Ghosts. . .

There is widespread belief in ghosts in Tibetan culture. Ghosts are explicitly recognized in the Tibetan Buddhist religion as they were in Indian Buddhism, occupying a distinct but overlapping world to the human one, and feature in many traditional legends.

When a human dies, after a period of uncertainty they may enter the ghost world. A hungry ghost (Tibetan: ghosts, प्रेत) has a tiny throat and huge stomach, and so can never be satisfied. Ghosts may be killed with a ritual dagger or caught in a spirit trap and burnt, thus releasing them to be reborn. Ghosts may also be exorcised, and an annual festival is held throughout Tibet for this purpose.

Tibetan Buddhists believe that when a person dies, they enter the intermediate Bardo state, from which they may be reborn in this world in a human or animal body, in the ghost world in a ghost body, in one of the paradise realms or in one of the hells. But eventually, the person will die in this after-death world and be reborn as a human or other creature unless they achieve Nirvana, where they are beyond all states of embodiment.

Hungry ghosts have their own realm depicted on the Bhavacakra and are represented as teardrop or paisley-shaped with bloated stomachs and necks too thin to pass food, so that attempting to eat is also incredibly painful. Some are described as having “mouths the size of a needle’s eye and a stomach the size of a mountain”. This is a metaphor for people futilely attempting to fulfill their illusory physical desires.

Buddha taught that the principal causes of rebirth as a hungry ghost are greed and negative actions motivated by miserliness. The consequence of these actions is extreme poverty. If by chance they come across a drop of water or a scrap of food it disappears like a mirage, or transforms into something repulsive such as pus or urine. These appearances are due to their negative karma and lack of merit.

Sometime individuals have a predominance of hungry ghost in their makeup. They can never get enough, and are always hungry for more. The Tibetan word for the emotional state of the hungry ghost, ser na, literally means “yellow nosed”, and could be said to mean “meanness” or “lack of generosity”. The person in this state is constantly seeking to consume and to enrich themselves, but can never be satisfied.

The Buddha once said: “The world is afflicted by death and decay. But the wise do not grieve or fear, having realized this is the nature of the world.

Peace and Love, Jim

#ghosts #thedailybuddha

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