Washington Post: Demonic Possession

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Indrajala
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Washington Post: Demonic Possession

Post by Indrajala » Sun Jul 03, 2016 10:44 am

Washington Post recently ran an interesting article by a psychiatrist who believes in the reality of demonic possession.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/postever ... ossession/
Is it possible to be a sophisticated psychiatrist and believe that evil spirits are, however seldom, assailing humans? Most of my scientific colleagues and friends say no, because of their frequent contact with patients who are deluded about demons, their general skepticism of the supernatural, and their commitment to employ only standard, peer-reviewed treatments that do not potentially mislead (a definite risk) or harm vulnerable patients. But careful observation of the evidence presented to me in my career has led me to believe that certain extremely uncommon cases can be explained no other way.

I'd be curious to know what the Buddhist community here thinks about this sort of thing.
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Wayfarer
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Re: Washington Post: Demonic Possession

Post by Wayfarer » Sun Jul 03, 2016 1:06 pm

He's a brave man, that author. I don't rule out the reality of demonic possession but I think even though it's something that could happen, spending time studying such phenomenon would be unwise, I think.

There are interesting parallels with the psychic craze that was popular in the USA and England in the late 19th and early 20th Century. This features some very well-known public figures, including William James. There was a famous medium, Leonora Piper, who held seances that were attended by many well-known people, including scientists (see http://www.nytimes.com/2006/08/20/books ... .html?_r=0).

I recently stumbled on, and then lost, a fascinating online journal article about this whole subject, about six months ago. There were many extraordinary phenomena captured during this period, which was associated with the establishment of the Society of Psychical Research. When you read some of what was observed, there seemed to have been very good evidence for phenomena that couldn't be explained in terms of ordinary science. But ultimately the whole research effort fizzled out - it now seems commonly accepted that the apparent findings of J B Rhine, who was the first really methodological researcher in that area, have been discredited.

Or have they? It depends a lot on who you ask. And whoever you ask the answer turns out to revolve around degrees of statistical probability. So the credibility or otherwise of all the research turns out to involve wading through book-length articles on statistical significance. And it's also a very nasty debate. Also we ought not to forget Ian Stephenson, whose meticulous research on children with past-life memories was generally ignored, and is nowadays widely disputed on the basis of his purported gullibility and sloppy research - even by so-called 'secular Buddhists!'

So, my take is, interesting, kind of, possible, perhaps, but unless one is unfortunate enough to require the services of an exorcist, probably a subject better left alone.
In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities; in the expert's mind there are few ~ Suzuki-roshi

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Re: Washington Post: Demonic Possession

Post by dreambow » Sun Jul 03, 2016 1:11 pm

A fascinating story ...'Black magic and the glory of chanting " A western devotee in India was attracted to a yogi near Trivandrum but already had a sat guru in South India and although curious was loyal to his own guru.. The western devotee was surprised to receive a nasty letter warning him of dire consequences if he did not immediately embrace this new sadhu and his teacher. He was terribly upset by the tone of the letter. In the afternoon he was doing some weeding work in the garden, head bowed and knees bent. Suddenly, he heard a 'thud' sound behind - some animal jumping
down a tree and approaching from behind. In no time, it got on his back and sat down. It could have been a bear for it had a lot of hair and was holding on with its hind legs gripping the man around the chest from behind.
The Westerner kept calm and with his guru in mind kept chanting and the speed of the japa increased. The intensity and volume of the japa was a delight to hear from within, at the same time being aware of the danger he was in! As the Japa continued, the grip on the throat started loosening. The size and weight of the animal grew less and less. All the while the ajapa-Japa continued on of its own accord. Suddenly the animal jumped away from the man and started running towards a tree.
-He could hear its steps rushing back. lt climbed the tree and disappeared. Immediately the man was relieved . The ajapa-japa continued, uninterruptedly. then he got up searched for the beast, but could not find it. Happy, happy, listening within to the chant
"The next day, the sat guru was returning from His stroll , the westerner approached him and showed Him the nasty letter and then narrated what had happened the previous evening.
The guru with a benign smile, listened and then he e said: "That is all 'they' can do. Everything is all right." By 'they’ He
meant the guru who was a past master in black-magic and who was behind the threatening letter.
You may surmise that black magic could not stand up to the total devotion of the disciple and the protection of the fully realized master'

Arthur Osborne

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Nicholas Weeks
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Re: Washington Post: Demonic Possession

Post by Nicholas Weeks » Sun Jul 03, 2016 6:39 pm

Whether one thinks of demons as 'external' or 'internal' or both, those evil forces are real and can present problems to cultivators.

