Greed comes from a belief in lack. It’s autonomic, like its precursor anger, there is some sensitivity in our nervous system to a reflexive belief in lack. It probably came from our ancestors, they had no way of knowing if there would be enough food so we have developed an inclination to hoard and to hang onto things. Also like anger, greed has either a story to tell or us a question to ask us. We’re not getting what we want; or, do we do really believe that we are enough?
The more I witness my emotions, the more I am aware that the spark of anger precedes greed. Anger may be called by numerous names; it’s not always a hot passionate anger. Personally, I experience it as crankiness, impatience, anxiety, irritation, annoyance, frustration, and dissatisfaction.
For example, I may experience irritation that I’m not the most financially prosperous person. Maybe I coveted another’s success. Maybe I compared myself to another. This lead to feeling that I am less than. This inner attack, completely from myself to myself, causes a reflexive defensiveness. Like an autoimmune disorder, my ego’s actually attacking another part of my mind. Paradoxically, there’s a desire to console the bruised angry part of myself with a bright shiny bauble. One aspect is agitated, the other desires to soothe. One time or another this, temporarily, “worked”. The angry part was distracted. But, the newness wears off. The angry part resurfaced demanding gifts: a latte, a new skirt, another degree, it became voracious.
In Chinese Buddhism the Hungry Ghost is a revenant from someone who died traumatically, or has been neglected by their ancestors. In a nutshell, they can be dangerous because they are permanently dissatisfied. They haven’t found peace. However, I think of it as a metaphor for Now. In this life there is often inability to find contentment, or as the yogi say santosha.
As I shared in my previous post, anger should be observed in its natural habitat. In the same spirit, it would behoove us to observe greed. As mentioned, greed is often unaddressed anger. There is an abrasion, an irritation, a tapping finger, a stomping foot buried at various layers. I am not getting what I want! I deserve this thing! Argh!
As my dear teacher says, “witness everything!” Pause, notice when you feel you can’t have enough. It is that easy. You just have to practice. We just choose to ignore and be possessed by the feeling with trying to satisfy it. Ask yourself, “will this bring me peace?” “Will this bring me closer to Joy?” Use whatever term describes yourself when there’s no problem to solve. If the answer is “yes”, I suggest you proceed. No one outside of you can answer this. Watch the urges. They are insidious. They rear their ugly head in a split second. One minute you enjoying a meal at the dinner table then the inner spoiled child wants another piece of cake. It’s stomping its foot. Will it bring you love? You are already the embodiment of love. No piece of cake and add to that.
4 thoughts on “My Hungry Little Ghost”
Thank you for your teachings. Love , Teresa
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Good to see your emails again. I have not thought of this topic in awhile, which means I should probably revisit it. In my experience when I drill down into the emotion of anger it’s root is almost always Fear. Being raised a guy by an Italian father it was far more acceptable to show the emotion of anger rather than fear. Therefore, my fear of not getting something I thought I needed or losing something I thought I needed was initially masked by anger. Until I started on the spiritual path I did not realize I had fear.
To the little, greedy, hungry ghosts,
What you think your host needs to get and not lose is ultimately an illusion. It may appear in the relative dimension that your host is not enough, and does not have enough especially in our overly materialistic society. Just as the sun appears to rise and set and the earth appears to be flat. However, in the absolute dimension your host is not only enough and has enough, it more than enough and has more than enough. So it can share and give without being depleted. Just as in the absolute dimension the earth is a sphere and rotates around the sun, which gives more than enough energy to allow all life to thrive. However, this is not the case when you greedy, hungry ghosts have your way. Although you may have served a purpose for survival at one time, your existence in this day and age may very well be the literal end of the world. Therfore, it is now time to take your leave which will help all mankind to truly prosper and moreover be Enlightened.
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Thanks for a real and thoughtful reply. I need time to reflect on it.
Jimi, can you elaborate on what you mean by “host”.