The term Segaki [施餓鬼] refers to a ritual traditionally associated with Japanese Buddhism. Commonly associated with other countries on the Asian continent, such as China and Sri Lanka. The origin of the term Segaki brings it as the “feeding of hungry ghosts”.
Originally, it served to end the storm of certain ghosts who suffered from an insatiable hunger. They were the gaki and muenbotoke, the dead who faced suffering beyond what a human could tolerate or who had no living relatives.
The rite can force them to return to their places of hell and storm, or to free them from the burden of insatiable hunger. The ritual can be practiced at any time of the year, but tradition recommends that it be done during Urabone.
Urabone takes place annually in the month of July, and is known as Festival of Ghosts, or even Festival of Hungry Ghosts. In it, ceremonies are held to remember the dead, as well as to offer souls to gakis and muenbotokes who are no one's ancestors.
Segaki takes place in Buddhist temples, but the tradition is also carried inside the houses. In them, racks and shelves for the gakis are usually placed, which are filled with offerings, especially water and rice.
The word Segaki [施餓鬼] literally means service for the benefit of suffering spirits. Composed of the ideograms [施] which means to give or alms together with [餓] which means hungry or thirst and ending with [鬼] which means demon and ghost.
The emergence of the Segaki ceremony
The origin of the segaki goes back to Moggallana, one of the closest disciples of Buddha Shakyamuni. Legend has it that in order to free his mother from the domain of the gaki, Moggallana seeks a way out.
Instead, he is forced by the Buddha to proclaim the Lotus Sutra, which resulted in the escape of all gakis into the human world. In order to correct what happened, segaki appears as a way to return them to their domain.
Another legend says that student Ananda, one of Buddha's top ten disciples, was visited by a gaki and that he said that Ananda would also become a gaki within three days. To break the prophecy, he had to offer food to strangers in order to avoid transformation.
In reality, the most striking evidence indicates that segaki is an adaptation of an even older Chinese festival, which was held in memory of the dead. Currently, the ceremony in the temples is accompanied by drums - Taiko, and choirs by religious leaders and visitors.