Bon Services

Bon is a time to share the deep meaning of life and family togetherness as we honor the spiritual qualities of all beings.  At the Bon services, we remember, honor, and offer our heartfelt gratitude to the departed loved ones of our families. 

O-toba (6-foot tall wooden memorial tablets inscribed with names of your deceased loved ones or your ancestors) dedications are made and are displayed and honored with prayers during the services. 

Bon Services at the Soto Mission of Aiea are held on four different days to accommodate the several hundred people that attend these services annually.

A Brief Explanation on Bon

History of Bon dates back as far as the time of Shakamuni himself. There are many interpretations of how Bon started.  One story that relates how Bon originated tells of one of ten disciples of Shakamuni, who learned that the spirit of his mother had fallen into the realm of Hungry Demons. Offerings of food and drink made to monks on July 15, the final day of the rainy-season meditation session, saved his mother from her suffering. Thus began the practice of offering food, drink, snack items and flowers at the graves and altars.

Bon represents the reverence human beings naturally entertain for our ancestors, but with a Buddhist flavor. The Bon spirit extends not only to close relatives, but also to remotely distant ancestors with whom one feels little or even no connection at all.

Bon observance consists of trips to the cemetery or to the temple, where priests are engaged in chanting scriptures.  We end Bon observances with the Bon-odori, or Bon Dance. Participation in Bon-odori gives comfort to the spirits of the deceased and ensures their safe return to their world.

Bon-odori emphasizes the dancers’ spirituality.  It takes no technical skills or special clothes to participate. Anyone is welcomed to take part. Coming together in the dance circle naturally unites people, even perfect strangers, in a prayer for universal peace, the true aim of Bon-odori. Dancing opens people minds and prepares them to receive the energy to live on.

Bon is a special opportunity to say “thank you” to those who gave us life. We should not forget that we exist because of our parents and the long line of ancestors who came before them.

Bon is a time for family. It is a time to reflect upon the dead and the living. It is a time to find irreplaceable peace of mind that comes with the lighting of a candle and the offering of incense.

During this coming Bon season, let us take the time to pray that all spirits throughout the cosmos find tranquility and that the world moves closer to everlasting peace.