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.