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do Buddhists believe in ghosts or spirits?

woods93woods93 Explorer
edited July 2011 in Buddhism for Beginners

Comments

  • JeffreyJeffrey Veteran
    some do some don't
  • vinlynvinlyn Veteran
    But if you're in Thailand, most do.
  • yes, they are called pretas.
    altough, some buddhists don't believe in them.
  • vinlynvinlyn Veteran
    In Thailand they are "phi".
  • I believe the the thread OP wanted a more precise answer (which I'm unfortunately unable to provide right now due to my beginner condition) and I also believe if there is anyone who can answer this precisely, by informing which schools believe in ghosts and which ones believe in spirits, the reason and meaning of these beings, etc, then it would be a very interesting post.
  • JeffreyJeffrey Veteran
    Tibetan buddhism believes in the ghost karmic realm which is caused by greed. The dalai lama believes these karmic realms are psychological. A hungry ghost craves for sense pleasures but does not have a 'stomach' to digest them. The clock in the Last Unicorn is an example of a hungry ghost.. they got it to help them by offering it a bottle of wine.



  • Tibetan buddhism believes in the ghost karmic realm which is caused by greed. The dalai lama believes these karmic realms are psychological. A hungry ghost craves for sense pleasures but does not have a 'stomach' to digest them. The clock in the Last Unicorn is an example of a hungry ghost.. they got it to help them by offering it a bottle of wine.



    Please let me see if I understood:

    The hungry ghosts don't inhabit another dimension, then. They are human beings, living among us but psychologically (and not physically) they are hungry ghosts. Is this right or did I misunderstand?

  • JeffreyJeffrey Veteran
    The dalai lama believes they are psychological. My understanding of his view is that everyone has an aspect of themselves which is hungry ghost which manifests to lesser and greater degrees. I have times when I think I am like a hungry ghost, such as when I am having a sense craving. Trying to get the right thing, try a glass of coke, and then a walk, and then a snack yet not really enjoying anything. That sounds like a hungry ghost.
  • I don't know what HHDL meant and in what context he used but this is where I stand:
    Ghosts, spirits, deities are all real. There are different planes of existence and they do exists as much as this physical plane exists.
    We can attain bodies in these realms. What we have is the physical body. When we die we can born in astral body, mental body, light or bliss body so on so forth. These entities exists in their respective realms.
  • JeffreyJeffrey Veteran
    edited July 2011
    zen_world, just curious how you came to that conclusion. what is the 'you' that goes to all different realms?
  • DakiniDakini Veteran
    The dalai lama believes they are psychological. My understanding of his view is that everyone has an aspect of themselves which is hungry ghost which manifests to lesser and greater degrees. I have times when I think I am like a hungry ghost, such as when I am having a sense craving. Trying to get the right thing, try a glass of coke, and then a walk, and then a snack yet not really enjoying anything. That sounds like a hungry ghost.
    The common folk in Tibet interpret the ghost realms literally. I've seen this concept presented both ways. But there are other types of spirits in Tibetan belief, too--nature spirits, plus those Himalayan demons that were tamed and became dharma protectors.

    Taiwanese buddhists belief in ghosts and spirits.

  • My conclusion is based on my experience thru astral projection. So if you are skeptical then there is not much to say. This is my experience.
    You that travels is slightly subtle version of you reading this post now. And what I have been told is that it gets subtler and subtler as it move to other planes. New age stuff but I cannot deny my own experience.
  • JeffreyJeffrey Veteran
    its hard to know what is meant by real and not real.. If somebody is psychologically a demon does that mean they are not real because they cannot fly and breath fire :D Just food for thought
  • My conclusion is based on my experience thru astral projection. So if you are skeptical then there is not much to say. This is my experience.
    You that travels is slightly subtle version of you reading this post now. And what I have been told is that it gets subtler and subtler as it move to other planes. New age stuff but I cannot deny my own experience.
    Is your idea of actual different planes the dogmatic view of the Zen school?

