hungry spirits ［餓鬼］ ( preta; gaki): Also, hungry ghosts. Spirits who suffer from hunger and thirst as karmic retribution for their greed, selfishness, and jealousy while they were alive. Buddhist scriptures describe hungry spirits as beings with throats as small as needles and distended bellies. The realm of hungry spirits is said to be located five hundred yojanas beneath the earth, above the realm of hell. In that realm, food and drink turn into flames and torment the inhabitants. The realm of hungry spirits is one of the three or the four evil paths. From the standpoint of the doctrine of the Ten Worlds and their mutual possession, it represents a potential state or condition of life in which one is tormented by relentless craving. Hungry spirits are called preta in Sanskrit, which in ancient India meant the spirits of the dead. In China and Japan, the story of Maudgalyāyana’s saving his mother from the realm of hungry spirits is well known. See also service for deceased ancestors.