The realm of hungry ghosts is one of the unfortunate realms of rebirth in the Buddhist cycle of existence, and those reborn there are said to have led lives consumed by greed and spite. In one of the earliest sources about hungry ghosts, translated here, hungry ghosts know the error of their ways, and they sometimes appear among humans, like the ghosts that haunt Ebenezer Scrooge, as augurs of what may await. Artistic depictions of the travails of hungry ghosts are found throughout the Buddhist world, and some of the best examples are reproduced and richly described here. Discover how an understanding of the meanness (matsārya) that afflicts hungry ghosts illuminates the human condition, offering insight and inspiring compassion for readers both in ancient times and today.
Andy Rotman is a professor in the Religion Department and Buddhist Studies program at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts. He received his PhD in South Asian languages and civilizations from the University of Chicago in 2003. His research concerns the ways in which narratives and images in South Asia function as a part of social history and material culture. He is the translator of the inaugural volume in Wisdom’s Classics of Indian Buddhism series, Divine Stories: Divyāvadāna Part 1, and of Divine Stories: Divyāvadāna Part 2.
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