Preta - Encyclopedia of Buddhism

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Depiction of the preta realm from a thangka of the Wheel of Life

Preta (P. peta; T. yi dwags ཡི་དྭགས་; C. egui) is one of the six classes of beings. Sometimes translated as 'hungry ghost'.

Tibetan teacher Chökyi Drakpa says:

"The preta realm is destitute of food and drink, creating hunger and thirst. It is a grim place of rocks and charred tree stumps, where the words ‘food’, ‘drink’ or ‘comfort’ have never even been heard. [...] Since these pretas do not find anything to eat or drink for months and years on end, their bodies are emaciated like skeletons and they lack even the strength to stand. The principal cause [for being reborn there] is being miserly or greedy for wealth and possessions."[1]

Subdivisions[edit | edit source]

Patrul Rinpoche speaks of two types of preta:

The former are further divided into three:

  1. those suffering from external obscurations (Tib. ཕྱིའི་སྒྲིབ་པ་ཅན་)
  2. those suffering from internal obscurations (Tib. ནང་གི་སྒྲིབ་པ་ཅན་)
  3. those suffering from specific obscurations (Tib. སྒོས་ཁུར་གྱི་སྒྲིབ་པ་ཅན་)

The pretas who move through space, he says, include spirits such as the tsen, gyalpo, shindré, jungpo, mamo, and teurang.[2]

Etymology[edit | edit source]

The Sanskrit preta literally means 'departed'.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Chökyi Drakpa, A Torch for the Path to Omniscience.
  2. Source for this section: Patrul Rinpoche, The Words of My Perfect Teacher (Boston: Shambhala, Revised edition, 1998), pages 72-75.

Alternative Translations[edit | edit source]

  • Anguished Spirits (Dorje & Coleman)
  • Famished spirit
  • Hungry ghost

Further Reading[edit | edit source]

  • Patrul Rinpoche, The Words of My Perfect Teacher (Boston: Shambhala, Revised edition, 1998), pages 72-76.

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