Many have connected with this book. Dr Gabor Maté is a psychotherapist, addiction specialist and former addict, renowned speaker and writer. In this book he shows how ‘addiction’ runs through society, how we are all addicts.
This post describes what hungry ghosts are. They occupy one of six hell realms on the ancient Buddhist wheel of life. Modern Buddhist psychology sees each realm as a description of our mental and emotional lives. We move between them, maybe even in a single day.
The image to the right is from an 18th century Japanese scroll. A hungry ghost is always ravenous and can never get enough. Its neck and throat are very thin so it can only swallow small bits, never a ‘full meal’. Swallowing is painful. It has an enormous bloated belly. This represents the big empty space inside that can never be filled. The hungry ghost is desperate to fill itself but never can.
Like us, it is perpetually consuming anything to fill the emptiness. Drugs like alcohol of course, the brief spurt of pleasure from sex, gambling, money, power, shopping, snake oil ‘medicines’, popularity, shopping, FUN in whatever form, hours of distraction on social media, years of life devoted to watching screens, sport, entertainment: anything that promises to fill the hole. And food too of course.
This book is recommended for those who’d like to explore further. It is clear and easy to read. It shows how a theory devised two and a half thousand years ago about the nature of our lives is totally relevant today. It has nothing to do with religion, It’s about how we are stuck on an ever-cycling wheel.
People have always sought to understand the human condition. The great Greek myths are an example. For instance, Homer’s Oddysey, about Odysseus or Ulysses is about a life time’s journey as well as the story of the Greek hero’s perilous return from war at Troy. The modern novel Ulysses by James Joyce is about one ordinary man’s journey through a single day in Dublin. One sees the same idea in James Kelman’s great novel, How Late It Was, How Late. Bred in Govan and Drumpchapel, Glasgow, Kelman is passionate about the importance of the lives and journeys of the ‘low bred’, those who are ignored and often despised by ‘respectable’ society.
Take away the god stuff from the Old Testament and we have a record of the sufferings of people. As well as plague, hunger, natural disasters, we see the psychological torment of creatures like us coping with the deep wells of our most profound distress,