The Realm of Hungry Ghosts


Buddhism’s Wheel of Life

A friend from my local sangha requested that I write a blog post about something I mentioned at our meeting last week regarding the Realm of the Hungry Ghosts.

I am  new to Buddhism (yes, this post starts with a rambly pre-amble). I have studied Zen Buddhism for around 5 years with varying degrees of enthusiasm. One thing that I know, after all of these years of being exposed to the Dharma is that it totally and completely resonates with me. One of the teachings that I have been recently enjoying  is the Six Realms. This is not a Zen teaching, it’s origins are based in Tibetan Buddhism. Regardless, it still has been very helpful for me. We have only discussed 4 of the realms so far (and in this order): Hungry Ghost, Human, Heaven, and Titans.

All in all there are six realms and taken together it is the Wheel of Life. The idea is that we are reborn into these realms. Some Buddhists  take this idea literally but it can be taken metaphorically. We are reborn moment by moment, karma and rebirth happens continually and, therefore, we can enter into one of these realms several times a day. This is definitely true for me.

So. Hungry Ghosts. The Realm of Hungry Ghosts is a realm of desire. It is the realm of unslakable thirsting. The ghosts in this realm are trying to eat but the food turns to fire. They have skinny necks so that food can’t get into their bellies. They are wanting but never satiated. I find myself in this realm often for a variety of reasons.

There is good news. There is a way out! In Buddhism, there is always a way out,  nicely laid out for us in very detailed steps. It’s actually rather simple, too. Each realm has a buddha (or teaching) that represents the way out of that realm. For the Realm of Hungry Ghosts, that “teaching” is simply gratitude. There is probably more to it but I can’t seem to find information online about the buddhas of each realm. But the big takeaway for me when this was taught to me a month ago is that gratitude is the way out of this realm. Guess what? It works!! like magic. I tried this as a practice this past month. When I found myself in a situation where I couldn’t be satiated, I would sit and think about all the things in my life I am grateful for and the suffering of that realm dissolved.

Last night we continued our way through the Wheel of Life. We learned about the Realm of the Titans. This is the realm of envy, competition, and obsession. I find myself here more than I care to admit. It was interesting and helpful to learn about this realm, as well. I want to write about my thoughts about it but I think I will save those for another post. I think I want to let the teaching sink in for a few days first.

Drum Circles, and other random thoughts

My last Instagram photo. :cue taps:

My last Instagram photo. :cue taps:

Last night I went to a solstice celebration.  We arranged ourselves in a circle and one by one we walked up to an altar and lit a  candle. Then we took a percussion instrument from a basket and went back to our seat where we joined the drumming started by Susie, the officiator. The room progressively got lighter and lighter as each candle was lit. It also got louder and louder as each person began drumming. It was amazing and so fun. As we were drumming I thought about what I wanted for the coming year. What are the desires of my heart? Photography instantly popped up, as it usually does. I also want to delve deeper into the Dharma. I also thought about how I want to experience more love and light. I feel like the world needs more of it lately. These are the things I thought about as I was clacking my two sticks together. It felt good. It felt good to get in touch with that part of myself that can keep a beat. It is primal. You don’t think. You just do.

Instagram. I decided to quit Instagram, like many others. You probably already know what happened. They made it clear in their TOS that they would use our photos in advertisements. Facebook currently does this and I hate it. It is sleazy. Frankly, I am fed up with it. I put up with Facebook because everyone I know is on it and I actually use it to communicate with people. But Instagram? No. I don’t care if the photos I have over there are crap, it still doesn’t change the fact that this practice is sleazy. Because of the backlash, Instagram changed their mind and I guess the new story now is that they are not going to use our photos? I guess? I don’t know and I don’t care because I am not going back. The fact is that I have been wanting to scale back a bit anyway. I use Flickr and I pay for the service so I will use it for all of my photo hosting needs. Plus, they have a fantastic new iPhone app (how excellent is their timing?!?).

I am also thinking about starting up my daily photography blog again. Maybe do a daily Hipstamatic post or something? I love playing around with iPhone photo apps and this seems like a good place to post these photos. I have a nerdy plan for this that is mind-blowing. Have you heard of IFTTT? It is the best website ever. I created a recipe that will post a new photo post when I upoad and tag a Flickr photo. I used it for yesterday’s Wayback Wednesday post. I am going to use this to post images to my photoblog from Flickr so that I only have to upload to one service. I am in nerd heaven right now.

Book Talk Saturday: Dharma Punx

Books, Music, Art, Movies

Okay. I almost didn’t do this post today because I’m not feeling well at all. I went home sick with a blinding headache (and I’m not even kidding about that) and I am still fighting it. So this is gonna be short and sweet.

My current read is Dharma Punx by Noah Levine. It’s a memoir, written by a gen x punk (around my age). He writes about his harrowing fall to the brink of suicide and the crawl back to sobriety and spirituality. I’ve been interested in this book for a couple of years. I saw him speaking on the local Santa Cruz television channel when he was speaking at the (I think) Bookshop Santa Cruz. I really liked what he had to say. I thought his melding of punk and Buddhism was fascinating. I thought a Buddhist punk fascinating, actually.

I had kind of forgotten about the book and never did pick it up. A few weeks ago I was catching up on podcasts and I caught an edition of To the Best of Our Knowledge that featured American Buddhist authors and Noah Levine was one of the interviewees. Again, I was intrigued with his story so I interlibrary loaned the book and received last week.

It’s pretty good. His story is very compelling. I can’t put the book down, actually. His writing style is a little gritty, but that’s fine with me.

The surprising thing to me about the book was that it takes place in Santa Cruz. Levine was raised there and he writes extensively of his time growing up there. So it’s been really cool to read this book and know exactly the places he is writing about. It makes me really, really miss the place. But that’s a whole other blog post. I’ve been feeling very melancholic for Santa Cruz, lately.