The term comes from the Buddhist tradition. In Buddhism, it is one of the Six Realms of existence; Hungry Ghosts are beings reborn into that realm because of their jealousy, greed, and envy. Hungry Ghosts are associated with compulsion, obsession and addiction.
In a consumer-driven economy, the Hungry Ghost is a welcome visitor. In your personal life, being a Hungry Ghost can be frustrating and painful.
- When the latest electronic gizmo is released, do you have to have it?
- When you are stressed at work do you spend the day anticipating a stop at the local bar on your way home?
- When you need a mood adjustment, do you go shopping?
- When you are alone do you feel uneasy?
In this culture, when we feel empty or lonely, we often look outside ourselves for completion. Without that newest electronic tablet or the new car or the box of chocolates we feel apart from the world, separate and outside. We are like the child on a rainy day with a full toy chest looking longingly out the window wishing we had something to do, somewhere to be, someone else to acknowledge our existence.
How to transform a Hungry Ghost back to a Human? The answer is twofold.
First, learn to sit with yourself. Accept who you are with all your faults and limitations—as well as recognize your gifts and talents. Introspective practices like prayer and meditation are helpful in gaining insight and comfort in being with yourself.
Second, refocus away from possessing and towards sharing. As you become involved in helping others you will find a sense of fulfillment. Being a part of the whole is not found in owning the latest and greatest consumer product but in participating in the functions of society that support human life.
As you leave your obsessions behind, you will leave the Hungry Ghost Realm and come closer to the Human Realm. You will still experience aspects of envy, jealousy and greed—but you will find balance as you also experience equanimity, generosity and satisfaction.