Psychic Traditions of Tibet


We look at the relationship between meditation achievement and psychic consciousness in the early stages of study with Tibetan meditation practitioners in India. We would list many various practices momentarily rather than provide an in-depth account of each of them since this is a summary to provide a taste of the culture's psychic rituals. Since there is a scarcity of literature on Tibet's psychic rituals, much of what follows is focused on interviews with a variety of individuals. Psychic practitioners are well-known in Tibetan culture, but there has been no scientific investigation into their methods. Psi is widely used in Tibetan traditions, with three major places that claim to have ancient origins. Extrasensory vision, precognition, and psychokinesis are also examples of parapsychological features of the subconscious. The oracles, which include god possession, are the oldest Tibetan traditions. The mahasiddhis and a Tibetan deity named Palden Lhamo are sometimes used in Mo divination.

The attainment of psychic abilities through Buddhist meditation practice, and a belief in deliberately selected reincarnation, culminating in tulkus that are classified using a number of psychic practices, are two fields of more recent beliefs that are mainly related to monastic societies and stem directly from Buddhism.

Tibetan traditions are a unique blend of original shamanic Bon beliefs, Buddhism, which arrived in Tibet approximately 1,300 years ago, and Indian Buddhist tantric traditions, which arrived in Tibet approximately 1,000 years ago. Tibetan tradition's psychic elements date largely from the pre-Buddhist shamanic era, but they are not inherently anti-Buddhist and have since been thoroughly introduced by monks into their rituals. There are several various forms of Buddhism, but Tibetan Buddhism is known for including and developing psychic powers.

Per culture has its own point of view on the universe. Exploring a particular world will also allow us to view our own beliefs and ideas in a new way. Beliefs are an integral part of one's emotional makeup, which is influenced to a large extent by the society in which one is raised. We are always unaware of our belief structures until they are pointed out to us or until we go to an entirely new community where people have very different views.

Most Tibetans consider the psychic as a normal part of life. The use of astrology by Tibetans is an example of divination's importance in daily life. Their calendars list over a dozen different characteristics of each day, such as whether it is a good day to start a company, get married, have a funeral, or even throw a party!

Tibetans have a culture of oracles, also known as kuten, which means "medium." The Dalai Lama and the Tibetan government consult the Nechung Oracle, who is recognized as the state oracle, after entering trance and being possessed by a god. The deity then talks through the medium, offering guidance and prophecy, which is used to make decisions by people at all levels of society.

The Dalai Lama holds the oracle in high regard, as shown by the following quote: It has been customary for the Dalai Lama and the government to meet Nechung during the New Year festivities for hundreds of years. In addition, he can be contacted at other occasions if either party has a particular question. For readers of the twenty-first century, this can seem far-fetched. But we do so for the simple reason that time has shown that the oracle's response was right on any of the few times when we have posed questions to him. Surprisingly, the oracle's responses to questions are not ambiguous.

There are a lot of oracles out there. Many monasteries, as well as the more traditional village lay oracles, may have their own resident oracle, who is sometimes a monk. In a series of private interviews, Kirti Tsenshab Rinpoche revealed the following details about oracles. Kirti Tsenshab Rinpoche was recommended because he was an expert on Tibetan Buddhism's tantric facets. We are thankful and fortunate to have had the opportunity to share time with him—a profoundly holy man.

A successful prophecy is dependent on two factors: the medium's capacity and the participants' confidence. He thought trust was necessary and compared this interaction between the medium and the sitter to using a crutch if you have a bad leg—you need both to walk effectively. Many of the people we've talked with have emphasized the importance of religion. For example, the head of the Nyingma sect, Penor Rinpoche, said that the diviner must have complete faith in the deity, and the questioner must have complete faith in the diviner, when it comes to divination.

As a result, the sitter must have full confidence in the medium's skills, and since there are both good and bad mediums, one must verify their effectiveness over time to build trust in them. He believed that it was necessary and try and see whether the oracle's divination would be accurate. Buddhists, he said, are like scientists in that they double-check everything. He clarified that if you have a precognition, you will improve the certainty of your intuition by telling a lot of people what they think of it, and that you can do so.

