When the sum of cause and effect concerning your existence moves in a certain direction, it is called Karma. Your Karma existed before you were born and continues beyond your death. This cycle influences many things and will continue to influence many things.

Both Obon and Segaki are meant to serve the Hungry Spirits, but the roots of these events originated from the Six Worlds and the Cycle of Rebirth, the foundations of Buddhism. Obon and Segaki put these Buddhist views into daily practice as seasonal events.

Origin of Obon

The origins of both Obon and Segaki are based on the stories of the Ten Great Disciples of Sakyamuni Buddha. The main character for the story of Obon is Mokuren, or Maudgalyayana in Sanskrit. Mokuren was known for his supernatural powers. One day, he searched the Six Worlds to find his late beloved mother, because he wondered how she was doing since her death. He thought that his mother became a saint and resided in the World of Heavenly Being. He looked for her there, but she was not to be found there. Mokuren checked the World of Asura (war) and the Animal World, and finally he found her among the Hungry Spirits, horribly emaciated.

Mokuren immediately used his powers to send delicious food to satisfy her hunger and water to quench her thirst. Every time when she tried to eat the food or drink the water, the food and drink turned to fire and burned her body. Mokuren realized that his powers could not help his beloved mother. Mokuren asked Shakyamuni Buddha for a solution on how to save her. The Buddha said, “It is the rainy season, and all my disciples are busy on practice. But the season will be over soon in the middle of July. Invite these monks, hold a service, and offer food for all who suffer from starvation like your mother.”

Origin of Segaki

The origin of Segaki is also related to one of the Ten Great Disciples of Shakyamuni Buddha. Disciple Ananda was known for his powers of memorization. Ananda traveled with the Buddha as his attendant. It is said that all the sutras were written according to Ananda’s memory after the Buddha’s death.