Self-Possessed, 7.4-7.5



The Body in the Brahma[n] Sutra


p. 297 commentators on the Brahma[n]-sutra


date (Chr.E.)







a-dvaita (nondual)


8th ?

bheda-abheda (nondifference in difference)


11th or 12th

vis`is.t.a-advaita (qualified nondual)


early 16th

s`uddha-advaita (pure nondual)

p. 297 Badara-ayana

The final section of Badarayan.a Brahmasutras (BS) … states that, just as flame of a lamp “enters” (aves`ah.) another wick, a liberated being can enter another body (… BS 4.4.15).”

{It is noteworthy that the Bauddha system (and consonant with the Bauddha – of Lokayata provenience – tendency to derogate deities and occult/mystic concerns generally) is characterized by the assertion that a flame-like ability to incarnate from body-to-body is the very defining sign of not being “liberated” (mukta), and of need for being “liberated” (by means of Bauddha monasticism!). In the Bauddha system, “liberation” is considered to inducing (originally, compelling by military force of the Maurya dynasty) into acquiescence to a materialistic crypto-atheism of a type much-favored [ever-thereafterward, e.g., by Christianity in the Byzantine Empire, and later] by greed-glorifying militarist-based feudalism and capitalism; where extreme material-property-greed on the part of a ruling-class is promoted in conjunction with submission to extreme “voluntary” poverty on the part of the working-class.}

pp. 297-8 Bhaskara

p. 297

Bhaskara … begins by stating that a liberated person may assume many constructed bodies (“nirman.a[-]s`ariran.i bahuni”) at will. He then wonders whether these bodies possess their own independent consciousness and mind. He

{The true reason why such “constructed bodies” “ belong to the individual inhabiting the body enacting the aves`a” is that all of them (and also likewise the material body) are “constructed” [not by the mortal inhabiting them (who cannot construct even a material body, let alone a subtle body in a higher plane-of-existence), but] by deities, who, upon constructing them, implant into them [, usually successively,] the [atman of] the mortal on whose behalf they are constructed. Because that mortal hath no part in constructing them, neither can such mortal have any choice in what operational “consciousness” may controll them; and it is the customary procedure of deities who are in charge of constructing them to assign only a single mortal to all of them collectively [, and usually successively, through the sequence of “material-to-astral-to-mental-to-causal”].}

p. 298

answers … that these belong to the individual inhabiting the body enacting the aves`a.

If we do not assume this …, we fall into the trap that ensnared the followers of the Vais`es.ika (vais`es.ika[-]mate) : that these projected emanations … of the liberated person … will no longer be under his or her power, that the creator of these constructed bodies may lose control of his or her creations.” [p. 313, n. 7:27 The author was unable to find any reference to this in exoteric Vais`es.ika literature : it must therefore be esoteric (secret, available only to initiates) Vais`es.ika doctrine.]

{This Vais`es.ika praedicament of “creations” becoming independent is a theme in the apocryphal “golem” literature current among H.asidi^m of Poland and of Germany. It may have somewhat of a quasi-factual basis of Taoist provenience : in that one's divine “adopted child” which is apparently begotten in one's praesence by divine male dragon on divine tigress, is indeed independent of the mortal “adopter”[; but here, again, the mortal cannot be actual “creator” of any divine “constructed bodies” any more than of any “constructed bodies” assigned to be inhabited by such mortal].}

p. 298 S`ankara's [most impious] allegation

Through an act of positive intentionality …, a person can, through yogic means, create another body with a mind of it own”.}

{This is utterly erroneous (like virtually all other metaphysical assertions by S`ankara). Mortals lack any intentionality of their own, having only such [semblance of] intentionality as is deliberately implanted into their atman by deities. Mortals are capable of “creating” neither “another body” (nor their “own” material body, for that matter) nor any mind (neither their own, nor that of anyone else). Only the immortal deities are capable of constituting such; and indeed, all matter and all mind are indestructible and uncreatable, never having been been created but aeternal, and merely re-arranged by deities in various patterns, according to the dictates of unchangeable praedestination.}

{S`ankara and all his followers are incorrigible deliberate extremist deniers of divine omnipotence; and therefore their [nearly] every assertion must be firmly rejected.}

p. 299 Rama-anuja's advocacy of tyranny(both “scriptural” and [allegedly] “divine”)

BS 1.1.3 … reads s`astra-yonbitvat, expressing the idea that the only means of knowing brahman is s`astra, the testimony of sacred text.”

{The only “knowing” of anything whatsover can be by direct experience; although sutra and s`astra may indeed function as guides to procedure through which directly personal experience may eventually be gained. (Here, as usual, the BS text is all too terse.)}

if the created item in question bears a greater degree of complexity …, we must infer that it was produced by an individual … . Similarly, if human bodies and worlds are the visible effects in question, we must infer that the producer is a special being …, namely, Is`vara, the … omniscient”.

