“The poverty of being unwanted, unloved and uncared for is the greatest poverty, “ taught Mother Teresa. “Loneliness is the most terrible poverty.”
Every year in Japan, the ancestors are remembered and hungry ghosts are fed in a ritual called Oban. I once experienced a Western Soto Zen version of this practice, including among the hungry ghosts all those beings that society rejects and those parts of ourselves that we forget or abandon or try to hide.
But how are we to feed the hungry ghosts? Early Buddhist tradition describes the use of spells and also service to the living. Last week, after I had tea with an extraordinary Japanese woman named Masami Saionji, I realized that we greatest nourishment we have to offer, the salvation that we ordinary mortals can extend to one another, is the light of our own caring attention.
The chairperson of three international peace organizations and a descendent of the Royal Ryukyu Family of Okinawa, Masami Saionji glowed with kindness as she looked at me, inviting me to see how everyone can make a difference, can be a force for peace and oneness rather than suffering and separation. She described feeling surrounded by hungry ghosts in her ancestral homeland after the war, despairing that she could help them until there came a deep experience of receiving the light of a greater awareness, a greater force of wisdom and compassion.
“Sati,” the word for mindfulness in Pali, the ancient language of the earliest Buddhist scriptures, means to remember. To re-member is to pull together or re-collect all our parts, all our members, to be one in all our diversity (including our inner diversity). “Metta” or loving kindness has the quality of sunlight, shining on all without exception. “Bodhi” mind is heart and mind together, no separation. May all beings, living and dead, inside and outside, be embraced by the sunlight of our own kind attention. May all beings be seen, be met, be free.