If You’re Scared Of Ghosts, Read This

If You’re Scared Of Ghosts, Read This

Ghost Month Series: This series explores different angles of the 7th Lunar Month, also known as the Ghost Month. Festivals, Cultures, and Religions often mix together in one place, offering space for different interpretations. We, like you, are keen to explore more. Discern what is helpful to your practice and discard whatever is not.


TLDR: Cultivating a harmless and blameless way of life gives you internal confidence in the face of fear. We can also try to practice compassion towards supernatural beings, in place of fear.

If you clicked on this article because you read the title and thought “that’s me!” – there is no shame. I feel like most people have some level of fear around the supernatural – even those who claim to believe in scientific evidence, who say they don’t believe in ghosts. Put anyone in a graveyard in the middle of the night and all rationality goes out the window!

I'm trying to get over my fear of ghosts - Meme by KnightOfCydonia :)  Memedroid


I’m nowhere near the level of Ajahn Chah who literally overcame fear itself, but I’ll try to share some of my own tips for dealing with fear of ghosts.


Sīla Protects You


When I was a kid, I was definitely afraid of ghosts.

When I told my mum this, she said something like: “If you never do anything bad, why would they need to come after you?” She always said this with such conviction and fearlessness. 


Her statement was a teaching in sīla (morality). It’s the idea that when we take care of our speech and conduct, we offer the gifts of harmlessness and fearlessness to ‘limitless numbers of beings’. In return, we gain a share in this freedom from harm and danger (see AN 8.39).


I once heard a story from my Ajahn, a monk from the Thai forest tradition, who said that one shouldn’t practice in the forest if one’s sīla is not well-kept. He told of an incident where an Ajahn brought a group of monks to stay in the forest for a few days. In the end, all the monks made it out except two who had died during the journey. When asked why this happened, the Ajahn replied that it was because they did not have good sīla.


In case you didn’t know, the Thai forest Ajahns are super hardcore. They live in deep forests with nothing material for protection, putting their lives on the line to do the practice – that’s the depth of their faith in the Buddha and his teachings. 


That may have made you go ‘sure anot’, but I resonate with it because I’ve seen the impact of practising sīla in my life. When I was younger, I had a lot of fear around the idea of supernatural beings. But I found that as I grew up and started practising Dhamma, that fear began to reduce and a sense of confidence began to grow. In situations where fear arises (e.g. alone in my apartment at night, in a dark forest on a retreat), I recollect my sīla. Knowing that I have done my best to keep my precepts well and to live a wholesome life helps to soothe that fear.

Since I consistently put in effort not to harm other beings, I have no reason to be harmed or to fear being harmed. It’s reassuring, and not in a ‘wishful thinking’ kind of way – it’s a sense of real confidence in my actions and their results.


Good Vibes Are Important


I believe that cultivating wholesomeness creates wholesome energy. OK, this may sound a bit like hippie flower child stuff but hear me out.

Have you ever been to a monastery or church and the energy there just feels serene and safe? I think it’s because the activities and intentions carried out there are peaceful and wholesome, and this translates into the energy of the place.

In 2019, I stayed at Wat Buddha Dhamma (WBD) in New South Wales for a retreat. This monastery was located deep in the forest of a national park and there were times where I felt fear walking from the meditation hall back to my hut in the dark of the night, with only my torch and the moon for some light. But I realized that this fear was all in my mind; there were probably no beings around that would harm me. That’s because I could feel that the energy of the monastery was light and wholesome, given that all activities there were aimed towards peace.

The forest at Wat Buddha Dhamma


I think wholesome energy is important because energy attracts and influences, a bit like how we attract or gravitate towards like-minded people. If one constantly aims to cultivate wholesomeness in thought, speech and conduct, this is bound to permeate one’s surroundings. A good example is a friend of mine who has had many (sometimes aggressive) encounters with ghosts throughout their life.

Recently, they noticed that since performing more acts of generosity and wholesomeness, they haven’t been visited by such beings lately.

Perhaps a good landmark example of the importance of “good vibes” can be found in the teachings of the Buddha: In the time of the Buddha, there was a group of monks who were disturbed by certain beings when they tried meditating in a particular forest. When they went to the Buddha and informed him of this, he taught them the Discourse on Loving-Kindness (Metta Sutta) for their protection.

The monks then went back to the forest, practised this instruction, and radiated thoughts of loving-kindness, so much so that the beings were subdued by this and allowed them to meditate in peace.


What are Ghosts Really?


I think movies and stories throughout human history have created a universal perception of ghosts as scary beings that pop up out of nowhere and want to kill you for some reason. But actually, what is a ghost?


