A hunger that can not be satisfied

Buddhists use the image of a hungry ghost. They show a starving body with a large empty stomach waiting to be filled and a very long, narrow throat (imagine a long straw or hollow needle); a thimbleful of sustenance might be able to pass down the throat, but it’s not nearly enough to fill the big stomach; nothing can fill up the hungry ghost. This image portrays hunger that can never be satisfied. The hungry ghost always wants to be satisfied but never finds a real solution to the problem that underlies its perpetual hunger. We feel hungry for something—dissatisfied, discontented, searching for something though we don’t know what—and we try to fill the void with food, but food can never satisfy the hungry ghost. We need to learn what we’re hungry for and stop trying to use food as a substitute. Buddhist psychology can help us learn what we’re really hungry for and find real solutions to whatever problems we’re covering up with food.

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