In Johrei Fellowship, we traditionally observe a special day dedicated to family and loved ones who have passed on. By acknowledging the memory of their lives, we strengthen our connections to them and the family line.
Many cultures honor their ancestors and generational tradition in different ways and each custom is unique. Along with customary prayers, such expressions of respect and remembrance may include offerings of food and drink. Some may have shrines built at their homes, while others may have a simple ceremony at the final resting places. The form may be different, but the intention is universal. Through such observances, we nurture this special bond which weaves through and extends though generations.
The ancestral service ceremony involves more elaborate preparation than regular monthly services. We prepare a special altar on which we place favorite foods that our ancestors enjoyed. A minister invokes special chants to invite the souls of the ancestors and to establish a connection between the spiritual and physical realms for this special ceremony. Special prayers of gratitude are then offered to our ancestors and to help increase the Light in the spiritual realm so that they may be further elevated.
In our faith practice, we believe that our ancestors are helped in the spiritual realm through our good deeds and they feel the vibration of our love and gratitude toward them. Our founder, Meishu-sama also reminded us that we can continue to help our ancestors throughout the year by simply serving others with sincerity. He expressed the following in 1935: "It is time we realized that all human beings do not simply exist by themselves, that we are closely linked to, and are an extension of our ancestors. It means that an infinite number of ancestors are joined together to make one of us - that their countless number of spiritual cords are connected to our single spiritual cord."
The desire to know about our history and to connect with our ancestors is an increasingly popular activity today. Today, there are popular sites being used to search for one’s ancestral lineage. Some may be just curious about their cultural heritage and racial roots, while others may be seeking to determine who might be the rightful heir to an inheritance! Even if one is not familiar with the meaning of spiritual cords, a connection to our forebearers is being established, as we seek more knowledge about our ancestors.
In whatever way we choose to connect and show our gratitude, whether by offering a special service, visiting a final resting place or by a simple daily prayer, these expressions are universal and they help to heal the past and acknowledge the present, in a spirit of deep appreciation.
I have realized
That my body and spirit
Would not be here now
Without the father, mother,
Who gave me birth, cared for me.
Making our parents and ancestors
Happy in the spiritual world
By our good deeds
Is the best and greatest
Of filial acts.
(from a poem by Meishu-sama)