The Hungry Ghost Festival is celebrated every July of the Lunar calendar in Chinese culture. It is believed that during this time, ghosts are allowed to come to earth for a visit… In my mind, the concept that ghosts wait all year to ‘come out’ only to hang around for one month and then obediently ‘go back’ to where they came from is pretty funny. I think ghosts are everywhere all the time since they’re just another type of being in one of the 31 planes of existence according to Buddhist teachings.

They are born into this lower realm because of past unwholesome deeds or the lack of wholesome deeds. They are in a state of constant deprivation, equivalent to beggars or homeless people in the human realm who need help because they don’t have enough to fend for themselves.

Based on the principle of rebirth, these beings could even be people we knew, such as departed relatives and friends, who may come to us looking for help.

If we keep this in mind, then we don’t need to be afraid – what they need from us is compassion and merit.

I have another friend who often has supernatural encounters at home. It’s come to a point where we no longer speak about these beings in a taboo or fearful way; they are like any other being in need of help. Following the Buddha’s advice, my friend makes offerings on behalf of them and shares the merit with them as an act of generosity and compassion.

The Bottom Line

If you took nothing else away from this article, just remember this: continue cultivating wholesome qualities and abandoning unwholesome qualities, and trust in the strength of that for protection.


Wise Steps:

  • Mindfully watch the fear in your body. For me, fear arises in the heart space like a sharp, cold sensation. Centring your attention on bodily sensations can help you focus on the reality of the fear rather than the narratives in your mind being fueled by it.

  • Recite the Metta Sutta and emit thoughts of loving-kindness.
From Thailand to India: My Ghostly Encounters

From Thailand to India: My Ghostly Encounters

Ghost Month Series: This series explores different angles of the 7th Lunar Month, also known as the Ghost Month. Festivals, Cultures, and Religions often mix together in one place, offering space for different interpretations. We, like you, are keen to explore more. Discern what is helpful to your practice and discard whatever is not.


TLDR: The encounters with an unseen being leads to a reflection on human nature and how we relate to other beings in Buddhist cosmology.

One Fateful Night

At barely 6.30pm, the women’s compound of Wat Boonyawad was almost pitch dark within the forest. I hastened my footsteps after finishing walking meditation near the main gate – tempo accelerando. There was no one else. In that solitude, I wished someone was with me — just not the unseen sort, whatever it wanted with me.

My torch was barely strong enough to see beyond one metre from my feet. Leaves crunched beneath me, like in The Slender Man.

Near my kuti (small practitioner’s hut) after I had washed my feet, leaves rustled and a breezy presence weaved through the surrounding forest. Yet, my skin pricked with heat. Panicking, I ran up the steps to the door. 

Meeting the Ghost of my Mind

I fumbled for the key, with the torch gripped in between my teeth. Jaws tightened. The fear of being caught up by a menacing force crescendoed as each attempt to slot the key into the lock pad failed. Mosquitoes hummed impatiently beside my ears. Quick. Quick.

Finally, the lock turned and I slammed the door tightly behind me. All that hooting and howling from the forest grew claustrophobic; their sources unbeknownst to me. The forest has its ways to play tricks on the mind. This meditation retreat was my first ever to stay alone in a forest hut within a Thai monastery. So much unknown to fear for.

The relief of getting into the kuti (meditation hut) did not last, I hurried to the little altar to light up the candles, the heart-throbbing at my throat.

Buddha, help me. Bow. Dhamma, help me. Bow. Ajahns, help me. Bow. The candles flickered in the twilight.

I inched my way to unwind the huge windows for ventilation; my eyes averting the ominous world outside. What if a ghastly face stared back at me? At that thought, my hair stood on its ends as a chill ran down the spine. Spinning out of the sensation, I plunged to the floor into a half-lotus position for sitting meditation.

Buddho buddho buddho.

Buddho buddho.

Buddho. 

Bud-dho. 

Bud-dho. 

Bud–dho. 

Bud—-dho.

When hyperventilation evolved into a smoother and more refined breath, I saw clearly all that fear about ghosts was merely the sensitive mind misdirecting its alertness. I believed in ghosts’ presence within Buddhist cosmology.

At that time, I also assumed their nature to seek me out in avenging my past karmic misdeeds and sucking my energy dry with evil trances.

That such a hateful encounter was bound to happen kept my heart from sinking into the peace. It wasn’t the forest that was playing tricks. My defiled mind was the culprit puppeteer, pulling strings on a ghost puppet.

The First Encounter

No, I would not let that made-up ghost rob me of the peace that can develop from retreating thousands of miles away from home. The fear mis-manufactured from baseless perceptions and thoughts can stay. But I did not wish to indulge its willfulness, despite not understanding it fully.

