The Hungry Ghost

The Hungry Ghost

Did you ever watch Pirates of the Caribbean? If you did, you might remember how in the original, the pirates were cursed. Even though they looked normal on the outside, they were actually just hollow skeletons roaming the seas without the ability to satisfy their hunger or thirst. This drove them completely nuts and the whole rest of the film, they kept chasing their ability to satisfy their needs/desires.

Well this storyline is actually a lot older than that movie. It comes from the Buddhist belief in the hungry ghosts: greedy beings that are ruled by their animalistic and emotional desires but are never able to satisfy them. In Buddhist lore, these ghosts are entities that exist in another realm. But in this realm, I bet you know a few people that fit that description.

Even those of us that aren’t “hungry ghosts” all the time, fit that description sometimes. Like when we keep on eating that bag of chips/cookies even though it isn’t actually satisfying our craving [a thing I did very recently and I’m not proud of it]. It’s that thing in our brain that tells us “MORE, MORE, MORE.”

The hungry ghost mindset can apply to anything: attention, recognition, power, money, comfort, amount of clothing [I have nothing to wear!], amount of travel, etc. When you experience FOMO (fear of missing out), you’re experiencing your inner hungry ghost.

The thing about hungry ghost mindset is that it’s a never-ending hamster wheel. If our rational brain doesn’t kick in, we could be running on it forever. We could turn into those people who are full-on hungry ghost all the time.

The antidote is clichéd, but effective: its gratitude. It’s about reminding ourselves, everyday, that we have enough and everything else is just a bonus. For brownie points, we could try to figure out the root of our desires so we can “break the wheel”, but that’s clearly a lot harder.


That’s not to say that gratitude is going to get you stop eating cookies or that you even SHOULD stop eating cookies if you want to. In fact, I’m typing this with a plan to make some later today. But gratitude will make the experience of having the cookie that much more enjoyable. Maybe, just maybe, enjoyable enough that you automatically won’t need or want as many.

Gratitude isn’t about forcing ourselves to adhere to some kind of discipline. But if we keep on practicing gratitude, our inner hungry ghost might finally get some, satisfaction.

The Hungry Ghost - Tara Brach's Take

Alignment-based Yoga is BS