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When most naive people think of the word Medium they conjure up visions of the popular media-fed Hollywood version, that is, a person of a certain, albeit somewhat suspicious spiritual or psychic bent, usually in a turban and a darkened room acting as a conduit or go-between to the "spiritual world," using seances, tarot cards, or crystal balls to contact the dead. Such a definition pre-assumes a lot.

The above notwithstanding, in the classical sense, most not-so-naive people would say that when a Medium is in a trance, the spirit of a certain person, god, or deity communicates through the Medium and offers advice or guidance to those seeking help. Others might say that the trance-state is the work of the subconscious mind which surfaces and takes over the conscious mind. In either case, the word Medium still has a much deeper meaning than what surfaces in any of the above, even for some of those in "the know." In a much deeper sense, in the Spiritual World, the Medium is primarily:

an agent or go-between between the person that wants something done and that which is done

...which is to say, whether a Medium in the classical sense, a shaman, root doctor, person of spells, a healer, or metaphysician, being between or in the middle, as an intermediate, they are a "Medium."

There ARE differences, however, no matter how subtle or slight. In a comparison of the two, Medium and Shaman for example, José María Poveda in his book CHAMANISMO: The Natural Art of Healing writes:

Shaman activity can partially be described as a particular form of Mediumism. It can also be said that the Medium, for the most part, exists in the urban society and that his trance is passive, while the Shaman uses nature, the rural world, as a reference and his trance or Shaman state of consciousness is an active phenomenon with a general maintenance of control. M. Harner considers the Shamanic Trance States essential for Shamanism, which is described as a "journey" (Shaman state of consciousness). Once done, he is capable of remembering it. The Medium doesn’t necessarily remember what he did or happened during the trance.

He goes on to write:

Both affirm they have a relationship with the "spirits". In both there is a change in the state of consciousness, a modification that can be searched for voluntarily by both. In the Shaman’s case, the control of the relationship with the spirits is generally more energetic; while the Medium acts in a more passive way. Adapted to what is being elaborated in those moments, the Shaman can discuss with the spirits and appears to have more power than the Medium. He treats the "spirits" he finds as his equals. (source)

All over the world people seek the advice and guidance of Mediums to overcome their problems in situations which they consider as beyond their comprehension. Thus then, the Medium's help is sought in many ways and for various reasons. In time of sickness when medical help is apparently ineffective, some people may become desperate and turn anywhere to seek solace. At such times, Mediums are often consulted. Some people also turn to Mediums when they are faced with a complex and vexing problem and are unable to find an acceptable solution. Others consult Mediums out of greed in order to get rich quickly or to meet, get, hold or create love from another person.


Consulting Mediums is a fairly common practice amongst the public. The Buddhist attitude towards consulting a Medium is one of neutrality. It is difficult to verify whether what the Medium conveys is correct or not. The practice of consulting Medium is not a Buddhist practice; it is just a traditional practice. One reason it is difficult to verify what a Medium conveys is made clear in the Avyaakata which discusses the Buddha's ten indeterminate questions. Question numbers 7,8,9, and 10 read: "whether Enlightened ones exist after death," "or does not exist after death," "or both exists and does not exist after death," "or neither exits nor does not exist after death." The Anguttara Nikaya IV.77 touches on the subject as well.

Consulting Mediums is for worldly material gain; the Teaching of the Buddha is for spiritual development. However, if people believe what the Medium conveys is true, there is NO reason for Buddhists to object to such practices.

If a person really understands and practices the life and teaching of the Buddha, he can realize the nature of his problems. He can overcome his own problems without consulting any Medium, however none of this is presented to negate any "powers" of a Medium, Tang-ki, or Shaman. Buddhism has a long history of such powers, only just not framed in the same language. Purists on both sides might disagree, but one should consider the following:

Buddhism teaches that after a practitioner achieves a certain degree of realization, spiritual power develops. A person at the level of an Arhat is said to possess six supernatural powers. Even so, it is understood that it is through Enlightenment that supernatural powers are manifested, rather than that supernatural powers enhance Enlightenment. Furthermore, it is acknowledged as well that supernatural powers are not attainable exclusively JUST by Buddhists and Buddhists only. It is possible for anyone who has deep religious and spiritual cultivation to develop some kind of "super-normal powers.(source)

Digha Nikaya 11

In the Kevatta Sutra we see the position taken up by the early Buddhists, and no doubt by Gotama himself, as to the practice of the wonders or miracles, in which there was then universal belief, powers refered to or falling under the meaning of the word Siddhi or Siddhis in Sanskrit.

As usual the Buddha is represented as not taking the trouble to doubt or dispute the fact of the existence of such powers. He simply says that he loathes the practice of them and that a greater and better wonder than any or all of them; is education in the system of self-training which culminates in Arahatship. There is no evidence of a similarly reasonable view of this question of wonders having been put forward by any Indian teacher before the Buddha.

