#01: I made an offering to my late grandparents. Will they receive it?

Every year on the seventh lunar month, my friends begin exchanging tips to survive the “Hungry Ghost Festival”.

“Don’t turn around when you feel someone tapping on your shoulder at night -- it might be something else that’s not human!” “Don’t whistle at night -- you’ll attract the spirits!” “Don’t touch the food on the ground -- you’ll anger the spirits!”


Frightening, isn’t it? These stories never fail to scare me every time, and I grew up fearful of the seventh lunar month!

There are countless spine-chilling tales surrounding this spooky time, but what is the Hungry Ghost Festival?

The Hungry Ghost Festival falls on the seventh month on the lunar calendar. During this time, the Chinese believe that the gates of Hell open, allowing spirits to roam the earth for a month. 

To appease the spirits, people make offerings throughout the month. Lighted candles dot the pavements alongside food offerings, and smoke billow from joss papers burning in giant containers along the streets. These papers are typically designed like gold and silver taels, Hell notes, and clothes, among other things -- essentially basic necessities to help spirits with their lives in the underworld. 


But have you ever wondered if the spirits receive everything we offer them?

I never had the courage to ask this question when I was a child. I thought the subject might be taboo, and if I asked, I might get a spanking from my mom instead.

The same question bugged me again after I started learning Buddhism at BW Monastery. But here -- in fact, at most Buddhist temples and monasteries -- people call it Ullambana.

Ullambana falls on the seventh lunar month and is observed by most Buddhist organisations, where we make offerings to the Buddha and the Sangha community. Buddhists also recite sutras and perform rituals to make offerings and accumulate merits for their dearly departed ones, hoping their afterlife might be better. 


These practices got me wondering again: Will they really receive these blessings?

My friend approached Venerable Bensi with my question, and he readily cleared my doubt. Listen to their conversation here:

Here’s a summary of Venerable Bensi’s answer to my question:

Visualise our ancestors or dearly departed ones when we make offerings or participating in the Puja, visualise that they are participating in the Puja together with us.

With a strong mind and sincere heart, as we pay homage to the Buddha and send our well wishes to them, they will be able to receive the blessings.

  1. Here’s the reason: Our ancestors have strong karmic connections with us. Whenever we think of them and send our well wishes to them, they will receive it. Together with the blessings from the Buddha and Bodhisattvas, they will get the benefits.

Venerable Bensi’s answer not only cleared my doubts on whether our dearly departed ones could receive the blessings when we perform the rituals during the puja and the offerings we make to them, but also helped me to overcome my fear of the Hungry Ghost Festival. 

If we extend our love towards other sentient beings, like how we love our family, we would also want to benefit those beings who are suffering in the evil realms. (Evil realms include: Realm of Hell, Realm of Hungry Ghost, Realm of Animals)

Right now, I believe you must be wondering: What is Ullambana? How is it related to the Hungry Ghost Festival? Why does it also fall on the seventh lunar month?

Check out the next post for answers!