In China, Japan and Tibet especially, Buddhists hold feasts in honor of various Bodhisattvas and holy persons. The death anniversary of Bodhidharma, traditionally believed to be the founding patriarch of Chinese Zen, occurs on the 5th day of the tenth lunar month, Bhadrapada (August/September). Events in the life of Tibetan Buddhism’s important patriarch Padmasambhava provide a kind of narrative sacred structure for the entire year with observances occurring on the tenth day of each lunar month. Devotees celebrate his flight from the world in the first month, his taking of religious vows in the second, and his miraculous transformation of fire into water during the third, for example. One of the most widely celebrated sacred persons is the Bodhisattva Guan Yin (called Kannon in Japan). Her day is the 19th of a given lunar month, with her birthday occurring during the second month, her enlightenment during the sixth, and her entry into nirvana during the ninth.
Worshippers at Tokyo’s Asakusa Kannon temple bless themselves by wafting incense smoke from the large courtyard burner toward themselves and rubbing in on their faces and bodies.