hindrance in the Dharma-realm of the Flower Adornment Sutra to make offerings. Dasabhumika-sutra, Book 3 says: There are three ways of making offerings:
          1- Benefits and offerings:
          That is, using only clothes, sitting tools, beds, etc., to make offerings.
          2- Respectfully make offerings:
          That is to show sincerity by offering incense, flowers, garlands, etc. to make offerings.
          3- Conduct of offerings:
          That is to practice virtues, such as Faith, Precepts, etc. to make offerings.
Suddharmapundarika Sutra, volume 3 says: Using three karmas to make offerings, the three karmas to make offerings are as follows:
          - Karma body offering:
          That is, use this body sincerely to worship and respect the Buddhas, bodhisattvas to make offerings, or ancestors.
          - Karma of Oral Offering:
          That is, using words of praise to praise the merits of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas to make offerings.
          - Karma Intention Offering:
          That is, use a righteous mind to remember the good and dignified appearance of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas to make offerings.
          With the spirit of offering I just described above, you should follow a good example of the forefathers, saints, grandparents, ancestors trying to prevent evil things, and vowing to do good deeds. Keep your body and mind clean from physical to mental, from words to deeds, to be worthy of the title of beloved descendants of the family line, and to set a good example in society. You can show the noble spirit I just mentioned above to make offerings to the Holy Ancestors, pray for the ancestors to prove and bless, that is the meaning of the spirit. In terms of material things, according to the spirit of Buddhism, every time children and grandchildren make offerings to grandparents or saints, they must meet the following conditions:
          - You must have respect for the superiors that you worship, that is, you do not have to worship for the purpose of meeting friends to eat, drink and have fun. Must be dignified and pure during the sacrifice, that is, during the sacrifice, it is not allowed to organize singing, dancing, and singing like an amphitheater.
          - There must be three bowls of rice, three cups of tea, two pairs of chopsticks, three spoons and forks, along with incense, candles, fruits, etc... That is a necessary condition when making offerings. The rest of the food is added or reduced depending on the circumstances of each homeowner.
          - All children and grandchildren in the family must kneel, be silent, and fold their hands towards the altar of ancestors, saints, etc., to express their sincerity. At that time, the householder on behalf of the family prays incense and prays the name, age, day, month, and year of death of the deceased person whom you worship. While parents are worshiping grandparents, children and grandchildren are not allowed to play, because joking makes a lack of dignified and pure ceremony. In the end, they all bowed three times.
Ancestor worship is the basic thing that descendants must keep in mind in inheriting the career and inheritance of their ancestors. You must not only remember your duty but also be proud whenever you organize an ancestor worshiping ceremony, and you must also respectfully read their biographies. On the contrary, if you lack obligations and neglect in worshiping the Ancestors who have great merits of the family, that is a very big crime of unfilial piety. In Buddhism, the sin of unfilial piety is one of the five great sins, the sin of falling into the Uninterrupted Hell. You as a Buddhist need to know the way we just described above to prevent from committing the sin of unfilial piety.
In the human world, worshiping is a very essential way for a person of faith towards the Ancestors, towards the Sage, and an indispensable human duty in self-improvement, as well as building a safe society spiritually. Worshiping is also an act of knowing gratitude and repaying gratitude to ancestors with all forms of symbols that people remember deeply and are indispensable. In addition, worshiping is also a method of educating children and grandchildren in the sense of tradition and ideals of a nation so that they can fulfill their obligations as citizens in a country.
As for the ideals of Buddhists, you make offerings to express the spiritual bridge of sympathy with the Buddhas and hope to ask the Three Jewels to bless you and keep you safe on the path of enlightenment and liberation.
With the reasons and meanings presented, worshiping is a valuable religious symbol not only in terms of form but also useful in terms of spirituality, and is also a necessary need for people in the practice and moral training as a human beings, not only necessary for you personally or for your family in this life. This is also a useful need for the descendants not only in this life but also a necessary element in creating good deeds for the next life. This is very important in terms of both form and content, including appearance and rationality, so that everyone and all sentient beings will soon be free from afflictions and suffering and be happy and free.
In short, worshiping here is to show deep gratitude to ancestors, and saints, and at the same time to offer precious gifts to pray for ancestors to prove and bless. In addition, worshiping also increases the close relationship between ancestors, grandparents, and descendants, that is according to the world. Regarding religion, it is a close relationship with the source of the spiritual energy to liberate believers through the spiritual system, as a link between the devotee or the believer and the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas in the ten directions. It can be said that worship and prostration are very necessary for family education, the concept of ancestral traditions, and ideals of the race for children and grandchildren to fulfill their moral obligations. Therefore, in order to foster a healthy spiritual life, virtuous and filial people should worship, and regularly make sacrifices and prostrations to ancestors, sages, bodhisattvas, and buddhas in the ten directions.
If you have any recommendations, please e-mail to: