Hungry Ghosts

The Tibetans and shamans call them the Hungry Ghosts. We all know them quite well—too well! They are the voices of undoing—the “sirens” from Odysseus’ journey who would seduce us off course on our journey homeward. They are the demons who surface when we suddenly awaken in the middle of the night filled with doubts and fears. They are the nagging worries like flies buzzing around our mental bodies looking for sticky places to land. They are powerful and convincing, tempting us into believing that we can’t grow, heal, transform, change, or awaken. They feed off our negativity like turkey vultures feeding off dead carcasses. They would devour all of our positive energy if given half a chance. They are on the job twenty-four hours a day, always on the alert for times of vulnerability that create openings in our auric body like invitations to “set up shop,” distributing fearful messages. They are like gnats or black flies so small that even the finest screen mesh can’t filter them out of our energetic reality.

We often don’t realize we have been bitten by them until the damage is already done. When we awake in the morning depressed and discouraged—thinking that our life is a joke—they have left their mark, just as if we were covered with minute bee stings leaving us swollen, toxic and hurting. Perhaps Source created the nasty bites of insects to mirror the energetic impact of the hungry ghosts on our emotional, mental and spiritual bodies.

Some of us try to pretend they are not there. The oblivious innocents merrily go through the woods of life with no bug spray, assuming they are invulnerable to the swarms of energies hungry to dine on the human spirit—devouring its light as quickly as possible. These people are quickly brought to their knees, undone in their optimism. Here comes the spiritual crisis: “What kind of God would create a reality like this? Surely this God does not love us.” The hungry ghosts love this kind of thinking. For them it is food for a week as they whisper to us that we can’t possibly know our divinity.

‘The hungry ghosts are particularly activated when we make a conscious commitment to transform or heal an aspect of our souls, especially if our intentions are heightened through ritual. Bringing out the heavy artillery, they are ready to battle our determination to liberate ourselves. Working with the magnetism between the positive and negative poles is required to master duality.

Gathering the positive force needed for self-healing simultaneously activates the opposite pole. This activation sounds an alarm in our energy body as the ghosts close in, ready for the kill. They would destroy our inspiration: “How ridiculous to think that life could be so good. Who do you think you are to dare to consider enlightenment? Remember the pain that you have suffered? Don’t think that it could possibly stop because you are doing some stupid ritual or saying some sniveling prayer. Get real! This is all there is. If you try to make it better it will just get worse—better to leave well enough alone. Let your fears make your decisions.”

Intentions to grow heighten vulnerability as we momentarily allow our vision to reflect our true potential, invoking the challenge to let go of our familiar self-limiting parameters. Releasing the known pushes us to the edge of the cliff, teetering on the brink of our faith, daring to believe for one moment that more could be possible. Into this delicate space the hungry ghosts swarm, trying to distract us as they bite at our convictions and visions. If they succeed, we are thrown off balance and fall into the abyss of our illusions. They win, we lose.

‘The Tibetan smiles at my melodrama around the “Forces of Undoing.” He challenges me to open to the possibility that the hungry ghosts might have a divine mission. At first all that I can think of is that their only purpose is to make us miserable. Djwhal Khul laughs, reminding me about the two different kinds of faith. The first springs from life filled with joy and opportunity. It is easy to have faith when all is well. The challenge is to hold steady with one’s faith when life starts throwing major obstacles in our path. The second faith is hard earned through inner strength and persistence. If we can sustain faith when our external reality seems to make a mockery of our ideals, then we are truly rooted in our faith.

That’s where the hungry ghosts come in—to tempt, torment, ridicule, and undermine our faith. If we can survive their attacks and remain centered and aligned, we are truly strong in our spiritual body. This spiritual conviction makes it possible for us to allow the physical, emotional and mental bodies to go through whatever intensity is integral to the transformational process.

Ironically, the hungry ghosts are really spiritual coaches in disguise. Just like strict drill sergeants in boot camp, their job is to toughen us up, whether we like it or not. All of our fluff is stripped from us. Although believing we never signed up for this tyranny, deep in our souls we can sense the rightness of the overall process. We cannot possibly bushwhack the cutting edge of our magnitude if our core star (our soul’s center) is not strong enough. Still breathing after an onslaught from the hungry ghosts indicates we are all ready for action—the action that sweeps us through the gateway into the fifth dimension. So, let us welcome these messengers of the negative pole as they create the very resistance that propels us into our divine destiny.

As a psychologist I am keenly aware of the alchemical cycle of transformation. Initially when metal is alchemized into gold there is the blackening stage. Emotionally and spiritually the blackening phase demands a journey to the underworld resulting in a dismemberment process. This is not a physical, but a psychic dismemberment. We leave the world of order, certainty and knowing, and fall into the vortex of chaos, not-knowing and fragmentation. This is a necessary part of the alchemical process of breaking down old forms. At this point the hungry ghosts lunge forward, eager to pick apart our certainties as they introduce doubt, disturbance, fear, bewilderment and judgment.

While intellectually I understand all of this, when the hungry ghosts come after me, I’ll run faster than anyone to get away from them. Of course, they always catch me, shrieking in delight at my dismay. As they pull me apart I wail at my predicament, losing all sight of my overall process. Rarely, when particularly centered, I manage to faintly remember that this is a very necessary part of the process. However, it is hard to be comforted by that thought when the experience becomes painful and discouraging. Sometimes I try to block out the process until it is over, struggling to invoke “psychic anesthesia.” But that doesn’t work. We can’t sleep through the hungry ghosts. They are just too noisy. They demand interaction. Attempting to push them away just makes them stronger. Surrender is the answer—surrender with awareness.

