This might be a more theoretical question than a directly practical one. I routinely see creatures of different realms approaching humans in the texts. and not just to enlightened ones like Buddha and some of his disciples, but even other far-from-liberated regular monks and householders.

Now even though I believe, and to certain extent, understand other realms of existence, it nonetheless remains a mystery to me why would these creatures only appear exclusively in those times and not nowadays.

Why do you think it could be the case? I doubt the texts are wrong, although that possibility can't be excluded - especially in the sense of exaggeration etc.

5 Answers 5


Perhaps you haven't live with, haven't experienced (first- or second-hand) e.g. psychosis and schizophrenia.

Put it another way, I'm not sure it's true that 'these creatures' never appear in modern times. However if someone sees them and reports they see, perhaps their experience and testimony is discounted -- as a lie, an exaggeration, perhaps a metaphor, or a hallucination, a symptom of a mental illness.

Perhaps it isn't that unusual (e.g. 0.5% of the population) even these days to see a supreme being, or sometimes to be one, however people who experience this might be diagnosed with mental illness, and it's "marginalized" in normal society.

Further to this theory, nowadays this condition is sometimes treated medically e.g. with (often quite effective) antipsychotic medication -- which wasn't available in those times so they'd have lived without. Also I gather that people who did see "the spirit world" might have been concentrated in the spiritual communities:

  • I am not saying Buddhism is crazy but it might have had a slightly higher proportion of people with unusual experiences and perceptions
  • Habits and lifestyle of the homeless might be unusual (for example maybe sometimes a chronic shortage of sleep and so on)
  • People who don't "fit in" to regular society often end up "homeless" even these days, whether outcast or by choice
  • Conversely Buddhist monks are unusually well-able to tolerate their presence

I've seen it suggested that in some ("indigenous") societies, such people might have been respected e.g. as shamans, spiritual leaders.

Please don't read this answer as implying disrespect or animosity.

  • Thanks for the detailed answer. I think your points make a lot of sense, escpecially the mass cultural indoctrination and treatements with medicines. Commented Jan 12 at 21:55

In the Pali suttas, various gods, such as deva (benevolent gods), asura (demonic gods), yakkha, naga, etc, have certain archetypal characteristics. To understand these archetypal characteristics, we need to carefully read the archetypal characteristics of these beings as described in the suttas. Then we can reconcile these archetypal beings with living beings in the here & now. For example, about one class or use of 'yakkha', the Pali dictionary says:

Generally speaking, the Yakkhas were decadent divinities, beings half deified, having a deva’s supernormal powers, particularly as regards influencing people, partly helpful, partly harmful. They are sometimes called devatā SN.i.205 or devaputta. Some of these, like Indakūta and Sūciloma, are capable of intelligent questioning on metaphysics and ethics.

So, when we reflect upon the above archetype, we can observe in the world how there are people who are very powerful at influencing people. These people may be politicians, musicians, comedians, gurus, etc, but they have the gift of influencing people, often partly helpful, partly harmful.

For example, right now I am watching live the International Court of Justice. The very fact the world has currently reached this perilous crossroads shows how the common people have been more & more influenced by certain influencers; compared to weaker influencers.

Related to this is a sutta such as the Subhasita-jaya Sutta, which compares the benevolent deva to the demonic asura. The benevolent deva believe in governing people with patience while the demonic asura believe in governing people with punishment & violence.

Of particular relevance to some of these gods is the characteristic of psychic powers. Most internet Buddhists have never met a person with psychic powers; be it a Buddhist monk, Buddhist practitioner or a Christian mystic or another spiritual practitioner. When we understand there are people with psychic powers who follow & propagate other religions, we will then understand why there are yakkha, mara & even deva & brahma who oppose the Buddhist teachings. Not all benevolent deva & brahma believe the Buddhist teachings are the most effective for ordinary people.


We don’t see spirits , ghosts , devas because it will kill atheism. Killing atheism will kill science, which claims to explain everything materially. Killing science will kill technological growth. Killing technological growth will kill financial growth. Killing financial growth will kill material attachments. Killing material attachments will kill the cravings to run the world united by money and food.