He advised making ratings for anything, such as a 3- or 6-month prophecy, checking the individual who gave it: are they trustworthy? What are their ways of expressing themselves? What are their credentials? What is education? What is the way they dress? Should they have good communication skills? What is their track record? In a related vein, he claims that we would scrutinize all. He used the comparison where someone may look joyful or unhappy, but it's all in their head. He was adamant that our senses can be deceiving, and that our senses are faulty when we're ill.

The Tibetan tantric teaching that an oracle becomes possessed by a god because of the wind energy in their channels was also stated by Kirti Tsenshabe Rinpoche. The channels are analogous to the nadis of the Yogic tantric tradition, and the wind energy is conceived similarly to prana. He believes that certain people will see into the future because of past-life karma linked to their wind energy. This was echoed by several other people we talked with.

The art of Mo divination is much more general than oracles. At least one lama who performs Mo divination can be found in almost every monastery. There are also a lot of lay villagers who "do the Mo." According to an article in the Tibetan magazine ‘Cho Yang, the object of divination is to examine a person's life condition to provide advice about how to answer or cope with it. Remedial behavior, such as rituals, evokes constructive energies that may lead to a shift in a person's karma. When a person performs a divination, he or she is dependent on the power bestowed upon him by a deity.

This strength may have been gained through a past-life bond with the lord and strengthened through retreats that included reciting a mantra a million times, comparing himself with the deity with strong focus, and the generation of spiritual pride. The purpose for performing divination must be genuine, and the primary goal should be to assist human beings.

This quotation exemplifies the Tibetan practice of combining shamanic and Buddhist practices. Relation with a god is considered an integral part of the psychic act, as it is in the beliefs about the oracle, and the Buddhist teachings of karma and altruistic motivation are stated.

Eleven separate divination methods are mentioned in the Cho Yang journal paper. Doughball divination is only used by high lamas to assist in the discovery of a significant reincarnation, so it is seldom used. Potential candidates' names are drawn on paper and then rolled into a dough ball. Each candidate's name is placed in an equal-sized ball, with special care taken to ensure that each ball is similar. These balls are set in a sealed bowl in front of a holy stone, such as a temple idol, and monks stay in the temple for three days, reciting prayers day and night.

The cover is withdrawn on the fourth day, and a high lama rolls the doughballs around in the bowl before one comes out. That's the ball with the response inside.

This procedure was repeated three times in the case of the new Panchen Lama, who was imprisoned by the Chinese, and each time the same name came up. Dice and Mala divination are the most common types of divination. In Mala divination, the individual carries the mala, which is a string of prayer beads, with the fingers of each hand randomly picking a bead.

The intervening beads are then counted out three at a time before only one, two, or three remain, revealing the divination's result. Dice would be tossed in a similar way, with the diviner breathing on the dice before casting.

In most cases, three dice are used. The guidance in the first two types of divination is provided by books that explain what the various results represent. Odd numbers, for example, are considered lucky when rolling the dice, whereas even numbers are considered unlucky. The best result with the mala is three beads. Unlike doughball, dice, and mala divination, which rely on a "random" occurrence providing a significant association with the person's query or synchronicity, direct clairvoyance is used in the next most common method of divination.

Dorje or Lhamo Yudronma, a guardian god, is known for using mirror divination. The mirror is mounted ceremonially, and ceremonies are done, as with previous Mo types. The diviner sees the deity's manifestations, reflections in writings, and letters. When we went to see Amathaba, a lovely old Tibetan lady who lives in one of the Tibetan settlements in south India, she saw a misty dawn scene that eventually cleared, and she viewed it as an initial challenge that would be resolved. To help resolve the challenges, she suggested asking the local nuns to say special prayers and hang prayer flags. This is a natural occurrence.

She claims it was a gift she was born with and that it ran in her blood, with her becoming the seventh person to inherit it. In her scenario, three mirrors are stacked vertically in a tub of rice. She sees the deities associated with the divination in two of them, and the actual reading in the front mirror. She is well-liked in the city, and many people seek her advice. You peer at the thumbnail and blow on it to receive the image of thumb nail divination. When the Mo is performed using a mirror or a thumbnail, the diviner is more likely to see specific symbolic visions, which are then translated considering the querent's dilemma.

Also in this category come precognitive or clairvoyant dreams.

