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IOBT Obon Cemetery Visits 2021: Reflections & Logistics

July 27, 2021

Our annual Obon cemetery visits and services start tomorrow, July 27, 2021.

Obon cemetery visits are an important part of our Jodo Shinshu Buddhist tradition and something I look forward to every year.  

(For full schedule and a link to the map, scroll to the bottom of this post)


Buddhist ministers set up for cemetery service


Bonye No Uta*

Lanterns aglow from the house to house,

Lighting the path of the Dharma

Those who live and those now gone

All come together this festival day.

Time that flows shall not return,

But deep within the cemetery’s moss

Hearts beckon each other, every year,

And loved ones meet, this Festival Day.

*(Original version in Japanese by S. Shibutani and Kiyomi Fujii)

Obon Service at Morris Hill Cemetery Boise


The tradition of Obon is a reminder of the sadness of loss. Obon traditions remind us that missing our loved ones is a  normal part of human life.  The traditions reassure us that grief is normal and nothing to be ashamed of.  But that is just a small piece of what Obon is. At the heart of Obon is the fundamental teaching of Buddhism, the truth of interconnection, that all beings depend on each other.  

People honor Obon at Canyon Hill Cemetery Caldwell Idaho

Standing here in the cemetery surrounded by the living and the dead, we reflect on the fact that we would not be living our current lives if all of these people had not come before us.  Each contributed in some way to life as we know it.  Obon is a chance to acknowledge their lives, to say “Thank You” for what others have done and to hope that our lives will reflect that best qualities of those who have gone before.


Buddhist ministers chanting at cemetery

As we head home to our homes, we should remember this moment and realize that we are never really alone; we are constantly supported by everyone who has gone before us.  So if, over the next several weeks and months, you feel lonely, remember all these people, both the living and the dead.  Then say the Nembutsu ("Namo Amida Butsu") and perhaps offer a flower, light a candle, or burn incense at your Obutsudan (home Buddhist altar).  And remember that the infinite wisdom and compassion of Amida Buddha surrounds you at all times.

Baker City Oregon Cemetery Old Headstones

Namo Amida Butsu

In Gassho, 

Rev. Anne 

Buddhist Minister