  • DakiniDakini Veteran
    My conclusion is based on my experience thru astral projection. So if you are skeptical then there is not much to say. This is my experience.
    You that travels is slightly subtle version of you reading this post now. And what I have been told is that it gets subtler and subtler as it move to other planes. New age stuff but I cannot deny my own experience.
    So, zenny, do you think that when your doing astral projection, that you could be perceived as a ghost or spirit by someone? Do the two go together?
  • DaozenDaozen Veteran
    edited July 2011
    Personally, I don't believe such things, I view them as nonsense and superstition, not provable, and not helpful in any way as a view.
  • JeffreyJeffrey Veteran
    how could you prove that you were astral traveling? Its logically consistent within the notion of astral travel that it is not material travel. Thus there is nothing objective at all to observe about astral travel. It would not be nonsense if it were a personal experience, or superstition.
  • auraaura Veteran
    So, zenny, do you think that when your doing astral projection, that you could be perceived as a ghost or spirit by someone? Do the two go together?
    Astral projectors do look a lot like the dead, except that the dead look a bit more solid. Shrug. The dead aren't any different from the living except for the fact that they are entirely on the other side, and the dead do call it "the other side." It's another dimension. Get close enough to dying without dying and you'll see it for yourself.

  • So, zenny, do you think that when your doing astral projection, that you could be perceived as a ghost or spirit by someone? Do the two go together?
    Because we do not have physical body, I guess you can say that. But astral plane is very fluid and has a lot of variety. It is common to see all sorts of forms of beings in astral plane. My astral body looks like my physical body but it is not solid. So I do look like a ghost...
  • I know someone who has seen ghosts, they are pretas according to her description... she seems to be someone that doesn't lie.
  • Mr_SerenityMr_Serenity Veteran
    edited July 2011
    Whether one believes in them or not they're very much real. I'm a practical person, not a fundamentalist believer. I believe in debunking, but at the same time I don't believe in being oblivious. I try to see what is actually there with eyes not clouded by biased.

    I have encountered spirits on this level. Many encounters. Visual, and physical. They can interact with you physically. It is like electric energy hands made of static electricity, and they can even harm you. Leaving scratches and bruises that are that distinct. They can also interact with you mentally through dreams.

    There was a time when I was so lonely I made the decision that I wanted to see if I could summon a spirit to be my companion/friend. Either that or I just wanted a response from the other side. I wanted to see if I could actually get a reaction, and that would have been amazing. I was skeptical as to whether I actually could and I was warned that it was super taboo and to stay away from that. But I am someone with no fear. So I went in pretty deep. I learned a lot about the occult and how to deal with spirits, and they're definitely real.

    It's one of those things though, that some people will never believe, because that is their fundamentalist way. The same way a religious person would believe in god, or an Atheist would refuse to believe in the possibility. They're sure that something is impossible. Ghosts are not a matter of faith though. There are definitely ways to prove it. I could prove it myself, but I probably couldn't do it in a lab.

    My theory is that they're energetic beings that attach themselves to particular property or particular people. So the environment wouldn't be good to study one in a lab. It's like hunting a wild tiger. You need to go out to the jungle. The conditions need to be right and it could take some time. It's very rare to find a tiger in the wild, but it's not impossible, it does happen.
  • They may harm you, true...But please remember we need to develop compassion for them too..compassion for all sentinent beings...its also for your own benefit, trust me...
  • DaozenDaozen Veteran
    You may personally believe in spirits and believe you have seen them, but that doesn't make them real to anyone else. They are not objectively, proven, real, in the sense of other things, eg horses.
  • edited July 2011
    I think what HHDL meant by saying that Ghosts are psychological... is the states of mind that some people seem to project in the real world. The state of mind to commit heinous, unspeakable acts, robbing, killing, rape, murder, and the obsessed and possessed states of mind.
  • So, a person's belief in ghosts has nothing to do with their religion, except some people who are die-hard atheists tend not to believe in anything supernatural, either gods or demons or ghosts.

    But does Buddhism teach that ghosts and spirits exist and you can meet them in this life? Not really, although there are teachings about various realms including a "hungry ghost" realm and Buddha being beset by demons. The Buddhist worldview is that we cause bad things to happen to ourselves, and there is no eternal, unchanging soul to wander the land after we die. So, a lot of Buddhists see this talk of realms and demons as metaphor.

