As the end of the year approaches many of us prepare to celebrate. If we are fortunate we will enjoy a good meal in the company of our loved ones. We might even have a thought for those going hungry and say a little prayer for them.
There is a Buddhist custom to offer the first morsel of food to the hungry ghosts, the spirits that can never get what they want and wander aimlessly in search of satisfaction for thousands of years. Their mouths are like the eye of a needle; their throats are thin as a hair; and their stomachs are like mountains. Their mouths belch fire and turn the tinniest morsel into flames and their glances make trees barren and rivers dry up.
As the Paris Climate Change talks come to an end images of melting ice caps, barren deserts and deforestation come to mind. I think of the suffering experienced already by many displaced peoples and extinct animals and the dramatic description of the hungry ghost realm does not seem so literal or far-fetched. Hungry ghosts are psychological projections created by deeply rooted habits of greed and avarice. And we are all a bit hungry ghosts when we do not seem to ever have enough, when we are never fully satisfied and content, when we keep always searching for that elusive object, relationship, teaching or guru.
Generosity is the anti-dote to a hungry ghost’s karma. Seva, karma yoga, altruistic giving and love are all practices to alleviate and eventually eradicate desires. This is the agenda not just for the Paris accords but for all of us: reducing, compromising, sharing and respecting. It’s a tall order but what is the alternative? Till when this endless wandering among barren forests and dried up rivers?
When the last tree is cut down, the last fish eaten and the last stream poisoned, you will realize that you cannot eat money. Cree prophecy