Jun 27 2010

The Bon Dance Experience in Hawaii

Published by at 4:42 pm under Global View,Hawaii,Observations on People

Members of the Honpa Hongwanji Hawaii Temple

Members of the Honpa Hongwanji Hawaii Temple

Last night I had the pleasure of attending the Honpa Hongwanji Hawaii Betsuin’s Annual Bon Dance. You do not need to be a Buddhist to attend; in fact this was the second Bon Dance I have attended! There was music, food booths, Taiko drums, great parking, and a very family-friendly atmosphere.

If you are not familiar with the festival, an Obon or just Bon is a Japanese Buddhist custom to honor the deceased spirits of one’s ancestors. This Buddhist custom has evolved into a family reunion holiday during which people return to ancestral family places and visit and clean their ancestors’ graves, and when the spirits of ancestors are supposed to revisit the household altars. It has been celebrated in Japan for more than 500 years and traditionally includes a dance, known as Bon Odori.

The history is much more complicated and detailed then this, so please forgive me as I paraphrase. According to Wikipedia, the Bon Odori originates from the story of Maha Maudgalyayana (Mokuren), a disciple of the Buddha, who used his supernatural powers to look upon his deceased mother. Buddha instructed him to make offerings to the many Buddhist monks. He also began to see the true nature of her past unselfishness and the many sacrifices that she had made for him. The disciple became happy because of his mother’s kindness and danced with joy. From this dance of joy comes Bon Odori or Bon Dance, a time in which ancestors and their sacrifices are remembered and appreciated.

I would encourage you to attend this evening’s Honpa Hongwanji Hawaii Betsuin’s festivities starting at 6:30 pm located at 1727 Pali Highway. Hawaii Eisa Shinyuu Kai will be participating again tonight. For more information, call 536-7044.  If you don’t live in town, the Wahiawa Hongwanji Buddhist Temple will also be holding their bon dance this evening at 6:30 pm. Call 622-4320 for more information.

Each temple has their own individual Bon Dance and it is truly an amazing community remembrance. Click this link to see the 2010 Oahu Bon Dance Calendar provided by Champuru. It was wonderful to see several generations of families together and a fantastic opportunity to learn more about this Buddhist custom. As I looked around the celebration, I saw so many faces and different people that it reminded me that Hawaii’s many cultures and ethnicities are one of its greatest strengths. Lucky we live Hawaii! CLICK THIS LINK TO VIEW PHOTO GALLERY (Photos & Video: Cara Mazzei)


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