Hungry Ghosts

First of all, let me say “Happy Halloween” 2010 everyone! With the spirit of the ghastliness and fright of the day, I thought I’d post about something that is pretty scary, the realm of hungry ghosts (pretas in Sanskrit) and just how real that realm is.

There is believed to be six realms of existence, birth and death called the Bhava Chakra or the Wheel Of Life. The hungry ghost realm is the third one, the Preta-gati. It’s pretty damned scary there, not a place I’d wanna hang out.

Imagine a realm inhabited by gruesome creatures, with pin sized mouths and necks barely as wide as a straw, making it impossible to eat and extremely painful to swallow. Their bellies so bloated and distended they drag them around as they move about. How did these creatures come to inhabit such a desolate and depressing place?

Of course the above description is a metaphor, because right here on earth we co-exist with these hungry ghosts. They may be our best friend, our brother, our sister or… duh duh duh duhhhhh… it might be us!

A hungry ghost is one so wrapped in their own greed they can never be fully satisfied. That greed overwhelms them, they need to have more, more, more. Even though that “food” is making it’s way in, they are never fully satiated. The endless abyss of greed can never be fully appeased.

Sogyal Rinpoche says:

“[In a psychological sense, the hungry ghost realms] exist wherever people, though immensely rich, are never satisfied, craving to take over this company or that one, or endlessly playing out their greed in court cases.”

Addiction can also be the cause of a hungry ghosts misery. As with greed, addiction can never be fulfilled. We take this drink, but it’s not enough, we need more. We take a hit of this, but that’s not enough to sustain the buzz, so we need more.

This post is not one that will give a definitive solution for hungry ghosts, because we all know what can be done. As with anything else, we are affected by our own karma. The actions we partake in, whether they are physical or even our thoughts, all result in the way things go for us.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama says (in the book “Essential Teachings”):

“Greed, envy and jealousy can lead to rebirth in the land of the pretas.”

So, let’s wrap this up on a lighter note, today being Halloween of all, the hungry ghosts will be out and about all evening. Did you get your candy yet? And while we think something like raisins (Danny Fisher!) might satiate the ravaging ghosts, a little chocolate helps too!

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