    Neither does Buddhism teach against the existance of ghosts, spirits, or the supernatural, in particular. So many Buddhists out there certainly believe in them. In Korea, Buddhists will leave offerings to the Mountain Spirits along with offerings to Buddha in the shrines up in the holy places, and have Shamans contact the spirits of their ancestors to remove a curse, and go to the Buddhist temple the next day.
  • i find this confusing as yes there are buddhists that believe in them and those that don't. i wonder how this fits with the "no self" and what is reincarnating if there is no self to reincarnate-do the 5 aggregates reincarnate i forgeet ?
  • I don't know what HHDL meant and in what context he used but this is where I stand:
    Ghosts, spirits, deities are all real. There are different planes of existence and they do exists as much as this physical plane exists.
    We can attain bodies in these realms. What we have is the physical body. When we die we can born in astral body, mental body, light or bliss body so on so forth. These entities exists in their respective realms.
    I think this is right on! But...that's just me.

  • i find this confusing as yes there are buddhists that believe in them and those that don't. i wonder how this fits with the "no self" and what is reincarnating if there is no self to reincarnate-do the 5 aggregates reincarnate i forgeet ?
    Buddhists who believe in spirits, etc. don't subject that part of their belief system to scrutiny by no-self doctrine, etc. I suspect they compartmentalize their beliefs.
  • JeffreyJeffrey Veteran
    edited July 2011
    Compassionate warrior, while that might be true in some number of cases there are plenty of lineage lamas who believe in ghosts and spirits. This is mainstream buddhism in eastern cultures, we have distorted view in west (from that).

    Ghosts and spirits are also not the aggregates.. non-self.. they are not unchanging... you are not a ghost forever. The boundary between us and a spirit is dimensionless meaning that there is no observable boundary yet the boundary is distinct. That is to say they are spacious.. They are not cartoon characters as I always say, but rather their nature is space.

    I suppose a ghost or spirit could have some karma from studying the dharma in a previous life in addition to the karma for greed. We can become ghosts/spirits in a future life.
  • cazcaz Veteran
    Actual Buddhists do beleive in the 6 realms of existence which includes the spirit realms. This is the orthodox opinion.
  • If you do not need food to survive your body - then you may have reached the level of no spirit / ghost. Amitabha :thumbsup:
  • The Buddha said one should not worry about such things, as they are not conducive to liberation :)
  • vinlynvinlyn Veteran
    edited July 2011
    The Buddha said one should not worry about such things, as they are not conducive to liberation :)
    So, Ficus, are you saying that you never think of anything other than a quest for enlightenment?

    In fact, in another thread, I just read your post about Marxism. How does your thinking about and discussing Marxism help you reach enlightenment. I guess by your own definition you are having thoughts that "are not conducive to liberation."

  • YishaiYishai Veteran
    @vinlyn @Ficus_religiosa

    Both this topic and Marxism seem Buddhism-appropriate. This topic deals with orthodox beliefs vs. unorthodox beliefs and which is to be believed. Marxism deals with a political view of HHDL (a Buddhist figure) and why he would adopt Marxism.

    We all ponder about the imponderables. We just get tired of it eventually. And we all ponder about mundane things. We also cannot say what helps one on the path to liberation.
  • The dalai lama believes they are psychological. My understanding of his view is that everyone has an aspect of themselves which is hungry ghost which manifests to lesser and greater degrees. I have times when I think I am like a hungry ghost, such as when I am having a sense craving. Trying to get the right thing, try a glass of coke, and then a walk, and then a snack yet not really enjoying anything. That sounds like a hungry ghost.

    The common folk in Tibet interpret the ghost realms literally. I've seen this concept presented both ways. But there are other types of spirits in Tibetan belief, too--nature spirits, plus those Himalayan demons that were tamed and became dharma protectors.

    Taiwanese buddhists belief in ghosts and spirits.

    I think whatever happens to consciousness when you die is probably so alien to human existence that there's probably no real way to fully explain it in any human language and with any human concepts.
  • YishaiYishai Veteran
    Everybody who has had a NDE seems to come to the conclusion that they've never felt more awake. This makes sense if we look at the bardos of death. Interesting though. I don't know if I believe in ghosts or spirits. I personally have not felt or experienced such a thing. I'm not quick to turn away from others' experiences.
  • Compassionate warrior, while that might be true in some number of cases there are plenty of lineage lamas who believe in ghosts and spirits. This is mainstream buddhism in eastern cultures, we have distorted view in west (from that).

