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I don't think I've seen any talk about this on the Buddhism SE and I'm genuinely curious, since I've heard that Christianity takes a very dim view of the practice. Have any Buddhist texts or teachers made reference to witchcraft or religions that practice it, and if so, was it in a positive / neutral / negative light?

Please note: I'm not really asking whether answerers personally believe that magic / witchcraft exists, so I ask that you stick to the actual question when answering.

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This is an interesting question.

But "witchcraft" is a vague term. In Western culture, it often associates with negative meaning.

If witchcraft is just a board terminology to cover any practice that's outside common sense and general knowledge, you may say Buddhist texts mentioned about it. Often the text retells the story to forbid such practice.

I've read the full Mahisasakas Vinaya, in it mentioned several stories related to witchcraft. Often it's due to some Bhiksus were originally Brahmins they brought it to the Samgha. For example, it mentioned the spell to cure snake bites, spell to call upon spirit to animate corpse, or fortune telling, etc. In it it even mentioned the Precept of Not to Kill included the killing by witchcraft (I will need to check the text to cite properly, it's very interesting).

As said, Buddhist texts notice and understand the practice of witchcraft existed, but banned it, or discouraged it. From the Vinaya, if the Bhiksu continued his practice after its made as breaking the precept, he would be expelled. But the texts never mentioned any prosecution of any practitioner.

From the central teaching of Buddhism, Prajna-paramita is the greatest witchcraft. If anyone wants supernatural power, the best investment is to invest in cultivating wisdom and virtue.

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This quote from DN 2 may be helpful:

"Whereas some contemplatives & brahmans, living off food given in faith, maintain themselves by wrong livelihood, by such "animal" arts as: reading marks on the limbs [e.g., palmistry]; reading omens and signs; interpreting celestial events [falling stars, comets]; interpreting dreams; reading features of the body [e.g., phrenology]; reading marks on cloth gnawed by mice; offering fire oblations, oblations from a ladle, oblations of husks, rice powder, rice grains, ghee, and oil; offering oblations from the mouth; offering blood-sacrifices; making predictions based on the fingertips; geomancy; making predictions for state officials; laying demons in a cemetery; placing spells on spirits; earth-skills [divining water and gems?]; snake-skills, poison-skills, scorpion-skills, rat-skills, bird-skills, crow-skills; predicting life spans; giving protective charms; casting horoscopes — he abstains from wrong livelihood, from "animal" arts such as these.

"Whereas some contemplatives & brahmans, living off food given in faith, maintain themselves by wrong livelihood, by such "animal" arts as: determining lucky and unlucky gems, staffs, garments, swords, arrows, bows, and other weapons; women, men, boys, girls, male slaves, female slaves; elephants, horses, buffaloes, bulls, cows, goats, rams, fowl, quails, lizards, rabbits, tortoises, and other animals — he abstains from wrong livelihood, from "animal" arts such as these.

"Whereas some contemplatives & brahmans, living off food given in faith, maintain themselves by wrong livelihood, by such "animal" arts as [forecasting]: the rulers will march forth; the rulers will not march forth; our rulers will attack, and their rulers will retreat; their rulers will attack, and our rulers will retreat; there will be triumph for our rulers and defeat for their rulers; there will be triumph for their rulers and defeat for our rulers; thus there will be triumph this one, defeat for that one — he abstains from wrong livelihood, from "animal" arts such as these.

"Whereas some contemplatives & brahmans, living off food given in faith, maintain themselves by wrong livelihood, by such "animal" arts as [forecasting]: there will be a lunar eclipse; there will be a solar eclipse; there will be an occultation of [a conjunction of the moon or a planet with] an asterism; the sun and moon will be favorable; the sun and moon will be unfavorable; the asterisms will be favorable; the asterisms will be unfavorable; there will be a meteor shower; there will be a flickering light on the horizon [an aurora?]; there will be an earthquake; there will be thunder coming from dry clouds; there will be a rising, a setting, a darkening, a brightening of the sun, moon, and asterisms; such will be the result of the lunar eclipse ... the rising, setting, darkening, brightening of the sun, moon, and asterisms — he abstains from wrong livelihood, from "animal" arts such as these.

"Whereas some contemplatives & brahmans, living off food given in faith, maintain themselves by wrong livelihood, by such "animal" arts as [forecasting]: there will be abundant rain; there will be a drought; there will be plenty; there will be famine; there will be rest and security; there will be danger; there will be disease; there will be freedom from disease; or they earn their living by accounting, counting, calculation, composing poetry, or teaching hedonistic arts and doctrines [lokāyata] — he abstains from wrong livelihood, from "animal" arts such as these.

"Whereas some contemplatives & brahmans, living off food given in faith, maintain themselves by wrong livelihood, by such "animal" arts as: calculating auspicious dates for marriages — both those in which the bride is brought home and those in which she is sent out; calculating auspicious dates for betrothals and divorces; for collecting debts or making investments and loans; reciting charms to make people attractive or unattractive; curing women who have undergone miscarriages or abortions; reciting spells to bind a man's tongue, to paralyze his jaws, to make him lose control over his hands, or to bring on deafness; getting oracular answers to questions addressed to a spirit in a mirror, in a young girl, or to a spirit medium; worshipping the sun, worshipping the Great Brahmā, bringing forth flames from the mouth, invoking the goddess of luck — he abstains from wrong livelihood, from "animal" arts such as these.

"Whereas some contemplatives & brahmans, living off food given in faith, maintain themselves by wrong livelihood, by such "animal" arts as: promising gifts to deities in return for favors; fulfilling such promises; demonology; reciting spells in earth houses [see earth skills, above]; inducing virility and impotence; preparing sites for construction; consecrating sites for construction; giving ceremonial mouthwashes and ceremonial baths; offering sacrificial fires; administering emetics, purges, purges from above, purges from below, head-purges; ear-oil, eye-drops, treatments through the nose, ointments, and counter-ointments; practicing eye-surgery [or: extractive surgery], general surgery, pediatrics; administering root-medicines and binding medicinal herbs — he abstains from wrong livelihood, from "animal" arts such as these. This, too, is part of his virtue."

"A monk thus consummate in virtue sees no danger anywhere from his restraint through virtue. Just as a head-anointed noble warrior king who has defeated his enemies sees no danger anywhere from his enemies, in the same way the monk thus consummate in virtue sees no danger anywhere from his restraint through virtue. Endowed with this noble aggregate of virtue, he is inwardly sensitive to the pleasure of being blameless. This is how a monk is consummate in virtue.

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Christianity takes a very dim view of the practice

So far as I know, Christianity doesn't approve of "witchcraft" but does approve of "miracles".

I think the difference is meant to be whether the source of the magic is God, or, a Devil.


I'm not really asking whether answerers personally believe that magic / witchcraft exists

So I guess by "witchcraft" you mean any kind of magic.

I think some scriptures talk of or mention, tells a story which includes, various psychic powers -- reading minds, television (seeing what happens far away), teleportation (disappearing from here and appearing there), psychic projection (seeming to appear somewhere else), flying though the air, knowing the state into which someone recently-deceased has (or has not) been reborn, and so on, others too.

These powers are often associated with adept practitioners, enlightened people, the Buddha -- but not necessarily, i.e. merely having these attainments isn't proof of being enlightened -- many yogis do, apparently.

A monk who has such a power is forbidden (by the Vinaya, the monastic rules) from demonstrating them to laypeople, for various reasons -- lay people are too easily impressed, they ought to be impressed by the Dhamma instead, and they shouldn't favour one monk over another just because one has psychic powers.

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