What makes a hungry ghost?
They are not the norm. The ghost spirits of most people are believed to dissipate quietly into a second death, but not so the hungry ghosts. They live on and on, tormented by a hunger that cannot be fed. In the seventh lunar month of the year, the gates of hell are opened, and they are let loose to roam the world until those gates are again closed for another year.
So what do these ghosts hunger for?
Some ghosts are left hungry for love and are driven by their loneliness. Their hearts are as empty as their bellies. Spirits who have been abandoned by their families and ancestors who are no longer venerated become hungry ghosts.
Other spirits become hungry ghosts as a result of their evil deeds motivated by fear, greed, anger or ignorance. These are the ghosts of those who are being punished.
Some ghosts are left hungry for justice. Unfair circumstances snatch their lives, oftentimes abruptly as when an airplane is crashed into your office building or an atomic bomb is dropped on your city on an otherwise ordinary day.
What does a hungry ghost most need? Respect. But offering respect to a hungry ghost first requires time to develop an understanding of that ghost, without which there is nothing to respect other than the ghost of an idea.