Indian Arts and Culture Buddhism Hungry Ghosts Share Flipboard Email Print Google Images Buddhism Origins and Developments Figures and Texts Becoming A Buddhist Tibetan and Vajrayana Buddhism By Barbara O'Brien Zen Buddhism Expert B.J., Journalism, University of Missouri Barbara O'Brien is a Zen Buddhist practitioner who studied at Zen Mountain Monastery. She is the author of "Rethinking Religion" and has covered religion for The Guardian, Tricycle.org, and other outlets. our editorial process Barbara O'Brien Updated January 08, 2018 Definition: "Hungry ghost" is one of the six modes of existence (see Six Realms). Hungry ghosts are pitiable creatures with huge, empty stomachs. They have pinhole mouths, and their necks are so thin they cannot swallow, so they remain hungry. Beings are reborn as hungry ghosts because of their greed, envy and jealousy. Hungry ghosts are also associated with addiction, obsession, and compulsion. The Sanskrit word for "hungry ghost" is "preta," which means "departed one." Many schools of Buddhism leave food offerings on altars for hungry ghosts. In the summer there are hungry ghost festivals throughout Asia that feature food and entertainment for the hungry ghosts.