Hungry Ghost Festival Myths

There are a lot of myths during the 7th moon or more commonly referred to as the Hungry Ghost Festival (or Ghost Festival). 

The most popular myths are the following and the truths about them with respect to the philosophies and scriptures of Buddhism and Taoism.

Myth 1: The gates of Hell are opened during every 7th lunar month. Which means souls leave Hell and freely go to the living world.

THE TRUTH: Not all beings will be reborn in hell. Those who have earned strong negative karmas when they were alive will be the ones who will be reborn in hell. Although, when these souls have cleansed and lessen their bad karma they will again have the chance to be born in the living world. Therefore, all souls have the chance to leave hell and not only when it's the 7th month but when they have payed enough for their bad karma.

Myth 2: During the 7th month, hungry ghosts from hell roam the world freely as wandering spirits. 

THE TRUTH: There is a big difference between the Hungry ghosts and Hell beings. Hell beings reside in the hell realm and generally have more intense suffering, and they do not have the privilege to take a "vacation" in the living world.   The living world consists of hungry ghosts and wandering spirits, mostly unseen by humans. Hungry ghosts are beings who are reborn with strong craving, while wandering spirits are the deceased who have yet to take proper rebirths due to strong attachment. Most paranormal encounters are with the wandering Spirits, and NOT with the hungry ghosts neither hell-beings.

Myth 3: All go to hell after death.

THE TRUTH: Many Chinese believe that everyone will be reborn in hell. However, only those who have created very negative karma are the ones who will be reborn in hell. There are 5 other possible realms of existence - realm of hungry ghosts, animals, humans, demi-gods and gods. Hell is also not an "interchange terminal" between every two consecutive lives.

Myth 4:Hell is a mirror world of the living world. Burning the items in the living world will allow these items to be transported in hell as the ghosts need them.

THE TRUTH: Since hell is a realm of intense suffering, worldly possessions such as money, houses, cars, computers, and mobile phones would not be necessary. There is no basis that paper items burnt to ashes will materialise into solid items. If life in hell requires everything in our world via burning, we would need to burn the whole world literally, as everything is interdependent for any one thing to function. But to burn absolutely everything is of course highly illogical. Burning expensive paper items not only wastes paper, money time and effort, it also pollutes the environment that can cause a chain of harmful effects. Ironically, the excess fire, ashes and smoke might displease unseen beings, just as they displease humans who are irritated by their existence in the living world.

Myth 5: The supernatural interactions with the ghosts happens only during the 7th moon.

THE TRUTH: There might be more supernatural activity when we create elaborate and rowdy celebrations to gather and honour unseen beings, especially while we also become tense and expect supernatural incidents to occur. Humans disturb unseen beings accidentally, more so than them disturbing us intentionally. In this way, experiencing the supernatural can be a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Myth 6: Life in Hell is eternal suffering.
THE TRUTH: Since there is limited evil that one can do in a lifetime, one will not experience unlimited karmic retribution forever. However, due to great suffering, life in hell is attributed to long suffering.

Myth 7: All unseen beings are either mischievous or evil. We need to appease them and ask for protection.

THE TRUTH: Most hungry ghosts and wandering spirits (both of whom are due to great attachment) are suffering too much in their own condition to be able to play tricks on or sabotage humans in any way. Just as most humans do not go all the way out to harm each other, most of them do not do harm. However, there are always exemptions to the rule. 

Casper, the friendly ghost

Myth 8: It is unfortunate to come across a hungry ghost or a wandering spirit.

THE TRUTH: Encountering unseens being is due to the karmic affinity between the living and the dead. If it is a negative karmic affinity, it should be transformed to one of goodwill by urging the spirit of letting go of the attachment in order to take a good rebirth. 



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