What is a Phi Pret?

Phi Pret (ผีเปรต) are spirit beings from Asian folklore that were spread through Buddhism.

Background

Pret or Preta (Sanskrit: प्रेत, Standard Tibetan: ཡི་དྭགས་ yi dags) is the Sanskrit name for a type of supernatural being described in Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, Chinese folk religion and Vietnamese folk religion as a being who suffers greater suffering than man, especially an extreme level of hunger and thirst. They have their origins in Indian religions and have been adopted by the spread of Buddhism into the East Asian religions. From the Chinese and Vietnamese adaptations, Preta is often translated into English as a “hungry spirit”.

Phi Pret is a suffering spirit also known as Asurakai – an inhabitant of the underworld. According to Thai belief, a person who has a deficit of good deeds is assigned to a certain level of hell after death until the debt is settled. A pret has so much karma on it that it can never be reborn in the human world, but is stranded in the underworld, leading to eternal suffering. It is tall, has long hair, a long neck, a protruding belly and a mouth as small as a needle, so he never gets enough to eat.

The Phi Pret is a bad-tempered and aggressive spirit that you can hear whistling at night and who is looking for someone who will end its sufferings. They are part of Buddhist mythology rather than specifically Thai, and the name is related to the Sanskrit word Preta (the same spirit in Hindu mythology). In China, this is the “hungry spirit”, and there is an annual festival in his honor.

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