NGÀY GIỖ: The Day of Remembrance and Commemoration
It has been several years since my grandmother passed away in September. Yearly, on the day of my grandmother's passing, our family clan come together for Ngày Giỗ ("Giỗ" is pronounced “zo” with “gi” being a soft “z” sound”) to commemorate her. Ngày Giỗ is a beautiful and meaningful tradition in my culture. Every year on the date of passing, family members get together for Ngày Giỗ, the Day of Remembrance and Commemoration. There are usually special dishes that are specific for Ngày Giỗ and the entire family get together to prepare the meal and enjoy it as a unit. In my family, we always have special vegetarian dishes on Ngày Giỗ for the ancestral altar. Vegetarian food carries a more positive energy since it is not weighted down by the negativy of worldly pain and sufferings of the flesh. Thus, a vegetarian dish would make it easier for the deceased to transition from the habits of the physical form into a no-form existence and onward into the new lifetime. Ngày Giỗ is a time of family bonding, remembrance of the deceased love one, and ultimately for appreciating the ancestral root. Traditionally, Ngày Gỗ would be done for the current three generations: parents and siblings, grandparents, and great-grandparents. Deceased family members beyond the third generation are remembered yearly during the Ancestral Ngày Giỗ on each New Year’s Day.
It is believed that the newly-deceased transitions to the next existence in 49 days after death. The deceased is now the Hương Linh or the Soul Essence and is no longer defined by the confine of the physical identity. In the Karmic world, all life is a manifestation of Yin and Yang. Life progression is dependent upon the unfolding of the seven developmental stages of changes as per the IChing. As the Hexagram consists of 6 stages, reaching the seventh stage shall transition into a new Hexagram. Thereafter, within the existing life cycle, on the seventh transition of the life-stages manifestation, a new life cycle begins. During initial the 49 days after death, the deceased bound by the Karma still remains in the existing life cycle. It is important to aid the Karma-bound Soul Essence smoothly move onward to the next Karmic life existence during the 49-days-transitional period. Thus, for seven weeks after the passing, there are weekly ceremonial prayers for the newly-deceased. The family members participates in the weekly ceremony and prayers to aid the deceased understand that this lifetime is complete and to let-go of the past and be burdenless moving onward. I remember going to the weekly prayers for my grandmother after her passing. Listening to the “Prayers for the Newly Deceased” helped me to feel the impermanence and the infinitely-repetitive nature of worldly existence. I prayed for my grandmother’s soul to understand the completion of this Karmic life cycle and for her to be at peace in her next Karmic existence.
I believe my grandmother has already moved onward to a new life journey. As I light an incense for my grandmother on her Ngày Giỗ , the outward perfume of the lighted incense combined with the inner incense of my sincere heart, I say my prayers.
I pray that, in my grandmother’s current life path, she continues on the journey toward the Timeless Inner Peace and transcends the infinite life cycle of seed and fruit. I believe that prayers are both a reflective and an active means to transmit positive intentions to oneself and others. As I remember my grandmother, her virtues, and her character during her Ngày Giỗ, I shine upon my current life path... where I came from and where I am heading. For souls that have yet to move on, feeling the intentions in the prayers for my grandmother are also beneficial for their own liberation from attachments to the past. Thus, prayers are a “win-win” both for myself and for other beings.
I feel that Ngày Giỗ is wonderful tradition for the living.
Coming together to remember and commemorate the past helps the family clan to appreciate the common thread and remind the clan the importance of preserving the dignity and virtues of the ancestral honor. Most importantly, Ngày Giỗ helps the each family member to reflect on the continuum of life and be grateful for the gift of the present. The present is after all the result of the past and ultimately the building block of the future. Ngày Giỗ is a meaningful day to be as one clan and aid each other through the love and common bond of family...to help each other in the present reflect on the wisdom of the past and aids each family member’s current life path toward a meaningful future.
Reflecting on the wisdom of the past during Ngày Giỗ, I feel more determined to continue onward upon my spiritual life path. Living life with the universal kindness and compassion for others and with the recognition of life’s impermanence gives me the strength and determination to be spiritually grounded at Inner Peace. I steadily continue onward on my life journey to my ultimate spiritual destination: Nirvana.
Why would we pray for our loved ones to enter another karmic life? Would it not be better to pray for them to transcend all karmic lives?
Why are prayers necessary when the intention is true?
With respect to the past and the future, if it is said that we learn from the past to prevent the same mistakes in the future and to have a better future, then we would have bound ourselves to the physical karmic life because we do not live in the present. The cycle then continues and transcendence above the circle of the physical life cannot occur. What is the present if it is utilized to focus on the past and the future?
Indeed we ultimately pray for our love ones to transcend the Karmic circle. During the 49 days transitional period after physical death, we may be of aid to our love ones through our prayers and positive intentions. The prayers help the newly deceased to let go of past attachments and journey smoothly onward into their new Karmic existence and aid to reinforce the need to transcend the cycle of birth and death. Recognizing the interconnection among the past, present, and future is essential, so that we no longer create Karmic consequences that bind us to the Karmic cycle of birth, decline, death, and repeat.