Entry for August 12, 2006

This illustration of the Hungry Ghosts was used by another blogger.  I haven’t been able to track down the original yet.

I found the  name of  one of the realms in the Wheel of Life,  that of the Hungry Ghosts, evocative, but what did it mean in Buddhism?  Mark Epstein explains it as a fusion of rage and desire, of attachment to needs whose time has already past. The site Buddhamind has this description, similar to Epstein:

This is the realm of intense craving. The Hungry Ghosts are shown with enormous stomachs and tiny necks – they want to cat, but cannot swallow; when they try to drink. the liquid turns to fire, intensifying their thirst. The torture of the hungry ghost is not so much the frustration of not being able to get what he wants. rather it is his clinging to those things he mistakenly thinks will bring satisfaction and relief. The Buddha in this Realm holds a Bowl from which the ‘gifts of the gods’ are distributed. This is to entice the hungry ghosts to desire for the Truth which is the only way that the deepest longings and hungers can be satisfied.

This is a different interpretation than that of the ghosts of ancestors now in a realm without food who should be fed by their decendents.

On the now inactive Canadian website, Creative Resistance, I found that Ben Bagdikian, in his October 28, 2002  article for Z magazine, “Whence The National Epidemic Of Greed, Fraud, And Rush To War?,”  quotes from Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche.  The Tenzin, a Tibetan monk who founded Ligmincha Institute, says this regarding the Hungry Ghosts:

Generosity unties the hard knot of greed.

Wouldn’t that be an interesting basis for international and domestic social policy? 

 

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