Do Ghosts Exist or is Seeing Ghosts a Sign of Delusion? (Part 1)

by Pulkit Mathur, The Spiritual Bee

Swami Vivekananda in Chicago at the time of his historic debut at the World’s Parliament of Religions in 1893.

“Begin with disbelief. Analyse, test, prove everything, and then take it.” – Swami Vivekananda

The goal of this post is to clear the doubts that one of our fellow Spiritual Bee readers was having.

After reading the earlier article Conversation with Ghosts, he was wondering whether seeing ghosts is actually a sign of delusion.

Could it not be that Swami Vivekananda was merely hallucinating talking to spirits of people who had committed suicide?

The reader’s doubts are certainly sound and rational. We must not accept anything without drilling deep and understanding the facts.

So here is a detailed explanation to the question posed: “Do Ghosts Exist or was Swami Vivekananda just Deluding Himself?”

Swami Vivekananda vs. the Ordinary Person

The first thing to note is the huge chasm which separates God-realized souls such as Swami Vivekananda from an ordinary person on the street. The key point of distinction lies in the nature of their respective minds.

In the case of much of humanity, our minds are not under our control. Many of us possess extremely weak, overly imaginative and fearful minds, because of which we have a tendency to ascribe supernatural causes to perfectly natural events. Therefore a large majority of claims made about seeing or contacting spirits are completely bogus.

However for highly evolved souls such as Swami Vivekananda this is definitely not the case. Swamiji (as he was called) had conquered his mind and brought it under his complete domination and control.

As a result of this he was absolutely fearless, calm and of an even greater rational and scientific disposition than Einstein. This is no idle exaggeration, because without attaining to such a mind, God-realization or Samadhi is wholly impossible.

In fact so rational was Swami Vivekananda that he was famous for not accepting anything without thoroughly testing out its veracity for himself. “I shall accept it when I have experienced it,” was Swamiji’s common reply to statements concerning the extraordinary.

It is for this very reason that he took 6 long years to accept the divinity of even his guru Sri Ramakrishna. Of this exacting rational verification process he once told to a fellow disciple:

“The other day I had a great argument with Sri Ramakrishna himself. He said to me, ‘Some people call me God.’ I replied, ‘Let a thousand people call you God, but I shall certainly not call you God as long as I do not know it to be true.’

He (Sri Ramakrishna) said, ‘Whatever many people say is indeed truth; that is dharma.’ Thereupon I replied, ‘Let others proclaim a thing as truth, but I shall certainly not listen to them unless I myself realize it as truth.'”
– Swami Vivekananda in a conversation, as recorded in the Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna.

So it is not possible that a person of Swami Vivekananda’s intellect, gravitas and penchant for always telling the truth (see the post: I Can Never Tell a Lie) could have hallucinated about speaking to ghosts and spirits. On the contrary he was a most competent and credible witness because whatever he said was based on his actual experience.

Do Ghosts Exist? An Answer from Vedanta Philosophy

Now apart from Swami Vivekananda’s own personal verification of the existence of ghosts, Vedanta Philosophy too speaks of the presence of departed spirits.

As Swami Abhedananda, another direct disciple of Sri Ramakrishna pointed out in a lecture – Vedanta Philosophy highlights this fact, not with the aim of instilling fear, or propelling people to seek out these spirits through seances and mediums; but with the sole purpose of revealing the truth that life persists even beyond death, and that there is much more complexity within our Universe than we can ordinarily see and appreciate.

Here is the excerpt from Swami Abhedananda’s lecture:

“Although it (Vedanta) believes in the existence of departed souls, it does not tell us to go to these departed spirits for enlightenment or true knowledge of our Divine nature.

These souls, who are supposed to communicate with the living, are called ‘earth-bound spirits’. They are mostly ignorant. They do not know themselves, so, how can they teach others?

Modern spiritualism (seances and mediumship to communicate with spirits of the dead) has its place in the path of the investigations of truth, but it cannot help us in anyway to the knowledge of our true or Divine nature. It may satisfy the curiosity of those who seek to know whether there is such a thing as a living soul after death and there it stops, but cannot illumine us with the beatific light of the Atman (soul).
– From the book Attitude of Vedanta Towards Religion by Swami Abhedananda, page 10 (Free Download)

Ghosts Exist. But this Does Not Mean We Become Superstitious and Live in Fear of Them

“One characteristic mark of Vedanta is that it never separates religion from philosophy, science and logic.

Vedanta rather says that which is illogical, unscientific and unphilosophical cannot be religious.

By making reason as the supreme guide in the search after truth it makes its foundation scientific.”
– Swami Abhedananda

Thus Vedanta acknowledges the existence of ghosts and departed spirits. It tells us that apart from the world we are familiar with, exist other worlds in our Universe, which are quite subtle and beyond the realms of ordinary perception.

Yet at the same time, Vedanta exhorts us not to waste our time dwelling upon such things, because all these worlds have an existence only within the domain of Maya i.e. within the confines of time, space and causation.

The entire Universe which is manifested within space and time is temporary. Everything in it, including the gross and the subtle worlds have a beginning and an end in time.

Therefore Vedanta says – do not focus on things of either this world, or the next, because they are all Maya – an illusion as they have no permanent existence.

Forget about fearing or chasing ghosts and spirits. Rise above these temporary manifestations; and strive in this very life itself, to realize the one thing which is permanent because it lies beyond space and time – the One Eternal and Unchanging Reality, the Undivided Ocean of Consciousness – of which our Atman or Soul is an indivisible part.

This very message of Vedanta was given by Swami Vivekananda to his disciple in a most fascinating conversation during which the disciple asked Swamiji – “Do Ghosts Really Exist?” Swami Vivekananda’s answer to this query is outlined in Part 2 of this post.

Part 2: Do Ghosts Exist? – Swami Vivekananda answers a disciple’s query: “Sir, these ghosts and departed spirits we hear about – are all these true or not? Sir, have you ever seen ghosts and spirits?”

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