Question: What is so bad about being a wandering spirit after death? Can an entire family unite and stay happily as ghosts together? If possible, there would be no need to go to Amituofo’s (Amitabha Buddha) Pure Land or any other rebirth?
Answer: Ghosts, as wandering spirits, by default have a lot of suffering due to attachment and/or aversion. If not, they would not be ghosts. Their ghostly drifting state represents their very lack of peace, which is why they are restless spirits. It is thus wishful-thinking that it is possible to be a ‘happy ghost’. If ghosts stay with the living humans in our world, they will gradually damage their health due to clash of energies. Such wilful ghosts thus create negative karma in the process, which can lead to worse rebirths for themselves later. Many ghosts living together does not offer happiness too, as each and every one is still restless with suffering.
On the idea of a whole family staying as ghosts, even if possible for a while due to available conditions, this cannot sustain for long as the force of the individuals’ karma will eventually force each to depart, to be reborn elsewhere even if they try not to. There will also be suffering from separation then, due to attachment. In short, since rebirth for the unenlightened is inevitable, it is wisest to ensure there is the best rebirth possible – to where there is no suffering from attachment and/or aversion, where there is ultimate bliss for training towards liberation. Yes, this place is Pure Land.
Rather than whole families staying in Samsara as miserable ghosts for a long time, we might as well swiftly encourage family members to migrate to Pure Land one by one, when it is their time to depart, to have reunion there with the best conditions. If not, when each is reborn in a different place due to lack of a common goal reached by similar practice, it would be much harder to meet again. Due to the lack of ability to recall past lives (which can be done in Pure Land), even rebirth in the human realm does not lead to recognition of one another. Elsewhere, in a non-Pure Land, it is also going to be much more difficult to practise towards the goal of True Happiness that is Buddhahood, which when attained, enables us to more effectively care for past family members by guiding them to the same perfect liberation.