REEDLEY – In the words of the Buddhist Churches of America’s website, it’s time to remember the present moment together.
In the Buddhist Churches of America (BCA), the U.S. version of the annual Japanese Obon Festival is considered a “gathering of joy” as attendees are encouraged to “just dance” in remembrance of family and friends who have died during the year. The theme of remembering the present moment together will hold strong for the annual Reedley Obon Festival on Saturday, July 1, at the Reedley Buddhist Church at 2035 15th St.
Food sales from eight vendor booths will begin at 5 p.m., and dancing in the plaza area in the courtyard area of the church property will begin at 8 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.
“It’s more of honoring those family members who have passed on,” Judy Kobayashi, historian and webmaster with the church, said about the ceremony.
Kobayashi said the Obon Festival has been an annual tradition at the Reedley Buddhist Church dating back to 1946. The Reedley church was established in 1936, and many church members were sent to the Poston Relocation Camp in Arizona during World War II. Many returned after the war ended in 1945, and the festival was celebrated on the street in front of the church for many years.
In Japan, the Buddhist festival has a history dating back more than 500 years, and lasts from June through August.
Kobayashi said that Obon had a fascinating beginning. It originates from the story of Maha Maudgalyayana (Mokuren), according to the BCA. Maudgalyayana was a disciple of Buddha who used his powers to see the spirit of his deceased mother. He discovered she had fallen into the Realm of Hungry Ghosts and was suffering.
Buddha advised Mokuren to make offerings to Buddhist monks. On the 15th day of the seventh month, he followed Buddha’s advice and his mother was released from her suffering. Mokuren danced with joy, which is the origin of the Obon dance.
Reedley festival organizers invite the public to come out and dance, and no prior experience is needed. There will be a stage (called a yagura) in the middle, with dancers to follow. Musical entertainment will be provided by the Fresno Gumyo Taiko drummers.
The Obon Festival is the first portion of weekend festivities at the church. On Sunday, July 2, Hatsubon/Obon Service will take place in the sanctuary. Guest speaker is Rev. Martin Harada, Bishop for the BCA. He holds the highest position in the church.
Vendors providing food at the July 1 festival are RBC Shave Ice, BWA Somen Noodles and Spam Sushi, Yoshi’s Japanese Plates, Papa Murphy’s PIzza, Jr. YBA Drinks, Dharma School Mochi Ice Cream, and Sergio’s Tacos and Churros.
The Reedley Festival is one of six summer Obon festivals in Central California. Others are at the Visalia Buddhist Church (June 24), Fresno Buddhist Temple (July 15), Buddhist Church of Fowler (July 22), Kingsburg Buddhist Church (July 29) and Buddhist Church of Parlier (Aug. 5).
For anyone interested in more information on the festival, email email@example.com.