These, like most Tibetan methods, are associated with a certain god. As in mirror divination, various objects are linked to different objects. We were told about a local woman who sought the advice of a lama, who advised her to have a dream about her dilemma. That night, the lama even recorded their own dream. The lama then compared the two visions and made assumptions, which turned out to be true. Although Kirti Tsenshab Rinpoche agrees that prophecies will manifest as visions in dreams, he believes this is less credible because not all dreams are prophecy, and one can never be certain whether a dream is correctly prophetic.

The querent is usually the one who does the next set of activities. Until 1959, about 80% of Tibetans were semi-nomadic in some way. As a result, their procedures are much easier than previous approaches, and the knowledge needed is mainly whether it is advantageous to perform a particular operation. Nomads are fond of bootstrap divination. The belts, which are made up of wide strips of webbing tape, are folded into squares and then yanked apart. If they separate quickly, it's a good sign; if they tangle, it's called unfortunate. This method of divination has been described to me by several people, and it appears to be quite common in Tibet.

Tibetans also notice omens such as seeing certain birds, hearing certain songs, or hearing people utter auspicious things, all of which are good. There are a variety of derogatory indicators as well, such as monkey talk or, more surprisingly, watching a black cat cross your way before embarking on a trip. It's odd that a black cat has such a mystique in both Britain and Tibet! Divination may also be done by looking at the fires in a ceremonial fire or watching a butter lamp.

In this event, the fire god is invoked, and then the blaze is seen. Various kinds of fire have varying meanings. Apart from the value of faith, which is often discussed in interviews with diviners, another aspect that is considered utterly vital is praying to Buddha or a protector deity, most usually Palden Lhamo, who is Tibet's and divination's main protector deity.

Palden Lhamo is usually concerned with dice and mala divination. Many of the diviners we talked with insisted that they are not psychic; rather, they are the conduit for the god, who guides the roll of the dice, or whatever form they use, by them. They don't believe themselves to be doing anything more than facilitating communication between the querent and the deity. According to Kirti Tsenshab Rinpoche, if your supplication to the lord is fine, then you will have a good Mo. In addition, having a positive relationship with the god improves your abilities.

He also claims that those who have a strong belief in Buddhism are stronger at doing the Mo, and that their ability improves over time. It's also critical that the diviner's "steam" channels have been cleansed. Before being found fit to perform Mo divination, one Rinpoche we spoke with had gone through three months of purification rituals, including singing deity-specific mantras, prostrations, and pujas. Divination varies from the most basic "positive or poor luck" omens to finely specialized clairvoyant talents, and from rituals that anybody may do to those that are usually practiced only by monks, as this list of various types of practices shows.

This part of Tibetan psychic tradition is the one that has the most in common with Buddhist teachings. The shamatha discipline of one-pointed emphasis and the vipassana discipline of contemplative insight are the two meditation disciplines of Buddhism. The development of shamatha calm-abiding, or mental quiescence, is regarded as a necessary first step. Many traditional Mahayana and modern Tibetan Buddhist scriptures, as well as Yogic teachings, connect meditation attainment to the creation of psychic forces.

Since Buddhist clairvoyancy requires what we term miraculous forces, it seems that this "clairvoyancy" is more like what we might call omniscience in the West, rather than the clairvoyance we study in parapsychology. Traditional Buddhist scriptures speak of the six super knowledges gained by concentration perfection and make it clear that practicing concentration meditation leads to both enlightenment and psychic consciousness, and that one cannot exist without the other. In interviews with various monks, it was repeatedly emphasized that only a small number of individuals achieve samadhi and clairvoyant powers, and that clairvoyance is only 80 percent accurate.

Only absolute enlightenment leads to omniscience. Not everyone who meditates will achieve samadhi, and not everyone who meditates will develop psychic abilities. To put it another way, there is a genius for enlightenment, a genius for yoga, and a genius for psychic consciousness. While we can all learn something, not everyone is gifted. Just a few people are gifted with genius.

A new study conducted at a yoga ashram and with Tibetan Buddhist monks found that those who had practiced meditation for longer periods of time, tested by an image examination for precognition and clairvoyance, did appear to have more accurate psychic knowledge. However, since this study is still in its early stages, the teachings can only be considered "suggestively verified" at this time. The yoga studies have been published, while the first Buddhist thesis was discussed at a conference and sent to a journal but has yet to be published.

