Segaki (more recently called Sejiki by the Soto school) is our annual Soto Zen “Festival of the Hungry Ghosts.” Mythologically, hungry ghosts are beings who have been reborn after death in a “hungry ghost” realm because of their past stingy, selfish, or grasping actions. In the hungry ghost realm they cannot find sustenance, so are constantly thirsty and hungry – and are unable to accept that which would truly satisfy their longing: the truth, or the Dharma.
According to the mythology, there’s only one way hungry ghosts can get a little satisfaction before they free themselves: Spiritual offerings made by the faithful. Therefore, during Sejiki we cover the Buddha image (it would scare the ghosts away) and put out the kinds of foods we think hungry ghosts would like (generally junk food; hungry ghosts are not known to be very self-disciplined or health conscious!). Our chanting invites the ghosts to come and partake, and then we send them on their way again.
Traditionally, Sejiki is also a time to remember people who have recently passed away, praying that the recently deceased have peace and are not in the hungry ghost realm.
We are also invited to reflect on unresolved karma in our lives. Karma is the law of causation as it applies to behavior. We all have unresolved karma due to past actions of our own, and the actions of others – regrets, hurts, losses, disappointments, resentments, grief, sadness. These “ghosts” from our past are not quite ready to leave us. In other words, we’re not quite ready to let go and heal, or we don’t yet know how. Segaki (now called Sejiki) enacts the practice of acknowledging our “ghosts” because it doesn’t help to ignore them or chase them away. We create a safe space, invite the “ghosts” in, and make an appropriate offering to them. Each time we do this, there is a chance for some healing and understanding to occur. Then we set a boundary and send the ghosts away until we call them again.
If you are attending the ceremony in person, you are invited to bring junk food to offer the Gakis (hungry ghosts) on a special altar devoted just to them (arrive a little early), and then during the ceremony we all process to that altar to offer flower petals (instructions will be given).
If you are participating online:
♦ If you would like to participate in the ceremony at home, we encourage you to decorate your own altar for Sejiki by:
- ♦ Covering your Buddha images so as not to frighten the Gakis away
- ♦ Making an offering of junk food (your hungry ghost’s favorite)
- ♦ If you intend to process at home during the reading of the names of the deceased, some kind of scent offering (incense, flower petals, or some other pleasant scent).
♦ Send the names of anyone you would like remembered at Sejiki to info[at]brightwayzen.org. Someone will read these names aloud while we are chanting.
Join Us In Person
In-person participation is limited at this time because of COVID safety, to those who provide proof of full vaccination and remain masked throughout our events. Before attending in person, please see our COVID updates page for more instructions.
Join Us Online
For information about how to join us online through Zoom please click here.