But nightfall came and wrapped us close In each other's arms. On the soft couch It was two children playing at love On the first bright evening of the world. Remembering that, I often embrace a ghost. The moonlight shone across the room As you left; and as you passed The beam caught your face and held your hair In a kind of fire. Then with a smile The door closed. I heard your step on the stairs.
Yūrei: the Ghosts of Japan
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Science Deniers: Embracing Science to Deny Its Existence
Who is this Hungry Ghost? She has an enormous and wrinkled head, and, unlike traditional representations, she has a great cavernous mouth into which I have poured various unhealthy substances in order not to feel. Yours, if you have one, may look different. You may have seen a picture of the Buddhist Wheel of Life, a mandala that depicts the Six Realms of Existence, realms we cycle through endlessly, birth after birth. These creatures are withered, E. Hungry Ghosts wander, insatiable, unable to nourish themselves.
Attempts at gratification only yield a more intense hunger and craving. The Hungry Ghosts must come in contact with the ghostlike nature of their own longings.
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It is only when we embrace the Hungry Ghost with compassion that we feed its starving spirit I've long loved this notion, inherent as it was in my old academic work on desire, culture and consumerism; that image of the ever-craving empty-bellied ghost dances over and under so many of our most complicated religious and cultural concepts. Take a few minutes between Halloween parties to sit with Weintraub's beautiful writing, and in so doing, to come home with great compassion to your own Hungry Ghosts, to be gentle with them, to find peace and perhaps a glimpse of santosha in the midst of your all-too-human hauntings.
What is it that you crave? What is it that you grasp for? What is that one thing that you think to yourself: "Oh, man, if I could just get [rich] or [skinny] or [the perfect job] or [the perfect partner] or [that new gadget] or [fill-in-the-blank], then everything'd be absolutely friggin' PERFECT, and I could finally be happy and complete and my parents would actually be proud of me and those high school bullies who were so mean to me would finally, totally feel like the jackasses they were? This universal naming of the pain and pleasure of Desire strikes me as somehow so heartening, reminding us that we're all in this together, craving and dissatisfaction and all, and that the practice of saying "It is enough" is in fact a shared challenge, a major victory, a super-sweet daily aim.