CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE GHOST KIND (DOES GHOST EXIST?)
My childhood was rich with all sorts of superstitions. The village air was filled with stories of ghosts and goblins – Yakshi (beautiful witch who seduce men with her beauty and drinking their blood), Brahmarakshas (very fierce demonic spirit), Kuttichathan (mischievous spirit or goblin), Bhoot, Pretha, Satans, demons, etc.
One day I have been walking back to my home around 11.30PM. It was a full moon day. This happened during my teenage.
There was a small bridge (not fully built) on the way, across a stream (you can’t call it a river, though we use small rowing boats to move aorund). The banks were piled up sand platforms on the both side.
I was crossing the bridge. Suddenly, I saw a human figure passing below the bridge, through the sand platform. I was shocked. I stood there paralyzed. I could smell the great fragrance of Pala tree (Alstonia Scholaris or Indian Devil tree) – a typical ambience for appearance of Yakshi. I couldn’t make any moves, but trembling. My body was full Goosebumps. My mouth and throat went dry. My voice had gone!
“What am I seeing? A Yakshi?” I asked myself.
As in legends, she was wearing white sari and blouse. Her hair was untied. The popular belief was that Yakshi has all the body curves in place – a perfect international standard body shape! But, this Yakshi was bit overweight!
I looked at her leg….As per stories, the Yakshi’s feet shouldn’t touch the earth. But her feet were touching the sand leaving marks! There could be overweight, earth-touching Yakshis too!
I stood there freeze. I saw her walk towards the south side – there was a pond and “Sarpa Kavu” (Abode of Snakes) – a traditional natural sacred space, grove, covered in forest where the flora and fauna thrived and was preserved. I guessed – she is going to her “Avasa Kendra” (home) – so I am seeing a real ghost!
My body slowly started shaking. I began reciting mantras (sacred hymns). Suddenly something touched my shoulders from behind.
Shocked, I might have screamed. I thought I produced a big noise – but it didn’t come out. I opened my eyes and saw a man standing near me. On his lips was a burning beedi (Indian cigarette). He was wearing just a lungi (coloured cloth worn around the waist) and his head was covered by a towel-turban.
“Udaya, entha evide?” (Uday, why are you here). After a while, I recognized him – it was Antony – a tailor in the village.
Somehow, I gained courage. Without uttering a single word, I ran away. The speed in which I had run would have been all time world record!
I reached home, locked the door and fell in the bed. The next thing I remember was mother waking me up: “Are you not going to college? (I was doing my junior college then). It’s already 8AM. What happened to you?” Usually I get up at 5AM and do my Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutations).
“Oh, you are bit feverish” she said. She made me a hot kashaya (herbal remedy for fever). I didn’t go to college that day. Even if I was feverish, I took bath and went to prayer room to perform poojas (offering to god) as I was very scared. The moment I close my eyes, the Yakshi’s figure would appear.
My fever disappeared by evening. I cycled towards the Santhai (market) to meet friends and talked to them about this. Suddenly, I saw Antony running towards me, calling my name.
I stopped the cycle. He gave me a packet of “Naranga Muttai” (Lemon flavored lozenges type sweet) and said: “Uday, don’t tell teacher (my mother) about what you saw yesterday night…” (My mother was a school teacher and villagers respected her a lot).
I didn’t understand what he meant by that.
“Please…please don’t tell teacher that you saw me with her”
“Who?” I asked
“Driving school Mary”
That was a very infamous middle-aged woman in the village. Her nick-name was driving school! So the obese Yakshi I saw was Mary. Antony was availing her notorious body-on-rental service on yesterday night.
I recall this incident whenever I get queries like: “Do you believe in ghost? Have you seen ghost? Does ghost exist? Etc”
My emphatic answer would be a BIG “NO”
But there is no black and white answer for anything in this cosmos. For some people, the experience can be real. It is like an illusion of a rope being mistaken for a snake in the darkness.
In Sanskrit, such experiences called “pratyakṣa-ābhāsa” (pseudo-perception). It is not really a perception at all, but “apparent perception”. You don’t really see an illusory snake; you only think you see one. The nyaya (inference) schools call it ‘Sarpa Rajju Nyaya’ (mistaking a rope for a snake).
Snake-rope is also an example for Maya (illusion). This illusion gets destroyed when true knowledge of the rope is perceived. Similarly, māyā gets destroyed for a person when they realize Brahman. Some people called it Mithya (falsity). The snake appeared to exist where the rope was, but later on it was found that it did not exist. So the snake is mithya.
The maya or perception is actually THE real experience for an experiencer. The mind has created a threatening snake from mere a rope. This mental snake, though unreal (just a maya), is REALLY capable of tricking not only the ego but the trembling body as well. In ancient India, our ancestors observed that people bitten by such “illusionary” snake – created only by mind – sometimes die!
Sankaracharya (Adi Shankara 788-820 AD) said: “We do see real effects to result from unreal causes, for we observe that death sometimes takes place from imaginary venom.” He defined it as “the apparent presentation, to consciousness, by way of memory of something previously observed in some other thing”. Thus it is neither real nor unreal. Hence, it is distinct from both real and unreal.
Similar logic applies to ghost stories. You may see imaginary thing (mind-coined illusion) or shadows mistaken for something else.
Later, I was desperately seeking a beautiful Yakshi! But, unfortunately, I couldn’t find a real Yakshi or ghost! I have done quite lot of studies and un-official research related to so-called paranormal activities. I spent nights in cemetery and in haunted houses. I have interacted with so-called “possessed” people. I have counseled and set-right two such “possessed” cases too! I have many experiences to share.
Such things sometimes may affect you when you believe in it. Years ago, when my co-worker turned green with envy, had done a “manthravadam” (sorcery/black magic) to invoke a Kuttichathan (goblin) to destroy me. Obviously, it didn’t have any effect on me, as I don’t believe in such rubbish things. This incident was revealed much later while he was cryingly apologized to me following me rescuing him from a situation in life.”If such things are true, why didn’t it affect me?” I asked. “I had also asked the same question to the Manthravadi (Sorcer). He said it didn’t affect you since you had powerful Lord Narasimha as your family god to protect you.” Sorcerers will always find a convincing reason to mar in case any logical queries pop up from an otherwise superstitious mind.
So, are ghosts real or unreal? The answer is that, subjectively, the ghost is very real to the experiencer. Objectively, the presence of the ghost is all illusory and created by your own mind.
© Uday Lal Pai. Please contact the author for re-posting or publishing at firstname.lastname@example.org