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How Mediumship/Spirituality is viewed in Theravada Buddhism?

Hi,

I'm wondering what the view is on humans who can talk to the deceased? By deseased, I mean humans who have passed away on earth who have not been reborn into the Hungry Ghost realm. I have known genuine mediums (of whom are not Buddhist) who have contacted loved ones for people; and they do not do this for the money or to rip people off, they do it to let the living know that they're loved ones are happy and at peace. I'm sorry if this sounds very out of place, since the Hungry Ghost realm is a result of a bad karmic life, I cannot believe a medium contacts the deceased from this realm when a lot of love is given by yhe spirits of humans that come through to communicate. In terms of mediumship, I'm referring to the spiritualist movement (spiritualist churches and demonstrations of mediumship).

In the last 6 months, I went with a friend to see a medium (They were happy for me to sit in). My friend had not visited this medium before or had any prior connections with them. The only communication they had was a single phone call to book a suitable time to meet. my friend has no social media accounts; so no prior snooping could have been done on the medium's part. When we arrived and sat down, the medium 'tuned in' as all genuine mediums do, and without them even saying a word the medium had accurately got the name of her father who passed away 18 years ago, their grandad and aunts and uncles. Described them perfectly and told of some of my friends past events to boot. The medium told us both not to 'feed' him as he wanted no sort of information from us; yet he managed to do what he did sincerely.

I have not described this incident to poke holes or to cause any doubt in regards to Buddhist thought; but I have a genuine belief that humans can have an ability (Whether it is a type of attachment or unhealthy practice) to contact the deceased.
What I'm trying to do is to place this practice of mediumship into Buddhist thought, cosmology and/or philosophy; as I have no reason to disbelieve Mediumship and I have no reason to doubt my Biddhist school of thought (Theravada) so I'm trying to find a middle ground here between the two which I'm confident that it exists, I just have not found it yet. Even if it's to the suggestion that the hungry ghost rralm isn't just full of greedy, tortured souls; and there are different levels - to an extent where humans become ghosts/spirits and suffer just as much as we do (possibly a bit more due to it being a lower world) but still have the power to practice and feel loving-kindness.

Any helpful thoughts and suggetions are deeply appreciated!

Comments

  • Jono5Jono5 Wales New

    Sorry for the inconsistant spelling, the keyboard is very temperamental!

  • JasonJason God Emperor Arrakis Moderator
    edited October 9

    Theravada doesn't deny the ability to hear/talk to beings in other realms. Such abilities seem to potentially occur naturally as a result of a contemplative life (in this or previous lives). For example, from the Akankheyya Sutta:

    'If a Bhikkhu should desire, Brethren, to exercise one by one each of the different Iddhis, being one to become multiform, being multiform to become one; to become visible, or to become invisible; to go without being stopped to the further side of a wall, or a fence, or a mountain, as if through air; to penetrate up and down through solid ground, as if through water; to walk on the water without dividing it, as if on solid ground; to travel cross-legged through the sky, like the birds on wing; to touch and feel with the hand even the sun and the moon, mighty and powerful though they be; and to reach in the body even up to the heaven of Brahmâ; let him then fulfil all righteousness, let him be devoted to that quietude of heart which springs from within, let him not drive back the ecstasy of contemplation, let him look through things, let him be much alone!'

    'If a Bhikkhu should desire, Brethren, to hear with clear and heavenly ear, surpassing that of men, sounds both human and celestial, whether far or near, let him then fulfil all righteousness, let him be devoted to that quietude of heart which springs from within, let him not drive back the ecstasy of contemplation, let him look through things, let him be much alone!'

    'If a Bhikkhu should desire, Brethren, to comprehend by his own heart the hearts of other beings and of other men; to discern the passionate mind to be passionate, and the calm mind calm; the angry mind to be angry, and the peaceable peaceable; the deluded mind to be deluded, and the wise mind wise; the concentrated thoughts to be concentrated, and the scattered to be scattered; the lofty mind to be lofty, and the narrow mind narrow; the sublime thoughts to be sublime, and the mean to be mean; the steadfast mind to be steadfast, and the wavering to be wavering; the free mind to be free, and the enslaved mind to be enslaved; let him then fulfil all righteousness, let him be devoted to that quietude of heart which springs from within, let him not drive back the ecstasy of contemplation, let him look through things, let him be much alone!'

    ...

