The hungry ghost and always wanting more

Jess Semaan
2 min readFeb 10, 2017

The other day, I was spending time with a special someone, and found myself questioning why our interaction is not more intimate.

As the wave of the stressful story was about to wash over me, I had a flashback to the time I was at a Buddhist monastery in France, Plum Village. The nuns had left an altar outside with food offerings, to what they referred to as the hungry ghost.

In Chinese Buddhist teachings, “hungry ghosts are unable to take in or assimilate what they desperately need. The problem lies in their constricted throats — which cannot open for nourishment. They wander aimlessly in search of relief that is not forthcoming.”

The thing is we are all subject to hungry ghosts visits and more often than not, we allow them to overstay and take over our home.

We could have just gotten a new job, and already thinking about the next position. Or we could find it hard to accept that what we have is enough, and be grateful for it. Or we could be wishing we had a better partner, or employee or health.

The good news is that the hungry ghost is a normal manifestation of a mind that seeks survival, and is inundated with a culture of consumption and comparison.

In that moment when the hungry ghost visited me, sitting on the couch, I took a deep breath and asked myself: do I have what I need right now?

And I did. I may have had more than I needed. A wave of gratitude instead washed over me. I imagined giving the hungry ghost rice, and watching him walk away. I know the hungry ghost will return with an always empty stomach. I will do my best to notice him, and not let him turn my home into his but remain a kind host.

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