Almsgiving of Food

Yutang Lin

Who would care for hunger and thirst in ghost realms?
With compassion practitioners offer them food nightly.
Aiming only for selfish gains some would feed ghosts;
Dedicate merits of Bodhicitta to resolve the entangling.


Suffering beings in ghost realms are constantly under the torture of hunger and thirst. Seldom would they get some relief from such pains, and hence they are desperately looking forward to relief and salvation. Buddhist practitioners, out of compassion, would perform almsgiving of food nightly; they bless rice by mantras into nectars, and then offer them equally to all ghosts. As to the non-Buddhist practice of feeding some particular ghosts with the expectation of receiving their help in gaining profits, it is only a kind of personal entanglement. In the long run it would become inevitable that haggling over given and taken and competition over control arise. Therefore, it is advisable not to engage in such practices. For those who have already engaged in such practices it is better for them to switch to Buddhist practices and dedicate the merits that are based on Bodhicitta to the ghosts. In this way the ghosts might attain liberation sooner, and the correct path will benefit both the living and the deceased.

In Chinese Buddhist terminology "almsgiving of food" connotes giving food to beings in the ghost realm. However, standing on its own the term applies to giving food to any kind of beings. We had better practice it in the most general sense without limiting ourselves to just one kind of such practices.

Written in Chinese on July 7, 2001
Translated on July 17, 2001
El Cerrito, California

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