    'If a Bhikkhu should desire, Brethren, to see with pure and heavenly vision, surpassing that of men, beings as they pass from one state of existence and take form in others; beings base or noble, good-looking or ill-favoured, happy or miserable, according to the karma they inherit--(if he should desire to be able to say), "These beings, reverend sirs, by their bad conduct in action, by their bad conduct in word, by their bad conduct in thought, by their speaking evil of the Noble Ones, by their adhesion to false doctrine, or by their acquiring the karma of false doctrine, have been reborn, on the dissolution of the body after death, in some unhappy state of suffering or woe." "These beings, reverend sirs, by their good conduct in action, by their good conduct in word, by their good conduct in thought, by their not speaking evil of the Noble Ones, by their adhesion to right doctrine, by their acquiring the karma of right doctrine, have been reborn, on the dissolution of the body after death, into some happy state in heaven;"--should he desire thus to see with pure and heavenly vision, surpassing that of men, beings as they thus pass from one state of existence and take form in others; beings base or noble, good-looking or ill-favoured, happy or miserable, according to the karma they inherit; let him then fulfil all righteousness, let him be devoted to that quietude of heart which springs from within, let him not drive back the ecstasy of contemplation, let him look through things, let him be much alone!'

    Or the Iddhipada-vibhanga Sutta:

    "When a monk has thus developed & pursued the four bases of power, he experiences manifold supranormal powers. Having been one he becomes many; having been many he becomes one. He appears. He vanishes. He goes unimpeded through walls, ramparts, & mountains as if through space. He dives in & out of the earth as if it were water. He walks on water without sinking as if it were dry land. Sitting crosslegged he flies through the air like a winged bird. With his hand he touches & strokes even the sun & moon, so mighty & powerful. He exercises influence with his body even as far as the Brahma worlds.

    "He hears — by means of the divine ear-element, purified & surpassing the human — both kinds of sounds: divine & human, whether near or far.

    "He knows the awareness of other beings, other individuals, having encompassed it with his own awareness. He discerns a mind with passion as a mind with passion, and a mind without passion as a mind without passion. He discerns a mind with aversion as a mind with aversion, and a mind without aversion as a mind without aversion. He discerns a mind with delusion as a mind with delusion, and a mind without delusion as a mind without delusion. He discerns a restricted mind as a restricted mind, and a scattered mind as a scattered mind. He discerns an enlarged mind as an enlarged mind, and an unenlarged mind as an unenlarged mind. He discerns an excelled mind [one that is not at the most excellent level] as an excelled mind, and an unexcelled mind as an unexcelled mind. He discerns a concentrated mind as a concentrated mind, and an unconcentrated mind as an unconcentrated mind. He discerns a released mind as a released mind, and an unreleased mind as an unreleased mind.

    ...

    "He sees — by means of the divine eye, purified & surpassing the human — beings passing away and re-appearing, and he discerns 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 — he sees beings passing away and re-appearing, and he discerns how they are inferior & superior, beautiful & ugly, fortunate & unfortunate in accordance with their kamma.

    That said, the Buddha always considers these lesser attainments than the purification of one's own heart and mind, and he also discouraged monks from using their abilities to do things like that in order to 'make a living':

    "Or he might say: 'Whereas some recluses and brahmins, while living on the food offered by the faithful, earn their living by a wrong means of livelihood, by such debased arts as: prophesying long life, prosperity etc., or the reverse, from the marks on a person's limbs, hands, feet etc; divining by means of omens and signs; making auguries on the basis of thunderbolts and celestial portents; interpreting ominous dreams; telling fortunes from marks on the body; making auguries from the marks on cloth gnawed by mice; offering fire oblations; offering oblations from a ladle; offering oblations of husks, rice powder, rice grains, ghee, and oil to the gods; offering oblations from the mouth; offering blood-sacrifices to the gods; making predictions based on the fingertips; determining whether the site for a proposed house or garden is propitious or not; making predictions for officers of state; the knowledge of charms to lay demons in a cemetery; the knowledge of charms to cure one possessed by ghosts; the knowledge of charms to be pronounced by one living in an earthen house; the snake craft (for curing snake bites and charming snakes); the poison craft (for neutralizing or making poison); the scorpion craft and rat craft (for curing scorpion stings and rat bites, respectively); the bird craft and crow craft (for understanding the cries of birds and crows); foretelling the number of years that a man has to live; the knowledge of charms to give protection from arrows; reciting charms to understand the language of animals — the recluse Gotama abstains from such wrong means of livelihood, from such debased arts.'

    If rebirth is indeed real, people can be born into any number of different realms, and people who are sensitive enough can see, hear, and observe them. Some realms are bad, some are good, and some are a mix, like ours.

    BunksKundo
  • DakiniDakini Veteran

    This is interesting, @Jason, thanks. I would have said, that the Buddha discouraged "soothsaying", which mediumship could be categorized as, but I like your answer better. :)

  • @Jono5 said:
    Sorry for the inconsistant spelling, the keyboard is very temperamental!

    Maybe it is possessed? ;)

    Here to help. o:)

    Shoshin
  • JasonJason God Emperor Arrakis Moderator

    @Dakini said:
    This is interesting, @Jason, thanks. I would have said, that the Buddha discouraged "soothsaying", which mediumship could be categorized as, but I like your answer better. :)

    Interesting enough, it's not listed as wrong livelihood for lay followers, though. 🤷‍♀️

    Dakini
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