Ancestors' Day, or 清明節 (Qing ming jie), is commemorated by Chinese all over the world. Once a year, Chinese will go to their ancestors' columbaria, graves or burial grounds to commemorate their ancestors. They would also sweep, and clean up the surrounding areas. This is also to show filial piety, an important virtue in Chinese culture. There is more that what meets the eye in Buddhism when we discuss about Qing Ming.
Buddhists also conduct services once a year during Qing Ming. We conduct repentance ceremonies for our ancestors. Why do we conduct repentance ceremonies for them? As descendants, we should wish the best for our ancestors. What more can it be than to wish them to go to Amitabha's Pure Land? We do not wish to see our ancestors suffer in the six paths do we? Some might wonder if these ceremonies are actually real. Do our ancestors really go to the Land of Ultimate Bliss? There are many documented stories in the past that showed that they do go to the Land of Ultimate Bliss. Therefore, we as the younger generation should take part in this ceremony to show our filial piety.
With what mind should we then have when we partake in a Qing Ming repentance ceremony, or any ceremony in fact? The mind we should have is a pure and bright mind. It is the Bodhi mind that we should have when we are participating in the ceremony. It is through this mind that when we are reciting the Buddhas' names, the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas manifests through us. With that one recitation of the Buddha's name, one prostration with the pure mind, the Buddha's light shines through you, and illuminate all the ten directions of the Dharma realm. Having recited the repentance texts with a pure mind, the Pure Land manifests itself, and uncountable sentient beings will be crossed over with that recitation.
This is why we should do Qing Ming on ourselves first. 清 means to clean, sweep, purify. 明 means to brighten. We should thus purify our own minds. Give rise to a compassionate mind. Strive to realize enlightenment, and cross over sentient beings. Watch our own actions, be it with the body, speech or mind. In only that way, can our minds be bright and clear. It is then that we are able to manifest the wondrous functions of the mind. It is then that sentient beings will benefit from our repentance. With a pure mind, the boundaries are limitless. Thus, our one recitation will be heard throughout the 10 Dharma Realms. It is then that our ancestors will benefit from our chanting.
Hence, with the Bodhi Mind, we show filial piety to our ancestors by striving to become Buddhas. This is the best filial piety and child could show to their parents. Becoming the Buddha, you are the World Honored One, teacher of Heaven and Earth, unexcelled complete enlightenment, and have perfected wisdom. Only then you are able to benefit everyone, not only your parents, grandparents, those who came before you. You are able to benefit all sentient beings who are suffering. Which parent will not be proud to see a child become a Buddha? Therefore, in Buddhist traditions, if we can contemplate on Qing Ming, we will all know how to cultivate forward.