Tuesday, September 23, 2008


Shunbun-no-hi is a Japanese holiday on the Autumnal equinox. This national holiday was established in 1948 as a day on which to honor one's ancestors and remember the dead. Prior to 1948, the autumnal equinox was an imperial ancestor worship festival called Shūki kōrei-sai.

This week is a Buddhist celebratory week. According to Buddhist belief this is the day that the dead can cross the Sanzu river to enter Nirvana. This day is also called Higan no Chu-Nichi. The word higan means “the other shore,” a Buddhist term that comes from the idea that there is a river marking the division of this life from the world of salvation (Sanzu river). This river is full of illusion, passion, and sorrow, and only by crossing to the other shore can one gain enlightenment and enter nirvana. It is said that, when night and day are equal the Buddha appears on earth to save stray souls and help them make the crossing. This is why people visit family cemeteries during this week.

Higan is a time of year when Buddhist people pay special attention to the Six Paramitas (Perfections). The six perfections are:

1 Dana - generosity
2. Sila - virtue
3. Ksanti - patience
4. Virya - effort
5. Dhyana - meditation
6. Prajna - wisdom

The higanbana, red spider lily, marks the autumnal equinox observance (pictured above).

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