    Ghosts and spirits are also not the aggregates.. non-self.. they are not unchanging... you are not a ghost forever. The boundary between us and a spirit is dimensionless meaning that there is no observable boundary yet the boundary is distinct. That is to say they are spacious.. They are not cartoon characters as I always say, but rather their nature is space.

    I suppose a ghost or spirit could have some karma from studying the dharma in a previous life in addition to the karma for greed. We can become ghosts/spirits in a future life.
    Thanks, jeffrey, makes sense. I wasn't saying it's not mainstream in the East, I'd be the last person to say that. I was just observing in light of the "no-self" question, that these beliefs don't always make sense when subjected to Buddhist logic and teachings.
    Actual Buddhists do beleive in the 6 realms of existence which includes the spirit realms. This is the orthodox opinion.
    Wow, where have you been, Caz, all the other times that so many have argued here that the 6 realms are not to be taken literally? This is a breath of fresh air.

    @vinlyn Touche.

  • cazcaz Veteran
    The 6 realms can be taken non literally as well HOWEVER the literal teaching of Buddha about it should not be abandoned, There is no contridiction between them. But when speaking of Rebirth it is taken as literal, If there is no rebirth we can all commit suicide now and attain freedom from suffering...However Buddha thinks differently, so certainly it is not wise to abandon the literal meaning.
  • cazcaz Veteran
    Reposted via the from the user Optimus prime on Freesangha forum.

    The view that the Buddha spoke on rebirth only because it was the current model of thinking at the time - it's actually quite easy to see the flaws in that line of argument:

    1. The current views at the time of the Buddha were also things like:
    I. Atman/Atta was the view at the time as well. The Buddha was perfectly capable of defeating that argument of atta with anatta, yet did not defeat the argument of rebirth.
    II. The concept of a Supreme being or Creator God was also prevalent - but the Buddha said that there is no creator god.
    So here, we have 2 prevalent models of thinking at the time of the Buddha - the Buddha refuted these views in argument. Yet he did not refute rebirth. Moreover, he explicitly said that the view that there was no rebirth was wrong view:

    "Because there actually is the next world, the view of one who thinks, 'There is no next world' is his wrong view.
    Because there actually is the next world, when he is resolved that 'There is no next world,' that is his wrong resolve.
    Because there actually is the next world, when he speaks the statement, 'There is no next world,' that is his wrong speech.
    Because there actually is the next world, when he is says that 'There is no next world,' he makes himself an opponent to those arahants who know the next world.
    Because there actually is the next world, when he persuades another that 'There is no next world,' that is persuasion in what is not true Dhamma."
    Source: "Apannaka Sutta: A Safe Bet" (MN 60), translated from the Pali by Thanissaro Bhikkhu. Access to Insight, 14 June 2010, http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.060.than.html.

    2. Scholarship is based on scriptural evidence, and yet, we find scriptural evidence that says:
    I. The view that there is rebirth is right view (evidence just presented above).
    II. Rebirth is something that the Buddha saw for himself as part of the 3 knowledges he gained on the night of his enlightenment. In other words, it was he who saw rebirth directly along with karma - he did not get this knowledge from anyone else.

    "When the mind was thus concentrated, purified, bright, unblemished, rid of defilement, pliant, malleable, steady, & attained to imperturbability, I directed it to the knowledge of the passing away & reappearance of beings. I saw — by means of the divine eye, purified & surpassing the human — beings passing away & re-appearing, and I discerned how they are inferior & superior, beautiful & ugly, fortunate & unfortunate in accordance with their kamma: 'These beings — who were endowed with bad conduct of body, speech & mind, who reviled the Noble Ones, held wrong views and undertook actions under the influence of wrong views — with the break-up of the body, after death, have re-appeared in the plane of deprivation, the bad destination, the lower realms, in hell. But these beings — who were endowed with good conduct of body, speech, & mind, who did not revile the Noble Ones, who held right views and undertook actions under the influence of right views — with the break-up of the body, after death, have re-appeared in the good destinations, in the heavenly world.' Thus — by means of the divine eye, purified & surpassing the human — I saw beings passing away & re-appearing, and I discerned how they are inferior & superior, beautiful & ugly, fortunate & unfortunate in accordance with their kamma.
    Source: "Dvedhavitakka Sutta: Two Sorts of Thinking" (MN 19), translated from the Pali by Thanissaro Bhikkhu. Access to Insight, 14 June 2010, http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.019.than.html.

