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Confessions of a Hungry Ghost


Sensei Alex Kakuyo is aware of what it’s wish to dwell as a hungry ghost, consistently striving towards yet another factor. He shares how Buddhist follow has helped him settle for this infinite starvation and discover refuge within the current second.

Photograph by Niv Singer.

I moved out of my mum or dad’s home on the age of 18. The following years concerned a collection of highs and lows as I struggled to seek out my place on the earth. I graduated faculty with a B.A. in philosophy. I served 8 years within the U.S. Marines. Then I entered the civilian world and found veterans with liberal arts levels aren’t employable.

So, I acquired a roommate and an condo in a nasty a part of city. I used to be lulled to sleep by the sound of gunshots every night time, and I labored a crappy name heart job that didn’t pay my payments. I ate canned ravioli 3 times a day, and mates commented on how skinny I appeared.

Happiness remained a thriller to me; just like the moon on a cloudy night time.

I used to be hungry and ashamed. I’d executed every part that the college counselors instructed me was required for achievement. I wore fits to interviews, I appeared potential employers within the eye once I shook their fingers, and I even spent cash I didn’t should ship hand-written “thanks” notes after each interview. However nothing labored.

Sooner or later, I acquired fortunate. A supervisor observed that I’d gone a complete 12 months with out being late for work, and he rewarded me with a greater shift. The higher shift led to extra pay, and finally I acquired a promotion. That promotion led to a much less crappy job with one other firm that provided medical health insurance. So, I acquired some badly wanted dental work executed. I began to really feel like an grownup.

In the meantime, I used to be nonetheless residing paycheck to paycheck and my fits all got here from Goodwill. I acquired them dry-cleaned within the hopes that nobody would know the distinction. However I nonetheless felt like a fraud. The literal starvation of my youth was changed with an existential one as I puzzled, “Will purchasers take me extra significantly if I purchase a nicer watch?”

Over time, I acquired the great watch, the flowery fits, and the quick automobile to go together with them. I realized what drinks to order at eating places and the suitable subjects of dialog. I realized how to slot in, and I navigated the company world like a politician; constructing a fame and cultivating relationships in my climb to the highest.

My onerous work paid off. I used to be rewarded with an workplace and paid day without work. I had a job title that garnered respect and the bars of my youth have been changed with dinner events in homes that I didn’t personal. I lived on the great facet of city, and all of my payments have been paid on time. I used to be successful.

And I used to be hungry and ashamed. As soon as once more, I’d executed every part that my elders instructed me I wanted to do. I dotted all of my i’s and I crossed all of my t’s. However happiness remained a thriller to me; just like the moon on a cloudy night time. I knew it was there, however I couldn’t see it. I couldn’t really feel any factor apart from the hole vacancy in my chest that was by some means worse than the starvation pangs of my youth.

So, I ended ingesting alcohol. I ended consuming meat, and I started attending companies at a Buddhist temple close to my home. The rituals and chanting have been uncomfortable, however they have been additionally reassuring. The remainder of my life is perhaps chaos, however I knew what to anticipate every time I went to the temple. I is perhaps a faceless company cog at work, however the monks instructed me that I used to be particular, that I used to be Buddha, that I used to be a part of one thing bigger than myself.

As soon as I acquired a style of the Dharma, I needed extra. So, I gave away all of my possessions and traveled the nation; engaged on natural farms. For eight months, my life was nothing however meditation, sutra examine, and onerous handbook labor.

Quick ahead a number of years, and now I’m a Buddhist trainer. I give Dharma talks and educate meditation. I write articles to assist individuals discover internal peace, and my religion provides me a way of belonging on this chilly, isolating world.

However there are nonetheless days once I really feel hungry and ashamed. “I don’t write sufficient, I don’t give sufficient to charity,” my internal critic says, “I ought to be taught one other language, possibly I would like one other diploma.” I watch these ideas with chilly, bemusement after they seem. Observe has taught me that it doesn’t matter what I do, it’ll by no means be sufficient. I’ll at all times need extra.

I reply to my infinite starvation for extra by taking refuge within the day by day actions of life.

There’s a phrase for individuals like me in Buddhism.  We’re known as gaki (餓鬼) in Japanese, which interprets to hungry ghosts. In Buddhist cosmology, a hungry ghost is a being who has been condemned stroll the earth; at all times consuming and by no means feeling full.

This has been the story of my life; consistently reaching, striving for yet another factor. I starvation and I thirst endlessly for one thing that I don’t have a reputation for; one thing extra fulfilling that cash, energy, or non secular attainment.

Fortunately, in the identical manner that Buddhism has a reputation for my situation, it additionally has the treatment. I’m reminded of this once I learn the story of Buddha’s enlightenment. When confronted by Mara, the god of lies and want, and surrounded by a military of demons, Buddha didn’t defend himself by means of a protracted, philosophical treatise.

I see this lesson mirrored in my cat. He howls like a monster every morning when he desires to be fed; pawing on the covers and nibbling my ears till I rise up. However as soon as he’s eaten, he makes a bee-line to his favourite sleeping spot and passes out.

There’s no concern over whether or not he’ll eat once more within the night. He doesn’t ask for extra meals than his tiny stomach can maintain. He takes care of the issues of this current second, after which he goes to sleep. All the things else is for silly people like myself to determine.

I attempt to comply with the instance of Buddha. I attempt to follow the artwork of peacefulness that my cat embodies. When my internal critic tells me that I’m not praying onerous sufficient, I make the mattress. After I suppose I’m not spending sufficient time within the gymnasium, I do the dishes.

I reply to my infinite starvation for extra by taking refuge within the day by day actions of life. I attempt to dwell on this current second; solely regarding myself with the issues I discover therein. And on the frequent events when the timeless thirst inside me can’t be quenched by mundane life, I gentle the candles on my altar, and I sit in meditation.

As I watch the candle gentle dance on my altar, my focus shifts inward to the shining gentle that all of us possess. And I do not forget that I’m Buddha. I do not forget that I’m sufficient. And I don’t really feel hungry or ashamed anymore.

This text was initially printed on Sensei Alex Kakuyo’s web site “The Identical Previous Zen.”

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