The Avalambana Sutta
The Urabon Sutra
Thus have I heard:
Buddha at one time was residing in the country of Shravasti, in the garden of Jeta the friend of the orphans. At this time Maudgalyayana having begun to acquire the six supernatural powers, desiring above all things, from a motive of piety, to deliver his father and mother, forthwith called into use his power of supernatural sight, and looking throughout the world he beheld his unhappy mother existing without food or drink in the world of Prêtas (hungry ghosts) nothing but skin and bone. Maudgalyayana, moved with filial pity, immediately presented to her his alms-bowl filled with rice. His mother, then taking the bowl in her left hand, endeavored with her right to convey the rice to her mouth, but before it came near to her lips, lo, the rice was converted into fiery ashes, so that she could not eat thereof. At the sight of this, Maudgalyayana uttered a piteous cry, and wept many tears as he bent his way to the place where Buddha was located. Arrived there, he explained what had happened, and awaited Buddha’s instruction. On this the master opened his mouth, and said, “The sin which binds your mother to this unhappy fate is a very grievous one; from it you can never by your own strength rescue her, no, nor yet all the powers of earth or heaven, men or divine beings: not all these are equal to the task of deliverance. But by assembling the priests of the ten quarters, through their spiritual energy deliverance may be had. I will now recount to you the method of rescue from this and all similar calamities.” Then Buddha continued: “On the 15th day of the 7th month the priests of the ten quarters being gathered together ought to present an offering for the rescue of ancestors during seven generations past, as well as those of the present generation, every kind of choice food and drink, as well as sleeping materials and beds. These should be offered up by the assembled priesthood as though the ancestors themselves were present, by which they shall obtain deliverance from the pains, and be born at once in a condition of happiness in Heaven.” And, moreover, the World-Honored One taught his followers certain words to be repeated at the offering of the sacrifices, by which the virtue thereof would be certainly secured.
On this Maudgalyayana with joy accepted the instruction, and by means of this institution rescued his mother from her sufferings.
And so for all future time this means of deliverance shall be effectual for the purpose designed, as year by year the offerings are presented according to the form delivered by Buddha.
Having heard these words, Maudgalyayana and the rest departed to their several places, with joyous hearts and glad thoughts.