Hungry Ghosts


My spinning wheels and its changing scenery is, I guess, like addiction. As is connecting, however imperfectly and incompletely, to others via the internet.  But sometimes it pays off, my repeatedly pushing these buttons.  (the irony of using one addiction to analyze another addiction doesn’t escape me) Here’s a gem another adoptee found and shared on-line.  It spoke to her for its reference to abandonment.  It spoke to me for its reference to abuse, neglect, and abandonment.  It is me, without the needle stuck in my arm.  (and, I have always been fascinated by needles and white powder to an unhealthy degree, so made sure never to go there)

“In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts”

click on the title above to view the video page of this thought-provoking interview on Democracy Now, with Dr. Gabor Maté, Physician at Vancouver Safe-Injection Site, on the Biological and Socio-Economic Roots of Addiction and ADD

Excerpt from the transcripts:

AMY GOODMAN: Talk about the people you treat.

DR. GABOR MATÉ: Well, the hardcore drug addicts that I treat, but according to all studies in the States, as well, are, without exception, people who have had extraordinarily difficult lives. And the commonality is childhood abuse. In other words, these people all enter life under extremely adverse circumstances. Not only did they not get what they need for healthy development, they actually got negative circumstances of neglect. I don’t have a single female patient in the Downtown Eastside who wasn’t sexually abused, for example, as were many of the men, or abused, neglected and abandoned serially, over and over again.

And that’s what sets up the brain biology of addiction. In other words, the addiction is related both psychologically, in terms of emotional pain relief, and neurobiological development to early adversity.

AMY GOODMAN: What does the title of your book mean, In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts?

DR. GABOR MATÉ: Well, it’s a Buddhist phrase. In the Buddhists’ psychology, there are a number of realms that human beings cycle through, all of us. One is the human realm, which is our ordinary selves. The hell realm is that of unbearable rage, fear, you know, these emotions that are difficult to handle. The animal realm is our instincts and our id and our passions.

Now, the hungry ghost realm, the creatures in it are depicted as people with large empty bellies, small mouths and scrawny thin necks. They can never get enough satisfaction. They can never fill their bellies. They’re always hungry, always empty, always seeking it from the outside. That speaks to a part of us that I have and everybody in our society has, where we want satisfaction from the outside, where we’re empty, where we want to be soothed by something in the short term, but we can never feel that or fulfill that insatiety from the outside. The addicts are in that realm all the time. Most of us are in that realm some of the time. And my point really is, is that there’s no clear distinction between the identified addict and the rest of us. There’s just a continuum in which we all may be found. They’re on it, because they’ve suffered a lot more than most of us

The Wheel of Samsara Six Realms of Existence

By , About.com Guide

The Six Realms are an allegorical description of conditioned existence, or samsara, into which beings are reborn. The nature of one’s existence is determined by karma. Some realms seem more pleasant than others — heaven sounds preferable to hell — but all are dukkha, meaning they are temporary and imperfect.

The Six Realms often are illustrated by the Bhava Chakra, or Wheel of Life.

Please note that in some schools the realms of Devas and Asuras are combined, leaving five realms instead of six.

1. Deva-gati, the Realm of Devas (Gods) and Heavenly Beings

Realm of the GodsMarenYumi / Flickr, Creative Commons License Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic
In Buddhist tradition, the Deva realm is populated by godlike beings who enjoy great power, wealth and long life. They live in splendor and happiness. Yet even the Deva grow old and die. Further, their privilege and exalted status blind them to the suffering of others, so in spite of their long lives they have neither wisdom nor compassion. The privileged Deva will be reborn in another of the Six Realms.

2. Asura-gati, the Realm of Asura (Titans)

Realm of AsurasMarenYumi / Flickr, Creative Commons License Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic
The Asura are strong and powerful beings who are sometimes depicted as enemies of the Deva. Asura are marked by their fierce envy. The karma of hate and jealousy causes rebirth in the Asura Realm. Chih-i (538-597), a patriarch of the T’ien-t’ai school, described the Asura this way: “Always desiring to be superior to others, having no patience for inferiors and belittling strangers; like a hawk, flying high above and looking down on others, and yet outwardly displaying justice, worship, wisdom, and faith — this is raising up the lowest order of good and walking the way of the Asuras.” You may have known an Asura or two.

3. Preta-gati, the Realm of Hungry Ghosts

Hungry Ghost RealmMarenYumi / Flickr, Creative Commons License Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic
Hungry ghosts (preta) are pictured as beings with huge, empty stomachs, but they have pinhole mouths, and their necks are so thin they cannot swallow. A hungry ghost is one who is always looking outside himself for the new thing that will satisfy the craving within. Hungry ghosts are characterized by insatiable hunger and craving. They are also associated with addiction, obsession and compulsion.

4. Naraka-gati, the Hell Realm

Hell RealmMarenYumi / Flickr, Creative Commons License Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic
As the name suggests, the Hell Realm is the most terrible of the Six Realms. Hell beings have a short fuse; everything makes them angry. And the only way hell beings deal with things that make them angry is through aggression — attack, attack, attack! They drive away anyone who shows them love and kindness and seek out the company of other hell beings. Unchecked anger and aggression can cause rebirth in the Hell Realm.

5. Tiryagyoni-gati, the Animal Realm

Animal RealmMarenYumi / Flickr, Creative Commons License Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic
Animal beings are marked by stupidity, prejudice and complacency. They live sheltered lives, avoiding discomfort or anything unfamiliar. Rebirth in the Animal Realm is conditioned by ignorance. People who are ignorant and content to remain so are likely headed for the Animal Realm, assuming they aren’t there already.

6. Manusya-gati, the Human Realm

Human RealmMarenYumi / Flickr, Creative Commons License Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic
The Human Realm is the only realm of the six from which beings may escape samsara. Enlightenment is at hand in the Human Realm, yet only a few open their eyes and see it. Rebirth into the Human Realm is conditioned by passion, doubt and desire.
Advertisements

One thought on “Hungry Ghosts

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s