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Higan: Remembering Ancestors and Finding Equanimity

In the hustle and bustle of our modern lives, it is easy to forget the importance of taking a moment to remember our ancestors and find a sense of equanimity. Higan, a traditional Buddhist observance, provides us with an opportunity to do just that. This article explores the significance of Higan, its rituals, and the benefits it offers in finding peace and balance in our lives.

What is Higan?

Higan, also known as the Autumnal Equinox, is a Japanese Buddhist observance that takes place twice a year, during the spring and autumn equinoxes. The word “Higan” translates to “the other shore,” symbolizing the crossing from the world of suffering to the world of enlightenment. During this time, Buddhists reflect on their lives and honor their ancestors.

Remembering Ancestors

One of the central aspects of Higan is the act of remembering and honoring our ancestors. In Japanese culture, ancestors hold a special place of reverence, and their guidance and blessings are sought after. Higan provides a dedicated time to visit ancestral graves, clean them, and offer flowers and incense as a sign of respect and gratitude.

By connecting with our ancestors, we acknowledge the foundation they have provided for our lives and the wisdom they have passed down through generations. This act of remembrance not only fosters a sense of gratitude but also helps us gain perspective on our own lives and the choices we make.

Finding Equanimity

Equanimity, or mental calmness and composure, is highly valued in Buddhism. Higan encourages individuals to find this sense of equanimity by reflecting on the impermanence of life and embracing acceptance. Through meditation and introspection, practitioners are reminded of the transient nature of existence and the importance of living in the present moment.

Higan prompts us to let go of attachments and desires that cause suffering, allowing us to find peace within ourselves. By recognizing that everything changes, we can cultivate a mindset of acceptance and non-attachment, freeing ourselves from unnecessary worries and anxieties.

Rituals and Practices

During Higan, various rituals and practices are observed to commemorate the occasion. One such ritual is Ohigan kuyo, a ceremony held at Buddhist temples where offerings are made to honor the deceased. Participants recite sutras, chant mantras, and offer food and flowers as a sign of respect.

Another common practice is making special rice cakes called ohagi. These sweet treats are traditionally prepared and shared with family and friends during Higan. The act of making and sharing ohagi serves as a way to foster connection and unity among loved ones, while also symbolizing the cycle of life and death.

Benefits of Higan

Participating in Higan offers several benefits to individuals seeking a sense of peace and balance. By taking the time to remember our ancestors and reflect on impermanence, we gain a deeper appreciation for the present moment and the relationships we have in our lives. This shift in perspective can lead to a greater sense of gratitude and contentment.

Furthermore, embracing equanimity allows us to navigate life’s challenges with greater resilience and acceptance. Instead of being consumed by worries and anxieties, we learn to approach difficulties with a calm and composed mind. This ability to stay centered in the face of adversity is a powerful tool for personal growth and well-being.

In conclusion, Higan serves as a reminder to remember our ancestors and find equanimity in our lives. Through the rituals and practices associated with this observance, we can cultivate gratitude, acceptance, and peace. By honoring our past and embracing impermanence, we can create a foundation for a balanced and fulfilling life.