The six realms of rebirth make up the sphere of samsara. They are as follows: the godly or deva realms, the demigods (asura), humans, animals, preta, and hell denizens.
Today’s blog is about pretas which are disembodied spirits capable of controlling the mind of a living human, causing much distress and unhappiness in their lives.
Preta, in Sanskrit, refers to a departed spirit from a dead person before funeral rites are performed. We can think of them as having a strong bond with the three poisons of dullness (low energy), hostility, and craving (e.g, craving food and sex). One might also associate pretas with inner voices, substance abuse (including alcohol), impulsive behavior, anxiety and depression, physical problems with no discernible cause.
Essentially, pretas are disembodied humans with not so good karma who, because they have not practiced dharma, cannot go any higher (e.g., rebirth into a human). In other words, they have lost much of their humanity.
Because people today are so degenerate and spiritually weak, they can easily be taken over and controlled by pretas. Unfortunately, Western psychology and medicine largely dismiss this as unscientific and unworthy of their attention even though there are many troubling cases which their applied science cannot cure but which show surprising success by psychologists and physicians who treat these cases as if their patients were possessed. This as if approach is illustrated by Dr. Edith Fiore in her now famous work titled, The Unquiet Dead: A Psychologist Treats Spirit Possession.
I am beginning to wonder just how much of a role Zen Buddhism or Tibetan Buddhism can play in keeping beings free of negative spirit possession (preta). It wouldn’t surprise me to learn that Buddhist practice can and does play a huge role in keeping people, for the most part, free from spirit possession. But this could change as Buddhism and, especially, Zen becomes more liberal and accepting of degenerate conduct under the banner of postmodernism.