Many cultures seem to have certain apprehensions about psychic phenomena. In most civilizations, we hear accounts about paranormal powers being used for derogatory ends, and Tibetan culture, in an obvious contradiction, is no exception. Tibetan culture, as previously said, is still very similar to its shamanic origins. Shamanic civilizations embrace psychic phenomena as a natural fact of life. The wonder and terror that accompany psychic phenomena are very visible in shamanic societies.

Demons, and the apprehension of them, seem to be widespread in Tibet. Disease, for example, is often believed to be caused by a bad spirit among Tibetans. Someone became sick after a tree in the garden was chopped down, according to legend, and this was linked to the tree's spirit. This is a traditional shamanic notion. Sickness is often linked to a sorcerer who, at someone's invitation, sends an evil spirit, or curse.

This isn't to suggest that shamans only use their psychic powers for worse, but it is to say that they have been used in this manner often enough for people to grow a mistrust of them. Milarepa's legends, in which he is said to have killed many people at a distance, exemplify the fear of "evil" sorcery and the illusion that people would commit such atrocities. People talking about the individual "mikha- suk" also created a belief in illness.

In Western culture, this is referred to as the "evil eye," and it refers to damage caused by undue acclaim for some sort of achievement or accomplishment, such as possessing a particularly attractive item or a freshly constructed house that has become the talk of the town. This is thought to be especially dangerous for very young children, who need special care.

There is also the apprehension of a spirit known as a "disa," which means "smell-eater," which is a captured spirit that runs after food and is said to be pleased by the sheer smell of the food put for it. There is a perception that a spirit may inhabit a living person or a dead person, and that the spirit is always trapped inside an object that once belonged to that person. An amulet is a necklace worn around one's neck to ward off evil or damage. It's always used to keep you safe from damage you don't know about. A "ga'u," a kind of amulet, is a small silver casket that holds relics, images of holy people, and other objects. Tibetans sometimes wear a ga'u under their coat.

And, of course, the classic case of a guy using a charm to seduce a young person! We found it fascinating that in our interviews with Kirti Tsenshab Rinpoche, he repeatedly emphasized the role of Buddhism in building a moral sphere in which psychic powers could be used. In several respects, Buddhism is being firmly developed to morally “move on” from some of the issues that arise in shamanic cultures.

One concern is that when discussing psychic phenomena, you can draw a spirit, which may or may not be helpful. There is a belief, for example, that when you are possessed by a demon, such as the oracles, you stop evolving at the level of the spirit who owns you—or you simply stop developing. Tibetans believe that all ghosts have the potential to hurt us. Many legends exist of a kind of ghost known as "hungry ghosts," as well as others that would draw you to your death. When doing Mo divination, Kirti Tsenshab Rinpoche advised being wary of ghostly obstacles.

They, or other creatures, have the power to hinder and hurt us. He believes that prayer to the guardian god at the start of the divination, good karma, and merit provide us with protection. He further claims that personal growth can be divided into two paths: going into the unconscious and going for super-consciousness. Psi powers, such as oracular trance, dreams, or hypnosis, are usually associated with the former, while spiritual growth is associated with the latter. Spirit communication, as practiced by mediums, is inextricably linked to the unconscious nature of consciousness.

For Tibetans, this is a complicated and paradoxical topic since, as Buddhists, high lamas perform Mo divination on the behalf of people who come to them for various purposes. They also do tulku identity divination. There are also several oracles, some of which are formal state oracles. As a result, psi is practiced all over the world. The need for defense, as well as the existence of unethical practitioners, is recognized, but there is no prohibition on practicing. Tibetans, according to our translators, are very pleased with this obvious inconsistency.

The fear of unethical psi use is a very visible surface fear; the fear of pride is a more nuanced fear. It is considered impolite in the Indian subcontinent and among Tibetans to pay some particular attention to psi. Psychic powers are believed to have a negative impact on one's spiritual development. It is emphasized that having achieved Enlightenment, one is no longer troubled psychologically by the acquisition of psychic abilities, while psychic abilities are very tricky by unenlightened individuals, and are synonymous with deceit, glamour, and vanity.

