One aspect of Buddhism that is little understood is the metaphysical or what may seem by some to be on the verge of magical. Although throughout my life I have for some reason always been drawn to this sort of thing I have always been fairly skeptical. None the less cases of knowing past lives, predicting future events, and healing another through the power of the mind show up all through the Buddhist scriptures of the Hinayana, Mahayana, and the Vajrayana. It is very difficult to determine the validity of these claims. The very nature of these types of experiences makes them difficult to ascertain in our modern scientific way.
In Esoteric Buddhism in particular there is the notion that sentient beings can have a direct influence on the physical universe. In Shingon Buddhism there are many rituals that have the purpose of causing an effect on the physical world (i.e. Goma). Another such example is the concept of Kaji (Adhisthana in Sanskrit). Kaji is a form of physical healing that is brought about through spiritual means.
“The universe itself is wisdom
From wisdom, various creative forces originate.
These forces consistently interact to create new situations.
This constant renewal also changes the whole universe itself.”
Attributed to the Buddha – Ryuko Oda, Kaji: Empowerment and healing in Esoteric Buddhism
If we take this one practice and evaluate it can we determine if there is any possibility of truth to be found in it? Our western minds are generally very skeptical of any sort of paranormal phenomena. It is my belief that we very rightly should be. This is a realm full of charlatans and crooks and those who prey upon the hopes and fears of the infirmed. Not being critical or skeptical can lead one to very unfortunate results. But the Buddha taught for us to have an open mind and that we must prove any teaching to ourselves to be true or false. We are not to belive what others just say to be true just because of their position or who they are. So can we make any logical determination about Kaji?
We can first look at it from a purely Buddhist prospective. Is there anything in the Buddha Dharma that says that this is possible? Well actually there is. The quote above alludes to one such teaching, Interdependence. The Buddha taught that we do not exist separate and independent from everything else. Everything in the universe is dependent on some other cause or condition for it to come into being (Dependent Origination). So everything in the universe is interrelated and connected to everything else. When some cause or condition causes something to come into being it means that the thing that just came into being (the result of the previous cause or condition) becomes a cause or condition itself for something else. Nothing in the universe arises on its own independently of these causes and conditions. If you can somehow create the cause or conditions for someone to heal then Kaji could work. So let’s hold that thought for a moment….
Karma is the next teaching that could help us to validate this teaching of Kaji. If you have read any of my posts in the past dealing with Karma you will know I have a slightly different take on Karma then what is traditionally taught. If you haven’t I encourage you to read “Karma, maybe it doesn’t mean what we thought it did?….” from my archives to see my arguments for this. Karma literally means action. I believe that Karma is much more akin to Newton’s law that for every action there will be a reaction. This means that every action that is taken has an effect and that it does not just affect who or what performed the action. In other words your actions not only affect you but literally affect and change the entire universe by setting up causes and conditions for other things or events to come into being. This is logical and can easily be proven. If you pull out a gun and shoot me that action obviously does not just affect just you. Yes you will go to jail which will affect you and all those that you know and love. Also any interaction you would have had in the world will now be different because being in a jail cell will minimize your interactions with others in the outside world. So all of the results of the actions you would have taken, had you not been in jail, will not have the effects that they would have had which would have been conditions for other things to happen. I would also be greatly affected, I am now dead. All of the future actions I would have taken would no longer happen. One of those actions may have been fathering children. So now none of the actions that these children may have took will happen. What if one of my children would have discovered the cure for Cancer? Now all the people that would have benefited from that cure will not. So it hypothetically goes on and on. So any idea that your Karma (actions) are only going to affect you can easily be proven incorrect. Your Karma may start with your action but your Karma is Interdependent and interconnected with everyone else. So the results of your Karma is an aggregate of yours and everyone else and equally effects them as well as you. If your action can affect someone else then Kaji could work. So hold that thought for a moment…..
The next teaching that would have a bearing on the possibility of the teaching of Kaji being valid is the Six Great Elements. I covered this concept in some detail in my post “Buddhism, it’s Elemental my dear Watson….”. Basically this teaching says that everything in the universe is made up of one or more of the Six Great Elements. These elements are Earth, Water, Fire, Air, Space and Consciousness or Mind. The first five elements are represented visually by five different shapes stacked on top of one and other to form a five level pagoda. The sixth element is not represented by a shape. Consciousness is thought to be formless and is also considered to be part of or contained in each of the five other elements. All matter in the universe has an element of consciousness within it. If your consciousness could affect the matter in someone elses body then Kaji could work. So hold that thought for a moment….
One day I happened on a book that, while it does not scientifically prove the truth of Kaji, it further supports the possibility in a scientific way. The book I am speaking of is called “The hidden messages in water” by Dr. Masaru Emoto. I will give just a brief summary here to illustrate my point. Dr. Emoto had been studying the effects of vibrations passing through water. He was inspired by the experiments of the French scientist Jacques Benveniste who had developed what became Homeopathy. In Homopathy if you had gotten lead poisoning for example the doctor would put a small amount of lead in some water and then begin to dilute it by adding more water, then mixing. This process would be repeated over and over until the lead contained in the mixture would be 1 part in 10 to the 12th power. At this level the lead no longer actually physically exists in the water but for some reason the water still contains the characteristics of the lead and can be used to treat lead poisoning. What was notable to Dr. Emoto is that the water had a sort of memory of what has passed through. Jacques Benveniste later mixed drugs that were used to treat a specific disease and put it through the same dilution process and found that the resulting water even though it did not have any physical trace of the original drug he had mixed with it could be used to treat the disease just as they were giving the patient the drug directly.
