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Glossar (Englisch)

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hungry ghost (gaki 餓鬼)

S., preta. One of six realms of rebirth. Spirits of the dead whose desires, especially for nourishment, cannot be satisfied. In East Asian Buddhism they are called "burning mouths" because when they put food to their mouths it bursts into flames and cannot be consumed. Theoretically, one's own deceased family members can be hungry ghosts, as in the case of Mokuren's mother. In Japanese Buddhism, however, hungry ghosts are more often understood as unconnected spirits: spirits of the dead who have no living family to provide them with offerings of nourishment. In any case, it falls to the Buddhist sangha to perform the ritual of feeding them. Although it appears in Dōgen's writings, the term gaki is considered politically incorrect in modern Soto Zen, due to its traditional use in the precept names of Japan's "untouchable" class (eta えた). The "feeding of hungry ghosts" (segaki 施餓鬼) was recently renamed in Soto ritual manuals as simply "food offerings" (sejiki 施食). →"Bon festival," "Mokuren."