How to Satisfy Some of Your Karmic Debts by Making Offerings to the Hungry Ghosts (Pretas) Every Evening
I always advise people to try to make merit whenever possible, and one practice you should take up is to make a nightly offering to the hungry ghosts, called the "pretas" in Hinduism, "hungry ghosts" in Buddhism and Taoism, spirits in Confucianism, "souls in purgatory" in Christianity and "suffering souls" or ghosts in other religions.
Do they exist? You betcha. Gain just a little bit of superpowers by opening your third eye just a smidgen and you can see them and their suffering in being reborn with misshapen bodies for their cravings, desires and having done evil deeds. If you want to know more about "hungry ghosts," just put the term into google and see what turns up. As Buddhism explains, the Realm of Desire, of which we are denizens, has many types of beings that can be partitioned into six levels: hell beings, hungry ghosts, animals, humans, asuras and heavenly beings. Hungry ghosts have it worse off than animals, which is why blessing food to make it possible for them to eat it is performing an act of tremendous merit. ABove the Desire Realm there are also the samadhi denizens of the Form Realm and Formless Realm, but we cannot go into this here.
Every night you can make the following offering to the pretas or hungry ghosts so that they have food to eat and water to drink. I feel guilty for not having written this up previously, but it was only until a friend produced the relevant picture files for this nightly procedure that I was able to finally put this up on the website. By performing this ceremony by blessing and offering food and drink for the hungry ghosts, you will thereby relieve them of their sufferings and gain tremendous merit in turn.
Remember, it's hard to be a Buddha in trying to help other human beings, but it's easy to help those lower than us on the spiritual scale of reincarnation .... namely the animals, hungry ghosts and hell beings. Performing this ceremony to help the ghosts wherever you are is one way to help and actually be a Buddha to others.
To perform the hungry ghost offering ceremony at night before bedtime (any time past twilight), do the following (it takes about 5 minutes):
Hungry Ghost Offering
In a small glass (you can use a shot glass or a glass of similar size), put seven grains of rice (or vegetarian food, never meat) and then fill the glass ¾ full with clear drinking water. Hold the glass in your left hand by supporting its bottom with your middle finger, and its sides with your thumb, index and ring fingers as shown in the picture below. THE PICTURE IS WRONG -- the third finger (one next to the pinky) should be curled in but I have no one to make a picture for me.,
Now place the ring finger of your right hand on the edge of the glass. The finger juts out, but the others are curled in and the thumb is placed over them (for instance, the first two fingers in the hand are curled in and touch the palm, and the thumb is placed over them; the pinky is just curled in by itself). The palm of your left hand should be facing you and the right hand palm should be facing the glass. The glass should be held a little bit away from your body on a level equal with your heart.
mudra to purify and bless offerings to the hungry ghosts
You are now ready to recite for three sets the mantra string of seven "Ohm La" followed by "So-ha" over the glass, and upon starting each round of the mantra "Ohm La", take your right finger, trace the figure "La" above the glass as shown in the picture below. Don't worry, the number of mantra repetitions to purify the food and make it possible for them to partake of it will become clear below.
You should keep your finger on the edge of the glass while reciting the remainder of the offering. After reciting "Ohm Ah Hung" near the end of the ceremony, trace the "Hung" syllable in the same way as done for the "La" syllable.
[Stroke order from starting point]
hungry ghost offering
CEREMONY FOR FEEDING THE HUNGRY GHOSTS
[To Purify the Offering:]
1. [Draw the "Ohm La" symbol over the glass while reciting:] Ohm La, Ohm La, Ohm La, Ohm La, Ohm La, Ohm La, Ohm La, Soha. 2. [Draw the "Ohm La" symbol over the glass while reciting:] Ohm La, Ohm La, Ohm La, Ohm La, Ohm La, Ohm La, Ohm La, Soha. 3. [Draw the "Ohm La" symbol over the glass while reciting:] Ohm La, Ohm La, Ohm La, Ohm La, Ohm La, Ohm La, Ohm La, Soha.