With that determination to set aside fear, the heart finally found its resting spot in even more refined breaths: a clear quiet space opened up within my mind. The candles at the altar had gone out by then. The nocturne calls of animals were distant. This was one of the rare peaceful moments in the retreat, truly. A deep state of focus, tranquil, alert.

Soon, a face showed itself in my mind’s eyes. No vengeful entrance — gradual, weightless.

Just a head dripping in blood, rotten flesh, long hair; her round bloodshot eyes stared into me. The body trailed off. A very… sorry plight; nothing threatening.

I couldn’t explain how I knew this presence to be true but I did. The fear that I experienced earlier did not arise again. No goosebumps. No chills. I steadied the mind on the being, looking right back. I did not wish her away, neither did she seem to want to go away. Not yet.

Here, memories of reading Mae Chee Kaew’s biography where she communicated to ghosts using her heart surfaced within my mind. I was definitely not Mae Chee Kaew, but maybe I could try communicating to the ghost too.

What do you need from me? What is helpful for you?

Share merits. You have been practising the Dhamma.

I will wish you well. Hope you can receive them.

Eyes shut tight still. My heart turned inwards further and channel whatever wholesome bits it could find towards the being in front:

May you receive all the blessings from the goodness I had cultivated since the start of my life. May you have the merits you need for a fortunate rebirth. May you seek safety and refuge in the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha. May you be free from all sorts of suffering in the future. May you be well and happy.

These phrases repeated in my mind like a playlist on loop, religiously as if my life–her life–depended on them. The sphere of goodwill (metta) radiated outwards to imbue her presence within it. Not long after a few cycles, the unseen being took her leave –gently, gradually, lightly–much like how she appeared but with more ease. The meditation came to an end too.

Do I know you? I wanted to ask but I didn’t. A sense of familiarity lingered, although I could not quite put a finger to it.

Moonlight shone through the canopy; their piercing beams reflected off the forest floor, lighting up the pitch dark from before. I took three candles outside, keen to place them along the earthen path for walking meditation. Finally, I was brave enough to venture out after nightfall. Before this night, moonlit walking meditation was completely unfathomable.

Affinity Knows no Boundaries

In my subsequent stays at various forest monasteries, trips to Kuala Lumpur, even at home, when I was alone in meditation and there were particular still moments of clarity at night, unseen beings of similar profiles would appear in my meditation. Each time, they asked for merits. Each time, I tried to maintain my compassion to share merits. Afterwards, they would leave quietly.

The restless mind was still afraid of the dark and jumpscares, but the fear was more manageable than the very first encounter.

These encounters were at least half a year apart so I thought that the beings were different individuals.

It was not until my India pilgrimage that I realised a trend.

Final Encounter in Pilgrimage 

The hotel we stayed in at Vesali was haunted. According to Thai Forest Venerable Luang Por Piak, tens of thousands of hungry ghosts hung around the hotel. At the worst of my cough, I felt nauseous on the first night, after returning from a day of breakdowns. A Thai female doctor with the tour suggested treating me with acupuncture, which I desperately accepted. Anything to get me out of that bodily hell.

Moments after the acupuncture began, I slipped into unconsciousness while I was trying very much to be mindful of the needles. Soon, I fainted on my bed.

That night, I woke to a persistent furious hammering on the windows. Calling out to my Thai roommate from my crippling fear of angry ghosts, I hid under the covers, still weak from earlier. She went up to check the curtains and found monkeys. Nothing to be afraid of. Go back to sleep. How? I could barely feel safe.

On the second evening in Vesali, a second acupuncture session occurred in another hotel room, in which its inhabitants complained of paranormal activities from the night before. Despite the crowd receiving treatment, I caught a waft of ‘off-energy’. While sitting in meditation at a dimly lit corner, the mind gathered into stillness. 

Soon enough, a familiar image of a bloody head and wispy long black hair came into view – the same request ensued.

This time I finally recognised her although she was hovering at the corner. An insight struck: this was the very same unseen being who sought my attention at Wat Boonyawad and thereafter. 

She had followed me to India! She had been following me all this while! In sharing merits, I recollected about the wholesomeness from visiting the key Buddhist holy sites thus far and wished her to rejoice in the rare occasions arising from that pilgrimage. That night, I slept soundly.

At the last stop of the pilgrimage – Varanasi, my tour group disclosed that my Thai roommate (gifted with supernatural vision) had seen a ghost sitting on my bed that very night in Vesali. That was definitely goosebumps-inducing. Rounding up the trip at a final chanting session in Deer’s Park, I made a determination to dedicate all the merits from the pilgrimage to the unseen being.

