Skip to content

Romp Around the Realms: Hungry Ghost

February 10 2014

God • Titan • Human • AnimalHungry ghostHell

These are the names of the six realms, or lokas in Sanskrit.  The realms represent the six styles in which human beings lose touch with their real nature and experience suffering, aka, karma.

When we do sadhana, we begin to step out of the realms. Our clarity, spontaneity and freedom of expression increase.

Last time, I wrote about Animal Realm. About every two weeks, I will be describing a new realm and will offer  a few pointers about working with each flavor of karmic fixation.

Hungry Ghost Realm

The archetypal image of hungry ghost fixation is a being with a long, thin neck and big empty belly. The throat is too thin to get enough food, and consequently, hunger is constant.

Hungry ghost karmic vision causes one to experience life, other people and oneself as lacking. This is the realm of chronic craving, disappointment, nostalgia and gnawing, sticky neediness. A never–ending search to fill the void is shortcircuited by a refusal to recognize nourishment.

Even when there is nourishment in abundance, the focus will be on what has been lost, or what you aren’t getting. When fresh opportunity arises, hungry ghost vision expresses as a fear, or even a conviction, that things won’t work out. Instead of savoring what life brings, you prefer the taste of loss, even imagined future loss.  

Hungry ghost realm is the arena of co-dependency, addiction, disordered eating and people who look to others to fill their needs. When others “fail” to satsify, there can be great emotional distress and blaming.

Folks who express hungry ghost realm vision establish intimacy with others by sharing their sadness and feelings of upset at a world that always disappoints.

Those who gravitate toward hungry ghost realm vision often partner with those who are more expressive of animal realm. This is the classic relationship in which the hungry ghost partner wants constant companionship and attention, while the animal realm partner wants to withdraw. The hungry ghost partner is looking to perpetuate the experience of loss and the failure of connection, while the animal realm partner keeps reaffirming the need to mark boundaries. This produces a dramatic power struggle in which both people’s karmas are reinforced.

Exit from the Hungry Ghost Realm

  • Meditation on fresh, pristine melted ghee is a classic Ayurvedic treatment for the kind of depression that arises along with hungry ghost fixation. Ghee is a living symbol of primordial nourishment. Make ghee. Each morning, melt the ghee, and pour it into a glass or white bowl. Gaze at it for 15-20 minutes, taking in the scent, warmth and golden lusciousness.
  • In the ancient tantras, practitioners are advised to notice and savor moments of fulfillment. After a fun evening with friends, a beautiful concert, or after eating a particularly satsifying meal, take a few moments to abide in the feeling of fullness and contentment.
  • Try to notice when life brings you what you asked for, or surprises you with a gift.
  • Make sure that you drink enough water and that the water you drink is fresh, sweet and pure.
  • Add healthy oils to your diet, if they are lacking.
  • Indulge yourself in group spiritual practice: kirtan, satsang and group meditations or chanting.
  • Randomly give money, time and aid to others who are in need, especially in situations in which you cannot possibly demand anything in return. Discover your own innate generosity!
  • Use sweet, soothing, full-bodied essential oils such as vetiver (khus), jasmine, gardenia, neroli and sandalwood.

Wisdom Seed

Such deep mourning about the experience of lack of generosity toward you can only arise when you actually know something about generosity. As I like to say, you cannot long for chocolate if you have never experienced chocolate. When someone who suffers from this realm vision realizes that they have the capacity to give freely with no strings attached, they are well on their way to realizing their own fullness and recovery.

Go to Shambhavi’s post about Animal Realm

The most hungry ghost song ever written. IMHO.