    So we can see that the Buddha spoke of rebirth not because it was the current model of thinking at the time but because he could actually see rebirth directly using the Divine eye - so it was from his personal direct knowledge - not knowledge from any other source. Further, not only could the Buddha see it, but other Arahants can also see it.


    So if we actually look into the texts, rather than rely on a third person's interpretation of them, we find that the Buddha definitely held the view that there is rebirth and it is right view.
  • TakuanTakuan Veteran
    Tsem Tulku Rinpoche has a variety of paranormal videos posted on his website. Some of which concern ghosts and spirits.
  • Can you give us a link, Takuan?
  • cazcaz Veteran
    http://www.facebook.com/tsemparanormal

    http://blog.tsemtulku.com/?s=paranormal

    Tsem Rinpoche really is one of the more amusing unconvential lamas :)
  • They say he's mellowing out recently.
  • vinlynvinlyn Veteran
    They say he's mellowing out recently.
    So does that imply his teachings were not always right on target?

  • @vinlyn
    "So, Ficus, are you saying that you never think of anything other than a quest for enlightenment?"

    No, I very much do have that. I see what you mean :)
  • riverflowriverflow Veteran
    edited October 2011
    From an old Zen story (from Zen Flesh, Zen Bones):

    The wife of a man became very sick. On her deathbed, she said to him, "I love you so much! I don't want to leave you, and I don't want you to betray me. Promise that you will not see any other women once I die, or I will come back to haunt you."

    For several months after her death, the husband did avoid other women, but then he met someone and fell in love. On the night that they were engaged to be married, the ghost of his former wife appeared to him. She blamed him for not keeping the promise, and every night thereafter she returned to taunt him. The ghost would remind him of everything that transpired between him and his fiancee that day, even to the point of repeating, word for word, their conversations. It upset him so badly that he couldn't sleep at all.

    Desperate, he sought the advice of a Zen master who lived near the village. "This is a very clever ghost," the master said upon hearing the man's story. "It is!" replied the man. "She remembers every detail of what I say and do. It knows everything!" The master smiled, "You should admire such a ghost, but I will tell you what to do the next time you see it."

    That night the ghost returned. The man responded just as the master had advised. "You are such a wise ghost," the man said, "You know that I can hide nothing from you. If you can answer me one question, I will break off the engagement and remain single for the rest of my life." "Ask your question," the ghost replied. The man scooped up a handful of beans from a large bag on the floor, "Tell me exactly how many beans there are in my hand."

    At that moment the ghost disappeared and never returned.
  • I beleive in rebirth into realms which include a realm of spirits. It has been narrowed to the term 'hungry ghosts' but inlcudes all spirits.

    The Dalai Lama may equate the realms to states of mind, but there is no doubt that he believes that they are very real. Firstly, he consults a spirit oracle, Nechung (Dorje Drakden). Secondly, Dorje Drakden persuaded him to ban the practices of another being he deemed to be a wordly spirit, Dorje Shugden (ahem - 'coincidentally' a rival to Dorje Drakden). HHDL also commented that the practices of the spirit Dorje Shugden would shorten his life.

    I have also assisted a Lharampa Geshe in a ritual to remove harmful spirits from a house in the UK suffering poltergeist activity, using a scripture translated from Sanskrit into Tibetan by Je Tsongkhapa. Hence we may assume the ritual, and therefore the belief, derives from Indian Vajrayana.
  • ToshTosh Veteran
    Of a general nature, rather than Buddhist, as a soldier I lived in what was a WW2 Panzer Training Regiment's barracks in Germany that was about 2 miles away from the infamous concentration camp called Belsen.

    After Belsen was liberated, the camp I lived in was turned into one massive hospital to treat the 'survivors', many of whom didn't survive; the death rates at the beginning were in the 100s per day; all dying on the camp I lived at. Just 100 meters away from my married quarter was the graveyard that contained the bodies of the 'survivors' who didn't survive the rehabilitation.

    There were a lot of ghost stories on that camp; one I heard first hand by a female Military Policewoman who didn't strike me as the type to tell silly stories.

    I have an open mind on such matters.
  • JasonJason God Emperor Arrakis Moderator
    Not really, but I've heard and seen some shit that makes me wonder...
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