Hungry Ghost Festival is around the corner and it is happening tomorrow for this year’s! Very soon your social media platform are likely to flood with posts from fengshui practitioners or religious people warning you what not to do during this month that is commonly misunderstood as inauspicious. This is also no thanks to how the entertainment industry will load the market with horror films with stories of ghosts scaring the daylight out of everyone.
This post is meant to share my line of thoughts and some advice that I have given when my opinions were sought.
Are ghosts real? Do they exist?
Much like the question of whether God exists, this question only have 2 answers, either they do or they do not. And I know people who swear by either camp which I think is perfectly fine. I think ghosts are real and they exist but I do not make a big deal out of them by going around to convince everyone else I know that they do. They are unseen beings, they hang around for reasons that many spiritualists and religious folks had made up. We probably will never really know why.
Do we have to be afraid of them?
No, I do not think there is any good reason that we should be afraid of them. Whatever you have watched in the movies are, well, movies. Whatever you have heard, probably were exaggerated or shared by someone who is afraid of the unseen. Whatever you have read were meant to instill fear in you. I do, however, afraid of hypocrites and reckless riders using personal mobility devices because they can cause real harm and damage.
How does Hungry Ghost Festival come about?
You can easily google this if you like to find out more. From my observation, the current state of Hungry Ghost Festival is a syncretic practice with influences from Chinese Folklore, Taoism and Buddhism.
What do people do during the Hungry Ghost Festival?
Chinese folklore practices are offering food, drinks and burning different types of joss papers with no specific formalized ritual structure. From the Taoist perspective, the focus on the Hungry Ghost Festival falls in the middle of the month with a day that marks a very senior deity in the Taoist pantheon that pardons the sins of tortured souls. From the Buddhist perspective, there is a myth that teaches the trait of filial piety. The Chinese folklore practice is the easiest to do. You can buy the offerings even in sueprmarket these days and carry on with your impromptu prayers. While the Taoist and Buddhist practices usually requires you to go to a temple to participate a ritual, or make a donation for your name to appear as a sponsor and not needed to turn up.
Do I have to do any of the above?
My frank opinion is that it is entirely up to you. I really do not believe that you will simply get into trouble for not performing any of the aforesaid practices. But if you have really feel like you have to make some offerings or pay for some rituals, please keep in mind to spend within your means.
How about the taboos that I have read online?
I will say I do not take any articles online seriously in subject like this that are posted anonymously or by using an one-time moniker. There are some taboos that do make sense like, not to swim late in the night. This is something that you should not be doing during other 11 months of the year for obvious safety concern. Another is not to hang your laundry outside of your house in the night. There is no sun in the night to dry your laundry and it may rain while you are sleeping too. So this should not be done during other 11 months of the year too.
So are there anything that I really have to watch out for?
Well, there is one that I can think of. If you are allergic or sensitive to smoke, then you may want to prepare a mask if your area, be it home or office, is going to be subjected to a lot of smoke from the burning of joss papers by others. If you area is near a bin or a favourite burning spot, you may consider to close the window to prevent smoke from entering.
Meantime, stay chill and calm.