The Buddha said that neither the repetition of scriptures, nor self-torture, nor sleeping on the ground, nor the repetition of prayers, penances, hymns, charms, mantras, incantations and invocations can bring the real happiness of Nirvana. Instead the Buddha emphasized the importance of making individual effort in order to achieve spiritual goals.(source)

The discussion of what might be called miracles (or magic) in the KEVATTA SUTRA and elsewhere in Buddhist scriptures are not miracles (or magic) as one would typically view them in the Western sense. There is NO interference by an outside power with the laws of nature. That is, the "power" or "powers" are drawn from already naturally-existing natural powers: It was supposed that certain people, by reason of special (but quite natural) powers, could accomplish certain special acts beyond the power of ordinary men. These acts are set forth in detail and are similar to some (but not of all) of the powers attributed to Mediums. The belief in such attributes as they unfold in the Sutras is not exclusively Buddhist, however. It is pre-Buddhistic, and common to all schools of thought in India and many, many cultures throughout the world.

The following shows up in many forms throughout spiritual lore, and depending on who cites the source it varies between east Indian yogis, Zen masters and Zen monks, and as below, the Buddha, thus then, illustrating the Buddha's attitude towards the exercise of "miraculous" powers or "certain special acts beyond the power of ordinary men":

One day the Buddha met an ascetic who sat by the bank of a river. This ascetic had practised austerities for 25 years. The Buddha asked him what he had received for all his labor. The ascetic proudly replied that, now at last, he could cross the river by walking on the water. The Buddha pointed out that this gain was insignificant for all the years of labor, since he could cross the river using a ferry for one penny!

It must be remembered that the Buddha's concern was with spiritual development, specifically Enlightenment. He did not disavow the "powers," only viewing with disdain ANYTHING that detoured or impeded one's advancement along the path. Twenty-five years of austerities and for what? To walk on water? He STILL wasn't Enlightened! In other words, through implication, the Buddha never said that such "powers" weren't. So said then, as an actual example of a modern-day real-life "use" by

certain people by reason of special (but quite natural) powers that can accomplish certain special acts beyond the power of ordinary men,

the previously presented quote nonwithstanding:

neither the repetition of scriptures, nor self-torture, nor sleeping on the ground, nor the repetition of prayers, penances, hymns, charms, mantras, incantations and invocations...

can be found in the account below:

For those of you that may be familiar with the Wanderling and his interactions with the shaman man of spells called an Obeahman high in the mountains of Jamaica you may recall that when a young girl from the village was hit by a car, the parents, who could not afford a regular medical doctor, opted to have their daughter taken to the Obeah. The Wanderling and another village member carried the girl in a sling-like hammock slung between two long wooden poles up the hazardous mountain trail to the Obeahman's abode. During that several hour period, although breathing, the girl never regained consciousness. The Wanderling was not allowed to go into the Obeah's hut because he was white, nor were any of the rituals performed observed, that is, if any at all were performed. The next morning the Wanderling ended up clear down the mountain and didn't exactly see what happened to the girl. About two weeks later she was seen to be playing with other village children as though nothing had ever happened. No marks, scars, scratches, casts or anything else. Many months later the Wanderling contracted Dengue Fever and laid in his bed sweating in pools of water, delirious with a high fever, not eating, and basically unable to move. A villager happened by and reported how sick he was to a village elder. He in turn passed word to the Obeah. Under NO circumstances had the Obeah ever been known to leave his mountain lair, everyone in need of his services ALWAYS had to go to him no matter how serious the situation. However, much to the surprise of everyone in the village and others for miles and miles around, within a few hours of hearing of the Wanderling's condition he showed up on the veranda. He would not enter his house, again because the Wanderling was a white man, but he did remove spiritual items and herbs from his Medicine Bag called an Oanga Bag and perform a set of rituals that included spreading sand and ashes in a circle, casting bones into the circle, sitting Buddha-like doing some chanting and using smoke that wafted throughout the house. The next day the Wanderling was up and around, sore, and except for a substantial loss of weight and weak from having not eaten, OK. The Obeah was gone.

The day after the Obeah departed and following a night of heavy wind and rain, the Wanderling, conscious but racked with pain, for the first time in days was able to move and hobbled himself out onto the veranda. Barely able to stay upright he stood before the circle, and despite the storm of the night before, the circle was still in place just as it had been left by the man of spells. An ever so slight breeze came up and spread across the veranda floor twisting itself into a small dust-devil-like Vortex encompassing the Wanderling's bare feet and legs with the ash and sand of the circle. As the twisting breeze climbed his body the pain dissipated eventually disappearing altogether along with the wind.