Study chapter eight of the Shurangama Sutra, with Master Hua's extensive commentary and one will gain much insight.

http://online.sfsu.edu/rone/Buddhism/Sh ... screen.pdf
Distrust everyone in whom the impulse to punish is powerful!
Nietzsche

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Indrajala
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Re: Washington Post: Demonic Possession

Post by Indrajala » Sun Jul 03, 2016 7:07 pm

Wayfarer wrote: Or have they? It depends a lot on who you ask. And whoever you ask the answer turns out to revolve around degrees of statistical probability. So the credibility or otherwise of all the research turns out to involve wading through book-length articles on statistical significance.
Although it isn't scientific, I think just listening to people's experiences and looking at the historical record across numerous cultures is enough to securely state that, at the very least, many people have and continue to experience the existence of disembodied intelligent consciousnesses, some of them apparently malicious and parasitic.

Of course that won't satisfy the hard skeptic who wants scientific evidence, but if what the Occult would generally suggest about demons is correct, then since they are more or less immaterial forces you cannot objectively capture and study them. Nevertheless, there's still the phenomenon of possession, as well as ghost sightings and other experiences with spirits or gods. The usual response is to simply classify all of it as either harmful neurosis or mere religious fantasies, which makes sense if you're a materialist, but again much of the world actually doesn't really believe strongly in materialism.

Even in Japan where secularism and science are mainstream, plenty of people believe in ghosts. In fact, after the great tsunami in Japan, there have been numerous ghost encounters reported in the affected regions.

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/worl ... /79871530/

My experience in Japan also suggests that most people there have a passive belief in spirits and ghosts, though they maybe haven't articulated a strong opinion on the matter.


And it's also a very nasty debate.
I wonder if it doesn't stem from the fact that materialism is fundamentalist about its ontology. It cannot concede an inch to alternative worldviews because its stated premises and the world it describes completely depends on deducing all phenomena to physical forces with no room for what it would term the 'supernatural' (that word is problematic because if ghosts exist they're not beyond nature). It is curious how offensive and antagonistic some self-identifying skeptics can get when you discuss the possibility of spirits actually existing in some way beyond our ordinary material reality.

They're clearly emotionally invested in their worldview. Maybe it is an unspoken fear that as they stare into the abyss, they would be horrified to know the abyss is staring back at them, and that on the far side of death it isn't necessarily the blank unconscious eternity they might be looking forward to.

So, my take is, interesting, kind of, possible, perhaps, but unless one is unfortunate enough to require the services of an exorcist, probably a subject better left alone.
Interestingly, it isn't seen like this in a place like Nepal. I know an exorcist in Kathmandu and he's quite casual about it. He lives in an ordinary apartment with his family. I get the impression the community see him as a good Lama with a certain expertise that is needed once in awhile.

I think the Western fears about exorcism and demons are heavily influenced by Catholicism which is basically the "go to place" and representative institution in the Western world when it comes to discussing the subject. Hollywood also contributes a lot to the common understanding. In Christianity, if you're dealing with demons you're effectively speaking to the Devil himself or his direct agent, which is probably pretty terrifying if you're a devout Christian. In a Buddhist context, however, there's various classes of beings (devas, asuras, pretas and so on) you might be dealing with, most of which are of limited power. I recall that Tibetan medicine specifically addresses their respective symptoms.
tad etat sarvajñānaṃ karuṇāmūlaṃ bodhicittahetukam upāyaparyavasānam iti |
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Nicholas Weeks
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Re: Washington Post: Demonic Possession

Post by Nicholas Weeks » Sun Jul 03, 2016 8:17 pm

Another thread on the subject:

http://www.dharmawheel.net/viewtopic.ph ... it=demonic
In short, all the infinite phenomena of samsara and nirvana are nothing
else than the projection of one’s own mind and are therefore an illusion.
Nothing is truly existent and permanent. When you understand this,
you will realize that everything is unborn like space, that its nature is
emptiness. It is with this realization—that you yourself, the teacher, and all
phenomena are like a dream and illusion—that you should practice the
meditation on the wisdom deity and recite the mantra. And if you ever
have a sign of accomplishment, even a vision of the yidam, you should continue
to recognize its illusory nature and avoid the error of feeling attached
or proud. To be conceited and think, “I have achieved a sign of accomplishment”
is an obstacle, a demon. However high your realization may be, you
must never be proud of any signs such as clairvoyance that you may experience,
but remain free from clinging and see their dreamlike nature. Other
wise, if you are attached to such things, it will be impossible for even the
most basic qualities of the path to develop in your mind. As the great siddha
Saraha said, “Wherever there is attachment, there will be a downfall.”
Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, Zurchungpa’s Testament, 52.
Distrust everyone in whom the impulse to punish is powerful!
Nietzsche

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