[Pay Respects to Manjursi Buddha who is the compassionate originator of this method]
4. Namo Da-Dze Wen-Su-Se-Li Pusa Moho Sah [Homage to the One of Great wisdom, Manjursi Bodhisattva] 5. Namo Da-Dze Wen-Su-Se-Li Pusa Moho Sah [Homage to the One of Great wisdom, Manjursi Bodhisattva] 6. Namo Da-Dze Wen-Su-Se-Li Pusa Moho Sah [Homage to the One of Great wisdom, Manjursi Bodhisattva]
[Recite 3 sets of the "Ohm Mani Bei Me Hon" mantra, 7 times it;'s recited within each set] 7. Ohm Mani Bei Me Hon, Ohm Mani Bei Me Hon, Ohm Mani Bei Me Hon, Ohm Mani Bei Me Hon, Ohm Mani Bei Me Hon, Ohm Mani Bei Me Hon, Ohm Mani Bei Me Hon, So-ha. 8. Ohm Mani Bei Me Hon, Ohm Mani Bei Me Hon, Ohm Mani Bei Me Hon, Ohm Mani Bei Me Hon, Ohm Mani Bei Me Hon, Ohm Mani Bei Me Hon, Ohm Mani Bei Me Hon, So-ha. 9. Ohm Mani Bei Me Hon, Ohm Mani Bei Me Hon, Ohm Mani Bei Me Hon, Ohm Mani Bei Me Hon, Ohm Mani Bei Me Hon, Ohm Mani Bei Me Hon, Ohm Mani Bei Me Hon, So-ha.
[Recite the Zhunti mantra 3 times]
10. Na-mo Sa-to na, Sam-ya Sam-pu-to, Ju Dze Na, Da Dza Tuo, Om, Je-Li, Ju-Li, Zwenti So-ha Om Bling. 11. Na-mo Sa-to na, Sam-ya Sam-pu-to, Ju Dze Na, Da Dza Tuo, Om, Je-Li, Ju-Li, Zwenti So-ha Om Bling. 12. Na-mo Sa-to na, Sam-ya Sam-pu-to, Ju Dze Na, Da Dza Tuo, Om, Je-Li, Ju-Li, Zwenti So-ha Om Bling.
[Recite the Heart Sutra for the benefit of the hungry ghosts, ending with Gate Gate Paragate Parasamgate Bodhi Soha. Here's on translation of the Heart Sutra (I'm working on a better one):]
When Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara was practicing the profound Prajna Paramita [Wisdom], he saw that the five skandhas were empty thus securing his release from all afflictions and sufferings.
Form does not differ from emptiness, emptiness does not differ from form. Form is identical with emptiness and emptiness is identical with form. The same holds likewise for sensation, conception, volition and consciousness.
Sariputra, all things are characterized by emptiness rather than birth or destruction, purity or impurity, completeness or deficiency.
In emptiness there are no [five skandhas of] form, sensation, conception, volition, and consciousness. There are no [sense organs including the] eye, ear, nose, tongue, body nor mind.
There are no [objects of perception such as] appearances, sounds, smells, tastes, tactile feelings nor thought. Furthermore, there are no elements of perception from the eye to conceptual consciousness.
There is no twelve-fold linked chain of existence [spanning from ignorance to aging and death], nor is there extinction of any twelve-fold linked chain of existence [beginning with ignorance and ending with aging-and-death].
There is no such thing as the four Noble truths. [Therefore there is no suffering and pain, no origin of suffering and pain, no cessation of suffering and pain, and no Noble Path leading to the cessation of suffering and pain].
There is no knowledge, no attainment and no non-attainment.
Because of Prajna Paramita, Bodhisattvas attain gainlessness and therefore have no Obstructions or hindrances in their minds, and since they have no obstructions, they have no fear, see through delusions and finally attain Nirvana.
All Buddhas past, present and future take refuge in Prajna Paramita [Wisdom] to attain Utmost and Perfect Enlightenment. You should therefore know the great mantra of Prajna Paramita is the great transcendental mantra, the great radiant mantra, the supreme and unequalled mantra which truly, unfailingly eliminates all sufferings and is true, not false. It is spoken thus:
Gone, Gone, Gone Beyond, Altogether Beyond, Enlightenment fulfilled!