It is the desire to be united for financially rich goals which suppresses the spiritual revolution. Money unites the world like no other.

  • i understand that quite well, being in hardcore scientific field myself. But still it seems a wonder that no one has recorded, or widely known evidence of ANY kind for ANY being other than humans and animals. Commented Jan 12 at 20:34
  • @Kobamschitzo Anything which doesn’t conforms to financially rich goals is thrown away from mainstream science including ghosts, devils , ghouls etc. Evidences are cooked in the kitchen of science. Commented Jan 13 at 6:32

When you walk in a park and find some ants walking in a row, bend down and look at the ants and observe what they are doing. Then wave your hands at them and say, "ants, how are you today?". They don't respond back. If you place your finger somewhere near their path, they would ignore it and continue onwards.

You would find that the ants are completely oblivious of your presence.

Similarly, the devas or brahmas who are said to be superior to humans, may be watching us and attempting to interact with us, but we may be completely oblivious of them.

On this page, hungry ghosts or hungry shades (petas) are described as:

peta yoni — here the beings have deformed bodies and are usually consumed by hunger and thirst

In the Janussonin Sutta, the Buddha states that food offerings to the dead cannot reach them if they are reborn in hell, as animal, as human or as devas (heavanly beings). However, food offerings to the dead would reach them or other ancestors who are born as hungry ghosts or petas. Those who offer this, would not go unrewarded for their generosity, according to the sutta. This appears to be the practice described in the Tirokudda Kanda.

Ven. Nanda Mahathera writes here:

Peta-yoni (pa + ita) lit., departed beings, or those absolutely devoid of happiness. They are not disembodied spirits of ghosts. They possess deformed physical forms of varying magnitude, generally invisible to the naked eye. They have no planes of their own, but live in forests, dirty surroundings, etc.

Ven. Ajaan Lee Dhammadharo describes them here as:

Hungry shades come in all different shapes and sizes — really entertaining, the hungry shades. Some of them have heads as big as large water jars, but their mouths are just like the eye of a needle: that's all, no bigger than the eye of a needle! Some of them have legs six yards long, but hands only half a foot. They're amazing to watch, just like a cartoon. Some of them have lower lips with no upper lips, some of them are missing their lips altogether, with their teeth exposed all the time. There are all kinds of hungry shades. Some of them have big, bulging eyes, the size of coconuts, others have fingernails as long as palm leaves. You really ought to see them. Some of them are so fat they can't move, others so thin that they're nothing but bones. And sometimes the different groups get into battles, biting each other, hitting each other.

Based on all the descriptions above, it sounds to me like hungry ghosts or hungry shades are microorganisms. It also makes sense that when food offerings are made to the dead, they would be consumed by microorganisms.

  • Quite interesting theory, that could indeed be exactly what it is! Still curious how mind when developed can see fine things like bacteria. I always assumed these other beings were spirits of some parts of physical nature, and bacteria too being one class of that. Commented Jan 12 at 20:44

Im not a teacher and this is my own opinion:

I believe some people do have that perception, but not everyone that sees them are unaffected by their kleshas. With that said I believe only realized beings have that pure perception, and not all of these beings do have this ability.

What I found out is that wind disorders, in Tibetan medicine, can result in mental illnesses and the best approach to heal or stabilize these disorders is to combine modern medicine with Dharma. These mental illnesses are called: Schizophrenia; Psychosis; Schizoaffective disorder; etc.

There is one condition that gives hallucinations called Hallucinosis that may be caused by epilepsy, drugs, alcohol, etc and is not considered a mental illness - because it doesn't affect your judgment nor your critical thinking. I believe that this is the condition of someone that is a medium.

With that said Mental Illnesses are a serious condition, 1 in 10 schizophrenics commit suicide, these Illnesses have to be treated so that they can live a normal life and progress in Dharma.

Buddhism is all about relieving the suffering of every sentient beings and not supernatural powers. I believe they do exist but only for realized beings that are highly attained practitioners and they are rare. Even tho if someone is realized it doesn't mean they have supernatural powers besides the power to guide sentient beings.

I hope this helps

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .