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A hungry ghost is a spirit associated with hunger common to many religions.

In Tibetan Buddhism

In Tibetan Buddhism Hungry Ghosts (Sanskrit: pretas) have their own realm depicted on the Bhavacakra and are represented as teardrop or paisley-shaped with bloated stomachs and necks too thin to pass food such that attempting to eat is also incredibly painful. Some are described as having "mouths the size of a needle's eye and a stomach the size of a mountain"[citation needed]. This is a metaphor for people futilely attempting to fulfill their illusory physical desires.

According to the History of Buddhism, as elements of Chinese Buddhism entered a dialogue with Indian Buddhism in the Tibetan Plateau, this synthesis is evident in the compassion rendered in the form of blessed remains of food, etc., offered to the pretas in rites such as Ganachakra.

In Taoism/Daoism

Taoists believe that hungry ghosts are ghosts of people that did not find everything they need to survive in their after life. If a ghost passes on, but does not have enough food, water, shelter, etc., it will come back into the world of the living to feed on the living. They will scare you, and then they will feed on your energy and fear. Taoists also believe that the way a building is made will determine how attracted hungry ghosts or any ghost is to going there. Taoists get rid of these hungry ghosts by performing a ritual. They will pray/chant and offer food and other things to the hungry ghosts, so they will have what they need to survive and move on to their next life.

In China

Hungry ghosts also appear in Chinese ancestor worship. 鬼法界, 鬼界 is "the realm of hungry ghosts"[1]. Some Chinese believe that the ghosts of their ancestors return to their houses at a certain time of the year, hungry and ready to eat. A festival is held to honor the hungry ancestor ghosts and food and drink is put out to satisfy their needs.

When Buddhism entered China, it encountered stiff opposition from the Confucian adherents to ancestor worship. Under these pressures, ancestor worship was combined with the Hindu/Buddhist concept of the hungry ghost. Eventually, the Hungry Ghost Festival became an important part of Chinese Buddhist life.

In Japan

In Japanese Buddhism, two such creatures exist: the gaki and the jikininki. Gaki (餓鬼) are the spirits of jealous or greedy people who, as punishment for their mortal vices, have been cursed with an insatiable hunger for a particular substance or object. Traditionally, this is something repugnant or humiliating, such as human corpses or feces, though in more recent legends, it may be virtually anything, no matter how bizarre. Jikininki (食尸鬼 "man-eating ghosts") are the spirits of greedy, selfish or impious individuals who are cursed after death to seek out and eat human corpses. They do this at night, scavenging for newly dead bodies and food offerings left for the dead. They sometimes also loot the corpses they eat for valuables, which they use to bribe local officials to leave them in peace. Nevertheless, jikininki lament their condition and hate their repugnant cravings for dead human flesh.

In Hinduism

In Hindu tradition, much as described in the Book of Enoch, hungry ghosts are spirit-beings driven by the passionate objects of their desire. Very detailed information about ghosts is given in Garuda Purana.

Book of Enoch

The Book of Enoch (an apocryphal book of the Bible whose complete version has only recently been discovered as a part of the Dead Sea Scrolls) describes the fall of the Watchers and the demons who might be the fallen angels (Watchers) themselves, or the offspring of the union of the Watchers and mankind. These creatures are said to wander the world in the form of evil spirits—endlessly yearning for food though they have no mouths to eat—endlessly thirsty though they cannot drink. Endlessly seeking these things from the living, the evil spirits seek to possess weak-willed men and women to dispossess their spirits and to take over their bodies so as to partake of food and drink.

In Roman Pagan religion

At the religious beliefs of Ancient Rome, hungry ghosts of a family's ancestors figured in the festival of Lemuria; it was the duty of the pater familias to appease the larvæ of his ancestors with an offering of beans. The Balkan tradition of the vampire is another malevolent sort of undead revenant, a corpse supernaturally animated which seeks to feed on the blood of the living.

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