Gate, Gate, Paragate, Parasangate, Bodhi, Svaha!
[Recite your personal vows - Yes, you can expand upon this to make it more meaningful to you] 14. Sentient beings are boundless, but I vow to liberate them All. Afflictions are endless, but I vow to cut them all off. Ways to truth [dharma] are infinite, but I vow to master them All. Buddhahood is Supreme, but I vow to attain it.
I vow to constantly do all that is good, and to stop doing all that is evil. I vow to let any unborn good come into being, and prevent all unborn evil from coming into being.
[Praise to the seven Tathagatas who oversee this method]
15. Homage to the Tathagata Immoveable
Homage to the Tathagata Jewel Victory, Prabhutaratna Homage to the Tathagata Wonderful Form Body, Surupakaya Homage to the Tathagata Vast Body, Vipulakaya Homage to the Tathagata Courageous, Abhayankara Homage to the Tathagata Nectar of Compassion, Amritaraja. Homage to the Tathagata of Infinite Light, Amitabha.
[Note: Prabhutaratna Tathagata, the Abundant Treasures Buddha is able to break the hungry ghosts karma of greed so that they may receive perfect blessings and merits.
Surupakaya Tathagata, the Fine Form Body Buddha is able to remove the hungry ghosts form of ugliness so that they may receive wholesome features and forms.
Vipulakaya Tathagata, the Broad Extensive Body Buddha is able to enlarge the hungry ghosts throats so that they may consume the offered food.
Abhayankara Tathagata, the Freed-from-Fear (Courageous) Buddha who is able to remove all the hungry ghosts fears so that they may leave the realm of ghosts.]
16. By the supernatural power of this mantra this food and drink is purified, and I offer it to an infinite number of spiritual beings in all the ten directions. I pray that all the sentient beings who need it obtain this offering of food and nectar, partake of it and be fully satisfied. I pray that they shall all dissolve their cravings and greediness; that they shall all leave their abodes of darkness and be born in the blissful paths of existence; and further that taking refuge in the Triple Treasure they shall awaken the desire for supreme enlightenment and finally come to realize it. The merit they attain from realizing the Tao is inexhaustible and will continue on to the end of time, making all beings equally share in this Dharma-food.
O you infinite hosts of spiritual beings, I make this offering of food to you all, which I pray will fill all the directions of space and that all beings of your kind will partake of it.
By the practice of this meritorious deed I pray that I can repay the debts I owe to my parents, who have done all they could for my sake, and accumulate a small measure of the merit needed for enlightenment. May those who are still alive continue to enjoy their happy and prosperity endlessly, while those who are no more with us may be released from suffering and born in the Land of Bliss.
I pray that all sentient beings in the triple world who are recipients of the auspicious modes of being, together with those beings suffering in the three evil paths of existence and tormented with calamities, may repent of all their sins and be cleansed of all their sores so that they may all be released from the cycle of transmigration and be born in the Land of Purity.
We pray to all the Buddhas, all the Bodhisattva-Mahasattvas in the ten directions, of the past, present, and future, and to the great transcendental wisdom Mahaprajna-paramita, that by virtue of this merit universally prevailing, not only we but all beings shall equally attain Buddhahood.
[Recite "Ohm Ah Hung" mantra and take your right finger, dip it into the water and trace the figure "Hung" above the glass, as shown in the picture below to finisht he purification of the offering and enabling the hungry ghosts to partake of it]
17. Om Ah Hung
[Stroke order from starting point]
ceremony to help feed the pretas suffering purgatory
[Recite this confession:]
18. All the evil deeds committed by me in the past On account of beginningless greed, anger and ignorance Born of my actions, speech and thought At this moment, I fully repent them all.
[Final part of the ceremony:]
At this time, bring the offering to a window sill or a place outside (preferably not on the ground]. With the right finger, trace a "La" on the surface you have chosen to purify it. Next, pour out the contents of the glass onto the purified offering spot. Trace a "Hung" over the offering with the same finger and imagine the offering becomes enormous so as to reach all sentient beings. Snap your fingers three times to indicate it is ready for beings to partake of, and all is complete.