In an incredibly interesting conincidence, almost paralleling the Wanderling's experience as described above, Enlightened Zen master Hsu Yun (1840-1959), had the following striking similar incident:

Later he (Hsu Yun) caught malaria and dysentery and was dying in a deserted temple on the top of a mountain when the beggar appeared again to give him the hot water and medicine that saved him. The begger, who had given his name as Wen Chi, asked several questions which Hsu Yun did not understand and could not answer because he was still unenlightened and did not understand the living meaning of Ch'an dialogue. Although he was told by the beggar that the latter was known in every monastery on the Five-Peaked Mountain, when Hsu Yun arrived there and asked the monks about Wen Chi no one knew him. Later he mentioned the incident to an elderly abbot who brought his palms together and said: "That beggar was the transformation body of Manjusri Bodhisattva." Only then did the master realize that he had actually met the Bodhisattva who had saved him twice on the long journey.

As to the quote back up the page wherein the Buddha is cited as having said that ANY practice of the repetition of scriptures, self-torture, sleeping on the ground, the repetition of prayers, penances, hymns, charms, mantras, incantations and invocations can NOT bring the real happiness of Nirvana, the Buddha is known throughout his tradition of practicing what he preached --- that is, being a strong supporter, advocate and follower of the implied intent of the quote. So am I. However, not all religions, cultures and spiritual beliefs back or practice such a concept in whole or in part --- not even some that fall within the boundries of Buddhism itself.

While it is such that I am an advocate pro-advocate of the intent behind the above quote I have on occasion run into situations where it just doesn't fit within the boundries of how to accomplish the goals one is trying to accomplish. Typically those occasions fell under the sphere of a tribal culture. For me, most notedly a variety of Native American cultures of the desert southwest. For those who may be so interested, such an example that totally circumnavigates the Buddhist precepts yet remain sucessful in their endevors can be found by going to Incident At Supai.


Dengue fever is a mosquito borne disease and NOT to be taken lightly. Thousands die from it every year. It usually starts suddenly with a high fever, rash, severe headache, pain behind the eyes, and muscle and joint pain. The severity of the joint pain has given dengue the name "breakbone fever." Nausea, vomiting, and loss of appetite are common. A rash usually appears 3 to 4 days after the start of the fever. The illness can last up to 10 days, but complete recovery can take as long as a month. Dengue infections CAN progress to dengue hemorrhagic fever. With dengue hemorrhagic fever, the blood vessels start to leak and cause bleeding from the nose, mouth, and gums. Bruising can be a sign of bleeding inside the body. Without prompt treatment, the blood vessels can collapse, causing shock (dengue shock syndrome).(source)

It should be noted that in the above cited incident, the Wanderling neither asked for, requested, nor solicited the Obeah's "assistance" in modifying the normal flow of events...that is, NOT to allow the fever to just unfold in it's own natural way with it's own natural end result --- nor did the Wanderling on his own, seek any other outside assist in the matter. As it was he was too weak and delirious to have done so anyway. Although no explanation was ever offered it is presumed, because the Wanderling had apprenticed under the Obeah and had a long-established indepth working relationship, an unspoken understanding existed, hence the Obeah's actions.

It is sometimes asked how is it the Wanderling was effected by Dengue in the first place, that is, wouldn't he just be immune, to which the following is offered:

Totapuri was a highly realized orthodox wandering monk that never remained more than three days in one location. However, he became so awed by Sri Ramakrishna's ability in Samadhi to remain 'rigid as a corpse for days on end', that he broke his longstanding rule, resulting in him staying eleven months at Dakshineswar hoping to learn from the man who had previously been his disciple. During this long stay he contracted serious dysentery. There was prolonged and severe pain, which was distracting Totapuri during meditation. Since he considered the body just a medium, essentially unnecessary after the realization of the Absolute, he decided to give up his body by drowning in the Ganges. He walked out into the river, but, even though the river should have been extremely deep, at least in the middle, no matter how far he went the water never got above his knees. He ended up without ever reaching deep water. Eventually he came upon the bank on the far side and when he turned to look back, he saw the Kali temple gleaming in moonlight and like the moonlight driven events of Dark Luminosity, experienced a sudden and deeper, full level of Attainment.

For more on the same, see: Fear In Enlightenment and Zen.

For those of you who may find it of interest, several similar examples involving the "power" of the Obeah as well as those of east Indian yogis, can be found by going to the link "OBEAH" below. The power and how it works is elucidated more clearly in:


DEATH HAD A FACE: The Specter of Death In Shamanism and Zen

HUN TUN: The Power of Chaos In Zen and the Tao


OBEAH:-- Afro-Caribbean Shamanism


The Case Against "Shamans" In the
North American Indigenous Cultures

The above provided through the graceful services of:
K. Sri Dhammananda