Dr. Emoto wanted to find a way to see if he could measure the effects of different vibrations on the water. He realized that each and every snowflake (frozen water) was supposed to have a unique pattern. He wondered if he could freeze the water very quickly that he may be able to discern different patterns in the resulting ice crystals. Dr. Emoto felt that “Crystals emerge for only twenty or thirty seconds as the temperature rises and the ice starts to melt. The truths of the cosmos take shape and become visible, if only for a few moments. This short window of time gives us a glimpse into a world that is indeed magical”.
One of the things that he quickly noticed was that the quality of the crystals formed depended a great deal on where the water came from. He took Tokyo tap water for instance, which was known to not be very pure, and the crystals formed were distorted and ugly in shape. Where at the same time water from a spring or moving river always formed a beautiful crystal shape with many intricate designs.
One day one of his assistants said “I wonder what would happen if we expose the water to music”? They put the water in a bottle between two speakers and played Classical music. When they made the ice crystals they were beautifully formed and had intricate shapes. Then they tried the same experiment, with the same water, with Heavy Metal music (which I personally love by the wayJ). To their surprise the crystals that formed now were fragmented and malformed (Maybe that is why I am fragmented and malformed! ).
Next since the music had an effect on the water they decided to see if words could have the same effect. Oddly they first decided to write (as opposed to speaking) positive words on a piece of paper and tape it to the side of the bottle. When they photographed the crystals it formed perfect intricate crystals. When they wrote negative words on the paper the crystals appeared malformed and very similar with when they played the heavy metal music. Writing the words “love and gratitude” on the paper produced the most beautiful crystals that he had seen. He continued his experiments with the spoken word and even using Tibetan chant and the religious songs of other cultures. He repeated these experiments over and over getting the same results consistently. Whenever the message was positive the crystal formation was complete and beautiful and whenever the message was negative the crystal formation was malformed and incomplete. In the book there are many photographs of the different crystals and the effects of the external stimulus.
While Dr. Emoto was surprised by the results he was consistently getting he was not unfamiliar to the concept. In Japan it is said that words of the soul reside in a spirit called kotodama, or the spirit of words, and the act of speaking words has the power to change the world. This belief has existed for thousands of years. In Buddhism the practice of reciting mantra or Dharini has existed as long as Buddhism itself.
Dr. Emotos work began with studying vibrations and the effect that water had on them. To his surprise what his experiments lead him to was the effects that the vibrations had on the water. He looked into quantum physics and found that all matter in the universe has a vibration even if we cannot see it. In fact the universe itself is a vibration. Which means of course that we as sentient beings also have a vibration. So maybe it was the external vibrations having an effect on the waters vibrations. Dr. Emoto was confused about why the written words had an effect on the water since there was no vibration involved. If we go back to the Six Great Elements (of which water is one) we see that each of the first five elements contain consciousness within them. So to me what was causing the effect on the water was probably not the written word, but the mind (consciousness) of the person that was writing it. It is significant that Dr. Emoto’s experiments were on water. The human body is made up of 70% water! So the first thought is that if the positive and negative vibrations can be shown to have an effect on the water it doesn’t seem a far stretch that they could also have an effect on us!
So what does this all mean? While Dr. Emoto’s experiments do not prove the validity of Kaji directly they do indicate the premise of Kaji is at least possible. If we believe in the teachings of Interdependence, Karma, and the Six Great Elements in addition to these scientific experiments then the possibility is increased. A Shingon monk can take the action (Karma) of performing the Kaji rituals and focus his mind to a very high degree (which in my opinion is all that ritual does). Due to Karma and Interdependence his actions will have an effect. If the teachings of the Six Great Elements are true then since consciousness (mind) is part of all matter then it would be logical to assume that his concentrated mind (while concentrated on the sick person) could affect the matter (the body) that contains it (consciousness). This in turn could have a physical effect (by setting up causes or conditions to heal) on the sick person that the ritual is being performed on or for.
This of course is all speculative and just demonstrates that the idea of Kaji is possible. It would therefore be logical to assume that the other rituals that are meant to have an effect on the physical world are also in the realm of possibility. There are many things in the universe that science is just beginning to understand. Quantum Physics has recognized the relationship between matter and consciousness for some time. They have found that when experiments are observed the very presence of the observer affects the outcome of the experiment. What amazes me is that as science discovers more and more of these relationships, they more often than not confirm some aspect of the Buddha Dharma rather than contradict it. When we come across teachings like this all we can do is have an open mind and consider the possibilities. If we can without reasonable doubt determine these things to be true for ourselves then they are true even if science has not yet determined it to be so. In the end there should be no gap between the scientific and the spiritual, what is true is true, plain and simple.