"The Other Shore,"
Ohigan, "The Other Shore," is a unique Japanese Buddhist observance.
It is held twice annually to coincide with the Spring and Autumn Equinox. It is held on this day because the equinox is seen as being perfectly balanced, or an attribute associated with the Bodhisattva and the Buddha.
Originally, the equinox was also seen as the ideal day to focus on the practice of the Six Paramita because the equinox is neither too hot, nor too cold. The Paramita is the primary practice of Mahayana.
The six paramita are:
sila (precepts, rules of conduct)
The term Ohigan is one of the ways the term paramita (param + ita) was translated into Chinese. Translated as "Other Shore" the term paramita was understood to mean the "other shore of enlightenment." In other words, fulfilling the Paramita would allow you to reach the other shore of enlightenment.
The other translation for paramita (parami + ta) has the meaning of "perfection." Because of this, the six paramita is also referred to as the "six perfections." These six perfections result in Enlightenment.
Jodo Shinshu, however, has a unique perspective on Ohigan. In Jodo Shinshu the focus is not for the individual to practice the Paramita. Instead, the Paramita was fulfilled by Amida Buddha. Because of this, the focus of the Ohigan observance for the Jodo Shinshu Buddhist is to listen to the Dharma that has been fulfilled and that is shared through the Name of the Buddha or Namo Amida Butsu.