It is a Buddhist ceremony in which we transfer merits to our ancestors to alleviate their sufferings. These merits are gained from our sincere reverence to the Buddha and offerings to the Sangha. Hence we are actually making offerings to the Triple Gems and expressing filial piety to our parents and repaying their kindness.
The ceremony is conducted in accordance with the essential meaning as expounded in the Ullambana Sutra. According to the sutra, Maudgalyayana had attained enlightenment and with his divine eyes, he could see his late mother suffering in the hungry ghost realm. He tried to save her with his supernatural powers but to no avail. Hence, he sought advice from the Buddha to save his mother. Buddha told him that the Sangha had practised diligently during the three months’ summer retreat and accrued boundless merits.
On the 15th day of the 7th lunar month, while the Sangha members observed confession, Buddhists who were able to pay respects to the Buddha and make offerings to the Sangha on behalf of their ancestors and parents, could transfer the merits gained to them. This act would help to alleviate the sufferings of the deceased in the hungry ghost realm and bless the living with good fortune, happiness and well-being.