Saturday, October 29, 2011

Feed the hungry ghosts! Stop feeding greed!

October 29th, 2011

Tonight the Castro will be crawling with lots of hot guys all dressed up. Included will be the ghosts of Halloweens past present and future! To mark the event, I am republishing a post I wrote for "spiritually incorrect" several years ago.


Years ago our PZI meditation group worked with the koan, Save the Ghost. I began my own investigation by examining with the true dharma eye some of the more domesticated members of the ghost family—the ones hidden in my closet—spiritual versions of Adams family, though with somewhat more insidious, painful tricks and quips plus a big dose of Freud.

However this morning as I was settling into my comfortable routine, checking email and editing yesterday’s writing, a far more viscous and pervasive monster trumped onto the stage, a Godzilla on steroids breathing fire hot enough to destroy little ol' me and my fantasy world with one big blow. It made its entrance with announcement that the United States' Senate could not find the votes, being too distracted by other important matters, making it "impossible" to pass any legislation to curb the continuing environmental degradation of the planet we all share. Hell no!
Actions speak louder that words! Therefore I issue an immediate attention action alert to all Buddhists: Feed the hungry ghosts! Stop feeding greed! [Lest we forget: that greed is not outside you or me. Own it or die.]

First the oil spill, then the hand wringing, then the brouhaha, then today the news that Congress will not pass an environmental bill (you’re kidding, right?), then the conflagration of billions of dollars of wealth (well they say it’s just on paper—until you have to pay the grocer) in milliseconds because we have learned to grab so fast!

My mind, no, my gut drags me into dark thoughts about the greed that seems embedded in our culture, in the artifacts of modern life. We have created these monsters that feed on our greedy dark side. Starve them to death, or least put them on Jenny Craig, which might be worse.

There is some history in the Buddhist world, traditional remedies, for dealing with powerful ghosts just as in Christian mythology there are always the fallen angles to contend with. In Buddhism, these nasty, powerful beast-gods, through the power of blessed bodhichitta, the mind of enlightenment, convert to the Way and become our guardians. The black protector above with four arms and dripping skulls cinched around its belly is the rather well know Mahakala.

And as my attention has recently been so focused on meditation and the images that we use, hold, carry, create, I searched out images of hungry ghosts. Almost immediately I began to imagine that maybe I could cook up some magical Tibetan-style visualization that would help start the letting go, stamping out destructive little mind.

I don't have much more to say really I’m just throwing my thoughts-concerns into the fire of the koan, along with some images that grabbed me. Am I done?

I found images of our phantoms and then tied to match them with what other Buddhist cultures have created up by way of appeasements.


And yes, when I said “other.” I came to the sudden realization that we spend far too much time winging and groaning, complaining and attacking the "other," trying to get some Asian recipe right as if that would save our skin. Goddamn it, shut up, eat your hamburgers, eat your tofubergers, then sit-stand-shout, “Thanks ancestors, now here’s what we’re going to do.” We have to fill in the blank ourselves.

America stands at the center of this man-made crisis. Are we going to be responsible? Or are we going to duck for cover under lovely Buddhist robes? The choice is ours, not some god's.

I could get behind creating some American Buddhist rituals to appease our own hungry ghosts, though that is just a place to start. Don't let religion fool you. Actions have to equal words, even solemnly chanted ones.

And when I speak of rituals for exorcising hungry ghosts, I’m not talking Halloween in the Castro though that might be another good place to start. Yeah, wait a minute, it certainly packs some powerful antidotes. We can't let any tight-assed practice squeeze all the fun out of ritual. There's already way too much suffering.

I guess I did have something more to say.