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Are Humans More Frightening Than Ghosts? 人比鬼可怕吗?

人与鬼之间,
谁更加可恶?
恶人成恶鬼,
都可怜可怕。

— 人鬼偈 (1/2)

Between humans and ghosts, who are more repulsive? With evil humans becoming evil ghosts, both are pitiable and frightening.

— Verses On Humans And Ghosts (1/2)

There is a common ‘saying’ of sorts, that ‘humans are more frightening than ghosts’ (人比鬼可怕). This is based on fixations that some humans can be incredibly cunning and wicked in their ways, while most ghosts are supposedly merely miserable. These ideas became popular due to the false dichotomy between the natures of humans and ghosts, forgetting that many ghosts in the present are ex-humans. With human-nature spilling over to become ghost-nature, if a human is evil, and creates negative karma to become a ghost, this ghost is likely to be just as evil, if still unrepentant.

This does not mean that all ghosts are wicked in the demonically destructive sense, as it is possible for humans to become wandering spirits who are existentially lost, or be reborn as hungry ghosts due to strong attachment, that might not be expressed in ways harmful to humans. (Before finger-pointing, it is also with oneself having evil karma [恶业], that one encounters an evil ghost!) Thus, the question of whether humans or ghosts are more frightening is wrongly asked. It is instead ‘frightening’ to demonise all of either, with this being generalisation and speciesism. Specifically, evil humans are just as frightening as evil ghosts, although the latter do have supernormal powers, with the potential to be more sneaky and intimidating.

Frightful as they are, both evil humans and evil ghosts are equally pitiful, as their ongoing creating of evil karma will reap the results of suffering, be it in their present and/or future lives. Already with very negative karma, ghosts can create even worse karma to fall into long-lasting hells. Evil or not, frightening or not, why not encourage one and all to practise mindfulness of Amitābha Buddha (阿弥陀佛: Āmítuófó) to reach his Pure Land? The truth is, anyone who has any amount of the Three Poisons of attachment, aversion and delusion is already to that extent evil. So long as yet to be in Pure Land or enlightened, we are all on an ever-sliding scale… towards more or less evil!

善人不成鬼,
鬼未必邪恶。
何不劝人鬼,
念佛生净土?

— 人鬼偈 (2/2)

Good humans do not become ghosts, yet ghosts are not necessarily wicked. Why not urge humans and ghosts, to be mindful of Amitābha Buddha, to be born in his Pure Land?

— Verses On Humans And Ghosts (2/2)

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