His Holiness is a saint. In his book Freedom in Exile, the Dalai Lama shares a need for Western science to experiment. When we met with Geshe Samten, the director of the Sarnath Institute, he told me that, while Tibet has a long history of psychic ability, even those who have a reputation for psychic knowledge will doubt their abilities. He claims that claiming to be psychic or “showing off” your ability is frowned upon.

There must be a real reason for practicing paranormal abilities. Even claiming to have completed a certain stage of meditation is seen as a roadblock on the way to enlightenment. Humility is thought to be necessary for spiritual growth. The Dalai Lama, for example, has stated several times that he is a plain monk who is not clairvoyant.

Since these are hidden teachings, Tibetans have a history of not speaking about them. The Dalai Lama, for example, writes about Herbert Benson's work with Tum-mo meditators: We agreed to let him go ahead, despite our reservations, because we believe in the importance of modern science. We were aware that many Tibetans were opposed to the proposal. They believed that since the activities in question are based on hidden teachings, they should be kept secret.

Tibetan monks and nuns who use methods that are believed to be linked to the creation of psychic knowledge swear not to talk about their activity or disclose their skills. Practitioners first take their vows, after which they prepare and exercise. This avoidance of recognizing one's psychic powers, which are thought to manifest at one stage of spiritual maturity on the way, is a tacit awareness of psi and its expression from which we could benefit.

Another part of the psychic's apprehension is the realization that authority corrupts, and that attractive psychic powers are seen as extremely strong. It is true that such psychic faculties capable of a worldly use, such as the Dibba-cakkhu or clairvoyance, Dibba- sota or clairaudience, Mano-Maya-Kaya or projection of the'astral body' and other paranormal forces, are established in the course of Buddhist meditation, according to Francis Story in an introduction to a book on early Buddhist Pali Canon. The Buddha and the Arhats had those abilities, which they used when necessary to help the ignorant who requested "signs and wonders."

However, the Buddha mostly despised their use, choosing to disseminate the Dhamma through the "miracle of teaching" and the self-propagating force of reality. They can become attachment-forming faculties in those that are not yet completely emancipated from earthly illusion, and as such must be defended against and conquered in the fight for Nibbanna. According to Buddhism, anybody who engages in concentration activities to gain supernormal powers or Iddhi is doing so with the wrong intention and putting himself in grave danger. If any authority corrupts, supernormal power has the potential to corrupt much further. This is a very real fear, and we're confident that most people will recall instances of this aspect of human life.

Not claiming to have powers you don't have is one of the Buddhist precepts. As previously mentioned, in our conversations with Kirti Rinpoche, he often mentioned confirming that the practitioner is not a charlatan, for example while discussing oracles. He also said that it is important to examine the psychic practitioner's appearances: "Don't be fooled by appearances; look at what is actually being taught." He emphasized the importance of examining the essence rather than the appearance. He used the metaphor of a poem to caution people against being fooled by pretty words. What is it about psychic powers that fascinates us so much?

Why do we revere those who have them too easily? This is the source of both the phony psi and the ego glorification that people feel while displaying psychic abilities.

This is just the start, a glimpsing of a vast and complicated society and its common ideas about the psychic world. His Holiness the Dalai Lama is promoting scientific research into this subject, which we find fascinating. And he's doing so while well mindful of the challenges.

The peril in linking divine conviction to some empirical theory. This isn't to suggest that we believe the oracle and monks' ability to withstand nights spent outside in subzero temperatures are proof of supernatural abilities. Many who argue that Tibetan approval of these phenomena demonstrates our backwardness and barbarism will find me disagreeable. This is not an empirical attitude, except from the most detailed scientific standpoint.

However, just because a theory is agreed does not mean that anything associated with it is right. When coping with subjects about which we have no knowledge, extreme caution must always be exercised. This is where science can help, of course. After all, we just think something enigmatic because we don't get it. We also created methods to do things that science cannot yet fully understand by mental conditioning. This, then, is the foundation of Tibetan Buddhism's alleged "magic and mystery."

Ignorance is a significant roadblock. The aim of the empirical method is “truth.” Is it possible to avoid falling into the pitfalls that accompany the creation and use of psychic abilities if one has a thorough understanding of the psi process? I believe it does, and I believe this is one of the most compelling explanations for conducting parapsychological research in Tibetan culture.