The Taoists and Buddhists think that the souls of the dead live on, and those imprisoned in hell were freed during the seventh month, the Fourteenth Day of the Seventh Moon

Hungry ghosts are the souls with no descendants, those who were neglected, abused in their lifetime.They have giant stomachs, and tiny mouths, that can never be filled, they are always hungry, wanting, dangerous. They are malevolent, causing droughts, floods, misfortunes, illness and death. The Hungry Ghost Festival is still held, to protect the living from these souls.

The spirits of the dead, come out at night, assuming different forms, appearing as snakes, moths, birds, foxes, wolves, tigers and demons. Or beautiful men and women, who seduce the living

They can enter the body, creating illness and insanity.

On the fourteenth day of the seventh moon, families worship their ancestors and provided their spirits with food and new clothes at the altar with incense, candles, paper offerings and food.

Then the family gatheres and enjoys a feast.

The next day the same offerings are performed again for the hungry ghosts wandering in the streets and alleys.

The ceremony is performed outside the front gate, to prevent the ghosts from entering the home.

The Ancestral spirits that were well fed and well cared for were benevolent and brought good fortune.

According to one legend, a wicked woman was punished and was sent to hell. Her son wanted to save his mother’s soul because he knew her soul was suffering.

He set out and ventured deep into the bowels of hell. Soon he came upon his mother and he saw that she was sitting a bed of very sharp pointy stakes and was holding on to a basin of blood.

He tried feeding her some food but the food would either turn into fire or blood. It was hopeless: he couldn’t do anything for her so he left. He returned home and started to pray.

It is said that Buddha heard his prayers and was touched by his compassion. Thus Buddha decreed that once a year, the gates of hell be opened so that the lost souls will be able to roam the earth and be fed.

Some say we are all Hungry Ghost, wandering the earth, never filled, always hungry.

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In some branches of Buddhism (e.g., Tibetan Buddhism), hungry ghosts are associated with one of the six realms--Realm of the Gods, Realm of the Jealous Gods, The Human Realm, Realm of the Hungry Ghosts, The Animal Realm, and the Hell Realm. Hungry Ghosts are envisioned as creatures with huge distended stomachs but narrow straw-like mouths. Hence they cannot take in enough food to satisfy their monstrous appetites--a fit metaphor for unbridled desire. It is said that the Human Realm is the only one that holds the possibility of enlightenment.

In Buddhist teachings, being reincarnated as a hungry ghost, or “Petti-visaya”, was the result of overattachment to form.

If you died still clinging to the meaningless illusions of this world as though they, not the Clear Light of Oneness, were your Self, then you might earn yourself a starting-point the next time around as a Peta or 'hungry ghost': one who could not be satisfied. There was even a story about a Zen monk who was too attached to his robe, and so he was reincarnated as a hideous hungry ghost who wore a monk's robe.

The hungry ghosts had, in the tales, more than just "great bellies" and "mouths like the eyes of needles". They were also beset by many painful, pussy and truly icky disorders, like huge bleeding ulcers, or knots and goiters in their throats that kept them from swallowing. Some of the nastier ones had to subsist only by drinking the pus from the goiters that stopped up their throats. They were also predisposed to being unable to find food or water -- sometimes they would go years only able to scrounge up a little chunk of phlegm for themselves and their families, or would spend their whole lives eating dirt and drinking only their own sweat and urine.

The Buddhists were gentle souls, but they were graphic little buggers too.

The admonishment that the hungry ghosts serves to deliver to students of Buddhism is one of minding one's thoughts and not allowing oneself to forget that Big Truth ll good trancendentalists are so fond of: All is transitory, except the One Eternal Thingy, whatever that is. To mistake your thoughts, preferences, material attachments and/or opinions for yourSelf was a sin that could land you a life sentence spent wandering the Realm, forever in search of more and more to fulfill you, unable to realize that you are already whole.

The link between consumerism and hungry ghostism is too obvious to node, but perhaps also too scary to ignore.

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