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Higan (彼岸) is a Buddhist holiday exclusively celebrated in Japan during both the Spring and Autumnal Equinox. It is observed by nearly every Buddhist sect in Japan. The tradition extends from mild weather that occurs during the time of equinoxes, though the origin of the holiday dates from Emperor Shomu in the 8th century. People who normally worked in the fields had more leisure time to evaluate their own practices, and to make a renewed effort to follow Buddhism. Today, special services are usually observed in Japanese Buddhist temples, and Japanese temples abroad, based on the particular Buddhist tradition or sect.
The etymology of higan means "the other or that shore of Sanzu River", which is a common euphemism used in Buddhist literature to refer to Enlightenment. One crosses from this shore of ignorance and suffering to the other shore of Enlightenment and peace. In the Alagaddupama Sutta (MN 22) of the Pali Canon the Buddha uses a simile of a person constructing a raft to cross one shore to the other, symbolizing realization or Enlightenment. In the Heart Sutra of Mahayana Buddhism is the mantra:
- gate gate pāragate pārasaṃgate bodhi svāhā
- Gone, gone, gone beyond, everyone gone beyond [to the Other Shore], Enlightenment Hail
Emphasis on Ohigan is the teaching of the Six Perfections, as well as a renewed resolve to reach Enlightenment.
- "Middle Way & Higan Service, Nichiren Shu Beikoku Betsuin". Retrieved 2009-04-10.
- Lycoris (plant) - In Japanese, higan-bana (higan-flower)
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