{Actually, just as technical devices must be produced by the mutual co-operation of multitudes of engineers and technicians, so must bodies and worlds be likewise produced by the mutual co-operation of multitudes [of divinities] – certainly not by the edict of some hypothetical ignorant tyrant of an allegedly “supreme” deity. All monotheism is always extremist advocacy of tyrannical oppression, motivated by ill-will on the part of a worldly materialistic greed-motivated mortal oppressor (who is always slanderously intent on blaspheming divine worlds by falsely declaring them to be tyrant-dominated).}

p. 301 occupation (whether by soul of mortal or by deity) of multiple bodies (according to sub-commentators)

Appaya Diks.ita (1554-1626) wrote a … commentary … called [S`iva-arka-man.i-dipika] … . … The S`ivarkaman.idipika comments … on the Brahmasutra[-]bhas.yam of the lesser-known S`rikan.t.ha (possibly of the thirteenth century) … . S`rikan.t.ha points out that a liberated person has the ability to fully possess an infinite number of bodies ... . Like the other commentators on this sutra, S`rikan.t.ha states that a liberated person may be all-pervasive, that consciousness is not inherently limited to a single body".

Vallabhacarya's An.u[-]bhasya on this [BS] sutra (the final section penned posthumously by his son Vit.t.hala[-]natha[-]ji) … cites a passage from the Taittiriya Aran.yaka [3:14] … : “... the one god [eko devah.] entered into [“ni+vis`”] the many.””

p. 302 simultaneous praesence in material body and in immaterial body

"the sixteenth-century Vedanta[-]sara ... speaks [VSV, p. 23, no. 17] of the entry (pravis.t.atva) of caitanya (intelligence ...) ... into the gross body without losing its orientation in the subtle body."

VSV = G. A. Jacob (transl.) : Vedantasara of Sadananda, with ... "Vidyanmanoran~jani" of Ramatirtha. Delhi : Parimal, 1987.



In Pali and in Bodish Literatures


p. 303 Pali terminology of spirit-possession

the Maha[-]suta[-]soma Jataka has bhutapavit.t.ho (Skt. bhutapravis.t.ah.; possessed by a spirit), and the Pada[-]kusala[-]man.ava Jataka contains the expression “possessed by non-humans” (amanussa-pariggahita [Skt. a[-]manus.ya-parigr.hita]). [Fausboll 1883, 3:511]

More significant is the Sanskrit phrase atma[-]bhava[-] parigraham (taking possession of a [new] personal existence), appearing as a commentatorial gloss on the word nives`am in verses 33-34 of the [Parama-artha-gatha]. ... Lambert Schmithausen [1987, 1:236-7; 2:552-66] concludes that it indicates a tacit assent to entering into a new “life ...” (“atma[-]bhava”), which is to say a rebirth”.

The great Pali dictionary by Trenckner et al. [1960-90, 2:228] lists … Di[r]gha Nikaya 3.204.17 : “This yaks.a seizes, this yaks.a possesses” … . [p. 314, n. 7:45 “Theragatha-at.t.akatha III. 181.2 : … made the spirits of various dead persons enter their skulls and relate their rebirths”.]

Franklin Edgerton [1953, vol 2, p. 109] cites the Lalitavistara (163.14) : aves`ad … jinottaramanam … adhis.t.hanena (… “because of entrance, possession, on the part of the Buddhas”).

Fausboll 1883 = V. Fausboll (ed.) : The Jataka together with Its Commentaries. London : Pali Text Soc.

Schmithausen 1987 = Lambert Schmithausen : Alayavijn~ana … of Yogacara Philosophy. Tokyo : Internat Institute for Buddhist Studies.

Edgerton 1953 = Franklin Edgerton : Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit Grammar and Dictionary. New Haven : Yale U Pr.

p. 304 Bodish terminology of spirit-possession




lha-babs [Richardson 1993, p. 50]


gronds-jug ('forceful entry')



Richardson 1993 = Hugh Richardson (ed. by Michael Aris) : Ceremonies of the Lhasa Year. London : Serindia Publ.

pp. 304-5 Bodish oracular spirit-possession

p. 304

Tibetan spirit-mediums (dpa>-bo and lha-pa) … “... go back to pre-Buddhist times. ...”” [Samuel 1993, p. 194] …

[Spirit-]Possession is discussed, however, in the Sarva[-]buddha[-]samayoga[-]d.akini[-]jala[-]samvara, an eighth-century text extant only in Tibetan. This text, which

p. 305

David Gray claims “is probably the earliest of the Yogini tantras,” currently exists only in manuscript form. Gray asserts that the Tibetan dbab pa … “does … refer to … the employment of dance to invoke the deity, with whom the practitioner seeks … to achieve the magical powers or siddhis which that deity can bestow.”

