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Hungry ghost

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Hungry ghost is a Western translation of Chinese 餓鬼 (èguǐ), a concept in Chinese Buddhism and Chinese traditional religion representing beings who are driven by intense emotional needs in an animalistic way.

The Chinese concept is related to the preta in Buddhism more generally.

These beings are "ghosts" only in the sense of not being fully alive; not fully capable of living and appreciating what the moment has to offer.

The English term has often been used metaphorically to describe the insatiable craving of an addict

China
Chinese folk religion

Hungry ghosts also appear in Chinese ancestor worship. 鬼法界, 鬼界 is "the realm of hungry ghosts". Some Chinese believe that the ghosts of their ancestors return to their houses at a certain time of the year, hungry and ready to eat. A festival called the Hungry Ghost Festival (TC: 盂蘭盆, SC: 盂兰盆 Yúlánpén) is held to honor the hungry ancestor ghosts and food and drink is put out to satisfy their needs.

Hell realm.jpg

When Buddhism entered China, it encountered stiff opposition from the Confucian adherents to ancestor worship. Under these pressures, ancestor worship was combined with the Hindu/Buddhist concept of the hungry ghost. Eventually, the Hungry Ghost Festival became an important part of Chinese Buddhist life.

According to transcribed oral tradition, some Chinese villagers believe that spirits may be granted permission to return to the world of the living, and to take what they can from there, if these spirits had not been given sufficient offerings by their living relatives.
Comparison with Buddhism outside of China

Hell.niraya.n3.jpg

Tibetan Buddhism

In Tibetan Buddhism Hungry Ghosts (Tib. ཡི་དྭགས་, Wyl. yi dwags, Sanskrit: pretas) 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 such 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.

According to the History of Buddhism, as elements of Chinese Buddhism entered a dialogue with Indian Buddhism in the Tibetan Plateau, this synthesis is evident in the compassion rendered in the form of blessed remains of food, etc., offered to the pretas in rites such as Ganachakra.

Japanese Buddhism
In Japanese Buddhism, two such creatures exist: the gaki and the jikininki. Gaki (餓鬼) are the spirits of jealous or greedy people who, as punishment for their mortal vices, have been cursed with an insatiable hunger for a particular substance or object. Traditionally, this is something repugnant or humiliating, such as human corpses or feces, though in more recent legends, it may be virtually anything, no matter how bizarre. Jikininki (食人鬼 "man-eating ghosts") are the spirits of greedy, selfish or impious individuals who are cursed after death to seek out and eat human corpses. They do this at night, scavenging for newly dead bodies and food offerings left for the dead. They sometimes also loot the corpses they eat for valuables. Nevertheless, jikininki lament their condition and hate their repugnant cravings for dead human flesh.
Similar traditions in other cultures

The Book of Enoch (a pseudepigraphal book of the Bible) describes the fall of the Grigori and the demons who might be the Grigori themselves, or the offspring of the union of the Grigori and mankind. These creatures are said to wander the world in the form of evil spirit, endlessly yearning for food though they have no mouths to eat, endlessly thirsty though they cannot drink. Endlessly seeking these things from the living, the evil spirits seek to possess weak-willed men and women to dispossess their spirits and to take over their bodies so as to partake of food and drink.

kha 'bar de ba - Jvala-Mukha Deva, Flaming Mouth, sage of the hungry ghosts. [The buddha of the hungry ghosts [RY]

kha 'bar de ba - jvala-mukha deva, flaming mouth [the buddha of the hungry ghosts) [IW]

kha 'bar ma - Flaming Mouth, the queen of the hungry ghosts [RY]

kha 'bar ma - flaming mouth (the queen of the hungry ghosts) [IW]

mkha' la rgyu ba'i yi dvags - 'hungry ghosts living in the air' [RY]

'gro ba ngan pa - the bad/ lower realms animals, hungry ghosts, hell beings. [IW]

'gro ba ngan pa - the bad/ lower realms animals, hungry ghosts, hell beings. [RY]

'gro ba drug - six kinds of beings [of the six lokas;
1){lha} = gods;
2) {mi} = men;
3) {lha ma yin} = titans, jealous gods
4) {dud 'gro} = animals
5) {yi dvags} = hungry ghosts
6) {sems can dmyal ba} = hell beings {bde 'gro gsum} and {ngan 'gro gsum} [IW]

