Do Buddhists practice rituals of exorcism?

Customs and Rituals Read more from
Chapter Buddhism

Since the Buddha emphasized that the individual was the only power of ultimate significance in the quest for liberation, he saw no need for formal ritual designed to do away with negative forces. Keen awareness of one’s own motives and intentions would take care of all problems. Still, Buddhist practice has absorbed various indigenous forms of exorcism from virtually every culture in which the tradition has taken root. Many of the practices still in use in Japan originated in China and were brought to Japan by founders of Japan’s Tendai and Shingon sects in the early ninth century. Japan’s Nichiren school, a development of Tendai tradition, acknowledges four types of demonic possession. Phenomena range from pain caused by an angry spirit to hallucinations to possession by some animal spirit as signaled by personality changes to severe disorders manifested in multiple personalities and voices. Priests of the Nichiren school undergo strict ascetical preparation before performing an exorcism. Someone close to the possessed person serves as a medium to the spirit world, speaking for the possessed person and delivering answers on behalf of the forces of good. In other cases, the exorcist deals directly with the possessed person. Wearing white, the exorcist recites from the principal Nichiren scripture, The Lotus Sutra, makes sharp noises using a set of wooden castanets, and interrogates the one possessed. Some Buddhists prefer exorcism as an alternative to psychotherapy.


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