Friday, April 29, 2011
In the West there doesn't seem to be a good emblem for those who starve even while they gorge themselves, or at least not one that's related to a spiritual tradition. Perhaps in apochrypha; the cannibalistic giants in the Book of Enoch, half human and half angel, rooted neither in heaven or earth, are so famished that they eat everything they can and they are still starving. They wreak such havoc on the world that God drowns them and everything else in a deluge that signals the necessity of a new beginning.
That never-enough syndrome of those prediluvian monsters wasn't washed away with the waters, it seems to have crept back to reflect to us the phenomenon of broken receptivity in human souls. They thirst but they cannot drink. No pollination can happen. It doesn't matter if God is immanent or transcendent, either way his rays aren't absorbed, nothing is ever enough.
In the Buddhist tradition Hungry Ghosts have huge bellies but needle thin necks, they can't receive even though they have the means of holding much. Thich Nhat Hanh explains the situation this way but I suspect the issue goes back to a lack of mirroring in early childhood. He writes "Our society creates thousands of hungry ghosts every day. Looking deeply, we see that they are everywhere around us. These are people without roots. In their family, their parents did not demonstrate that happiness is possible. They did not feel understood or accepted by their church or comminity. So they have rejected everything. They don't believe in family, society, or religion. They don't belive in their own traditions. But they are still looking for something good, beautiful, and true to believe in; they are hungry for understanding and love." Understanding Our Mind, p. 66
I've been watching the Hungry Ghost in me for a few years now, studying the way it takes everything for granted and is so rarely satisfied. Yesterday in meditation I saw my heart opening and closing; closing to the outside world in defensiveness so that I could receive no nourishment from it; opening to the world like petals emerging from a flower, ready to soak the astonishing beauty and freedom of the world deep down into the pours, ready to radiate whatever perfume of openness the mystery of the heart offers the world in return. I was stunned.