'gro ba drug - six kinds of beings [of the six lokas;
1) {lha} = gods;
2) {mi} = men;
3) {lha ma yin} = titans, jealous gods
4) {dud 'gro} = animals
5) {yi dvags} = hungry ghosts
6) {sems can dmyal ba} = hell beings {bde 'gro gsum} and {ngan 'gro gsum} [IW]

gro ba drug - six kinds of beings, transmigrators of the 6 lokas:
1) {lha} gods.
2) {mi} men.
3) {lha ma yin} titans, jealous gods.
4) {dud 'gro} animals.
5) {yi dvags} hungry ghosts.
6) {sems can dmyal ba} hell beings. Def. {bde 'gro gsum} and {ngan 'gro gsum}. beings {bde 'gro gsum} and {ngan 'gro gsum} [RY]

gro ba rigs drug - six classes of beings. Gods, demigods, human beings, animals, hungry ghosts, and hell beings. {lha, lha ma yin, mi, dud 'gro, yi dvags, dmyal ba} [RY]

gro ba rigs bsdus pa - {dmyal ba yi dvags dud 'gro ste ngan song gsum dang, mi dang lha min lha ste mtho ris gsum dang bsdom pas rigs drug go} Sentient beings can be included within the following six classes: the three lower states of hell beings, hungry ghosts, and animals added together with the three higher states of human beings, demigods, and gods. [RY]

ngan song - Lower realms. The three abodes of hell beings, hungry ghosts and animals [RY]

ngan song gsum - Three lower realms. The worlds of hell beings, hungry ghosts, and animals [RY]

chu sbyin - water offering (to hungry ghosts [IW]

chu sbyin - water offering [to hungry ghosts [RY]

chu sbyin gyi cho ga - water offering to hungry ghosts [IW]

mtho ris gsum - Three higher realms. The worlds of human beings, demigods or asuras, and gods or devas. These realms are more pleasant than the lower realms of animals, hungry ghosts and hell beings, but are not places of lasting happiness since even the highest realms of the gods are still within samsara [RY]

'dod khams - realms of desire. Comprised of the abodes of hell beings, hungry ghosts, animals, humans, asuras, and the gods of the six abodes of Desire gods. It is called 'desire realm' because the beings there are tormented by the mental pain of desire and attachment to material substance [RY]

'dod pa'i khams - the desire realms; Mipham def: {mnar med nas gzhan 'phrul dbang byed kyi bar te, 'dod lha drug mi bcu gnyis, dmyal ba bcu drug, dud 'gro dang, yi dvags bcas gnas ris so drug gam, lha min logs su phye na so bdun du yang 'gyur ro} The desire realms consist of 36 abodes from the Incessant Hell up to Mastery Over Others' Creations: the six abodes of desire gods, the 12 abodes of human beings, the abodes of animals and of hungry ghosts, and the 16 hells. When demigods are classified separately, there are 37. [RY]

mi ma yin - nonhuman, a being belonging to hungry ghosts, spiritual being, spirit, ghost [RY]

yi dvags kyi thub pa kha 'bar ma - Jvalamukha, Flaming Mouth, the sage of the hungry ghosts [RY]

yi dwags kyi thub pa kha 'bar ma - Jvalamukha/ flaming mouth, sage of the hungry ghosts [IW]

yi dwags kyi gnas - the realm of the hungry ghosts [IW]

yi dvags kyi gnas - the realm of the hungry ghosts [RY]

yi dvags kyi yul - the place of the hungry ghosts. realm of the hungry ghosts [RY]

yi dwags kyi yul - the realm of the hungry ghosts [IW]

yi dvags la bkres skoms - hungry ghosts suffer hunger and thirst [RY]

rigs drug gi gnas - Six realms. The worlds of gods, demigods, humans, animals, hungry ghosts, and hell beings [RY]

gsur - burnt offerings. Smoke produced by burning flour mixed with pure food and sacred substances. This smoke, offered during a meditation on Avalokiteshvara, the bodhisattva of compassion, can nourish the bardo consciousness as well as hungry ghosts [RY]

Source

Wikipedia:Hungry ghost