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Toronto Zen Centre

A Buddhist Community


Hungry Ghost Ceremony

Hungry Ghost Ceremony

Each year at this time we perform a ceremony for beings who are suffering in the Preta or Hungry Ghost Realm. Our Hungry Ghost Ceremony will be held on Sunday, October 27th, 2019, starting at 10:30 AM.

According to legend, the Buddha’s disciple Moggallana had a vision that his mother had entered into a realm of great suffering from thirst and hunger after passing away. He asked the Buddha what he could do for her. The Buddha said that Moggallana could, through the power of his pure practice, make her offerings which would not be poisonous or turn to fire.

Following his example during the ceremony we make offerings of food and water and chant sutras for the beings suffering in this state of existence. It is said that any ancestor, even distantly related to us, who has fallen into states of woe will be able to receive the merit of the offerings that are compassionately and selflessly given.

This affords members an opportunity to remember and honour friends and relatives or animals who were important to them, and who have passed away during the past year.

This is also a time for us to reflect upon on our own greed and hungry ghost-like desires: our craving for status, praise, wealth and material things. It is an opportunity to recognize those aspects of our personality that are given over to grasping and to want.

We remember the words of the Buddha, “O Monks, if people knew as I know, the result of giving and sharing, they would not eat without having given, nor would they allow the stain of miserliness to obsess them and take root in their minds. Even if it were their last mouthful, they would not eat without having shared it, if there were someone to share it with.”

Additionally the ceremony offers opportunity for personal cleansing and renewal: memories of regrettable actions or past words that still haunt us are written on paper notes, which are then folded and wrapped with tissue paper—thus fashioning 'personal ghosts'. These 'ghosts' are burnt outside over barbecue coals...“So long...Farewell!”

The Hungry Ghost ceremony is for both adults and children. Friends and family are most welcome, and anyone may attend in costume or in street clothes. Please remember to bring a vegetarian food donation (canned, bagged or boxed) to offer during the ceremony — these will be given to a local food bank.