Samuel 1993 = Geoffrey Samuel : Civilized Shamans. Washington : Smithsonian Institution Pr.

pp. 305, 315 Vajra-yana goddesses entre mortal yogini for a performance

p. 305

"[r]Nyingma ... noncanonical {canonical in that religious denomination, not canonical in most others}tantric texts ... contain elements of ... the experience of possession."

p. 315, n. 7:58

"An excerpt [Germano & Gyatso 1998, pp. 251-2] from ... the [r]Nyingmapa Luminous Web of Precious Visions reads : "Upon the descent of blessings during ... performance of the nonelaborate empowerment, the glorious and great Mantra Protectress [Eka-jat.i] descended into one of the yoginis, and she began to perform.""

Germano & Gyatso 1998 = David Germano & Janet Gyatso : "Longchenpa and the Possession of the D.akinis". In :- David Gordon White (ed.) : Tantra in Practice. Princeton U Pr. pp. 239-65.

pp. 306, 315 a Bauddha technical manual on yoga

p. 306

"the Bhava na[-]krama (BhK, Stages of Meditation), composed in Sanskrit by the India monk and scholiast Kamalas`ila in the late eighth century [Chr.E.], bears semantic resemblances to texts of classical yoga. It contains three chapters ... . ... The first chapter outlines the goals of Buddhist practice, the second describes the practice, and the third describes the results. ...

Then, after becoming absorpted in the highest truth (paramatattva[-]praves`at), the aspirant enters into absorption without options, choices, or the possibilities of construction or representation (nirvikalpa[-]samadhi[-]praves`ah.). In this way, one becomes established in the supreme truth and "sees" (sa pas`yati) Mahayana." [p. 315, n. 7:61 : "In a continuation of the same passage the BhK cites a text called the A[-]vikalpa[-]praves`a[-]dharan.i (Incantation for Entrance into a State of Nonrepresentation)."]

p. 315, n. 7:59

"On the importance of this text ..., Sarbacker 2001:16; cf. also Williams 1989:196-197."

p. 315, n. 7:60

"For the extraordinary lore that has grown up around the Bhava na[-]krama (BhK), see Kapstein 2000:34, 200n71; Ruegg 1989".

Sarbacker 2001 = Stuart Sarbacker : The Concept of Samadhi. PhD diss, U of WI. (Now published in revision as Samadhi ... in Indo-Tibetan Yoga. SUNY Pr, 2005.)

Williams 1989 = Pauls Williams : Mahayana Buddhism : the Doctrinal Foundations. NY : Routledge.

Kapstein 2000 = Matthew T. Kapstein (ed.) : The Tibetan of Buddhism. Oxford U Pr.

Ruegg 1989 = David Seyfort Ruegg : Buddha-Nature, Mind, and the Problem of Gradualism in a Comparative Perspective. Sch of Or & Af St, U of London.

pp. 307-8 explication of the Bhavana-krama

p. 307

"Bhava indicates a moon, an attitude .., while bhavana indicates an experiential mode, usually a meditative state, uses ... in the Hindu Yoga[-]vasis.t.ha ... . ...

[BhKS, p. 220 :] "... Then ... one should ... resort to the path of meditation ["bhavana[-]marge"] in which the stages on the path of meditation ["bhavana[-]krama"] consist of wisdom [prajn~a] meditation and method [upaya] meditation. This should be achieved by both transcendence of the world [loka-uttara] and knowledge gained in its aftermath. Because of purification ..., one will obtain the highest unique attributes ["gun.a"]. By purifying ... one is possessed of ["pravis.ya"] the knowledge of the tatha[-]gata[-]s, crosses over the ocean of omniscience, and completely fulfills one's goals."... .

... Kamalas`ila cites [BhKS, p. 204] the Ratna[-]megha Sutra {'Gem-Cloud Warp'} on entering a noncontigent, signless (nirnimmita) state of yoga. ...

The BhK recommends a balance between the practice of alert and active insight

p. 308

(vipas`yana) and the practice of tranquility or quiescence (s`amatha)."

BhKS = Bhavanakrama of Acarya Kamalas`ila. Tibetan, Samskr.ta, and Hindi. Sarnath : Central Instiute of Higher Tibetan Studies, 1985.


Frederick M. Smith : The Self-Possessed : Deity and Spirit Possession in South Asian Literature and Civilization. Columbia U Pr, NY, 2006.