Oh how mature we have to be to hold this perspective, allowing ourselves to be momentarily devoured by our karmic past. In the long run it’s easier to be mature than to throw a temper tantrum which only wastes the precious energy needed to survive the alchemical fire. Memories of past skirmishes with these ghostly devils help me to “hang on” during this process. I have survived and flourished in spite of their history of relentlessness. In my twenties I could not name this process, feeling at the mercy of these potent adversaries. Bringing me to my knees, I would cry, rage and wonder whether life was worth living, thinking that it would always be this bad. I believed every lie the ghosts told me. Caught in a place of inadequacy and failure, I would let them win—postponing” my transformation. However, even in those dark nights, the subtle voice of guidance emerged telling me that eventually I would have the strength to go forward, allowing my true self to flourish.

Over time I have learned to recognize the usual insults and criticisms of my personal hungry ghosts. They always say the same thing. This allows me some measure of perspective to keep going. Every time I dare to be more than I have been, the hungry ghosts will immediately spring forth, undermining my positive outlook. I try to remember to breathe. They have never been able to completely take away my breath. Physical movement helps. A moving target is harder for them to attach to—tai chi, chi gong, yoga, walks—whatever it takes to keep the energy circulating. The more the energy moves, the quicker this process is completed.

‘It helps to remember that birth resides within death, and so too does gold reside within the blackening. Patience is essential. Eventually the clouds part and the sun shines again. Hungry ghosts don’t like the sunshine, especially when it radiates out from the soul. I now trust that my natural light will burn away the veils the “ghosts” tell me are real. So, I surrender, ego unwilling, to this spectacular process reminding myself that transformation is possible for all beings—no, not possible—probable. The gold within always emerges victorious.”

Copyright© 2002 Soul Searching with Djwhal Khul, the Tibetan

Moriah Marston
http://www.articlesbase.com/motivational-articles/hungry-ghosts-215887.html

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{ 5 comments }

Amy August 28, 2009 at 2:22 pm

In Buddhism are the 6 realms metaphorical or literal. For example the realm of the hungry ghosts?
Are hungry ghosts just greedy humans?

Every knee shall bow... August 28, 2009 at 8:24 pm

It can go either way. I look at both interpretations as being valid.

The metaphorical explanation serves very well in day to day life, and I’m sure you already recognize that, since you made the connection between hungry ghosts and greed.

There’s another aspect that’s really disadvantageous too, if you really reflect on it. It’s the heavenly realms. If you look at the heavenly realms metaphorically, then these are the people who are born really good-looking, have long life, good health, great intelligence, wit, wisdom, the movers and shakers. We like to think they are much better off than we are, right?

Well, I tend not to get sick. I have very good health. Just recently, I started having problems sleeping. No known reason. I just stopped sleeping. For about two months this happened. It was one of the most painful things I’d ever experienced. I don’t get infections. I don’t get colds, flus, pneumonia..things like that. I’ve never had a broken bone (and I’m a rough player). But that was brutal. I realized that I didn’t really understand suffering. I didn’t get the First Noble Truth.

I was sitting in a very pleasant place all that time (metaphorically speaking), and I didn’t understand illness and injury. I still don’t. I just got a small taste of it. Just enough to tell me that I’m getting older. I can’t keep wasting time. Just enough to tell me that there is suffering…even for those of us who don’t really get sick.

Even metaphorically, the six realms present opportunities for all of us to be free from samsara. It’s just that the easiest one is the human realm, where you have some pleasure and some pain.

But I think they exist literally, too.
References :
Theravada Buddhist

Rez August 28, 2009 at 8:26 pm

I feel like its literal and metaphorical.
Metaphorical in the descriptions but literal in the sense of being reborn. The hungry ghost, for example could mean a rebirth into a life where metaphorically speaking you are a hungry ghost- a creature who is never satisfied and always obsessed with cravings but not actually an ethereal being that is unable to eat enough food.
The whole idea of the bardos is something that I’m still trying to wrap my mind around but there are those who say that comprehension of them is possible through patient and persistent practice. This leads me to believe that one understands them not as real or unreal but as just another aspect of…consciousness.
References :

jed s August 28, 2009 at 8:28 pm

Greetings,

Many people have offered great responses to your question. I would just like to add a little something.

I believe that each person should read the teachings and gather whatever it is that they experience. For instance, if from your experience it is beneficial to see the 6 realms as literal – if this helps your practice – then by all means should see it as literal. If it is beneficial to see it as purely metaphorical, again, use this to help your practice.

Remember the Buddha said to come to your own conclusions. It’s more important to relate these teachings to your own experience than to believe the words of anyone else, at least in this regard (it would not be beneficial to create your own dharma).

I hope this made some sense. Take care.
References :

Mawkish August 28, 2009 at 8:30 pm

Both interpretations are valid. If regarding the realms as ‘real’ is a problem, maybe contemplate what ‘real’ means. If it’s holding your practice back, just move along and disregard the problem. I have days when I believe in the literal realms and days when I don’t… I observe how my mood changes but don’t let it get stuck with the nitty-gritty problem of what ‘truth’ is.

Truth can only be known by the arahants, I have faith in that… so attaining Nibbana is my primary goal.
References :

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