Since then, she has not visited me in meditation. I would like to think that she has gathered sufficient merits to be reborn in a better place. 

How Can We Live Better in this Cosmic World?

My unseen encounters left a lasting effect on my practice. They taught me to face my fear of darkness and to respect the presence of unseen beings. Now, I make a point to share merits every morning chanting and when I offer meal dana to monks. Sharing merits help to cultivate generosity in the immaterial world. 

I have not mentioned the unseen encounters to my spiritual friends openly, for fear of coming across as boastful. The intention of sharing my encounters here is to help readers reflect that there are deprived states, where unseen beings exist in our cosmic world.

They exist out of their attachments and/or hatred to this material world, which they were not able to relinquish upon their death as humans.

(While I have not met malicious beings, I have heard stories of where ghosts have party hangouts in rooms for extended periods.)

Reflecting on the deprived states of ghosts, can we then work on our attachments, anger and hatred in this human life? 

Perhaps, as much as I have encountered the manifestations of an unseen being, the visualization mirrored the hatred contained within my heart. Using the same Dhammic approach of awareness and acceptance, I can introspect on what the heart needs and what is beneficial for it. Then, apply the balm of loving-kindness and compassion.

To the being and myself: wherever you may be, I wish you well and hope you benefit from the Buddha’s dispensation, always.


Wise Steps:

  • Casper the friendly ghost is not untrue — ghosts primarily want sharing of merits when they manifest to you. 

  • If you encountered ghosts as malicious, share even more merits. Done from a mind of pure generosity, offering a Sangha Dana can generate merits for unseen beings who could receive them for long-term welfare and fortunate rebirth.

  • With compassion towards the deprivation ghosts exist in, we may contemplate our strong attachments and begin to let go of the hatred we experience within our hearts.
Are you living life like a hungry ghost?

Are you living life like a hungry ghost?

This teaching is compilation of teachings extracted from talks/interviews with Dr Gabor Mate, Luang Por Sumedho, and Tara Brach.

Hungry ghosts can’t get enough satisfaction

In the Buddhist psychology, there are a number of realms that all beings cycle through.

  1. One is the human realm, which can be described as our ordinary selves.
  2. The second is the hell realm, which contains unbearable rage, fear, and terror; it contains emotions that are difficult to handle.
  3. The third is the animal realm, which is related to our instincts.

In the hungry ghost realm, the creatures are depicted with large empty bellies, small scrawny thin necks. They can never get enough satisfaction. They are always hungry, always empty, always seeking satisfaction from the outside. This speaks to the part of us, isn’t it?

Just watch the desire in your own mind. It’s always looking for something. There’s a kind of restlessness such that when you’re frightened, you look for something certain; and you don’t know what to do, you feel this momentum of desire that looks for anything to do – eat, smoke cigarettes, read books, watch televisions, look around for this and that.

This is just a force of habit.

When you are not mindful, and when you are not wise, you become easily pulled into these things. When you lead life heedlessly, when you lead our lives without any kind of wisdom or understanding of it, you just get caught up in seeking excitement. When you get bored, you seek excitement. But when you get bored with excitement, you seek annihilation.

You get caught up in these habits.

The false refuges in our lives and never arriving

One of the most pervasive false refuges or substitute gratifications is the never ending effort to improve ourselves. It’s not the kind of improvement that leads us to sensing our creativity and the knowledge we long for, but it’s the kind that stems from a place of deficit. It’s the “I need to be a better person” kind of striving, and that wanting to feel like we’re good enough.

This is what goes on in us and is part of the hungry ghost.

If we’re honest with ourselves, are we really content and feel good enough? This sense of wanting to be good enough is not the same as the impulse to manifest our true potential. It’s the kind of internalised standards we have that make us think we should always look better, do more, and be more.

When we are honest, we realise that for many of us live with the kind of dissatisfaction, a disappointment that our lives aren’t turning out the way we want it to be. There’s a sense of never arriving, as though we’re trying to get somewhere, and we’re not there.

Three levels of suffering

Level 1: We are not satisfied

There’s a whole range of how we experience these hungry ghost energy. Along with that, we have chronic patterns on how we are trying to meet our needs and we do so through different substitute gratifications such as consuming sugar or seeking approval or attaching to our possessions.

As we may know, these are temporary fixes. We’re on a roller coaster. We feel better for a little, but then, the need is back there again.

Wanting begets wanting. It’s like drinking salt water to satisfy thirst.

So, that’s one level of suffering – i.e. we don’t get satisfied.

Level 2: The aversion we have towards ourselves for not being satisfied.

In the Buddhist tradition, we call that the second arrow. The first arrow is “I want, I need, I’m not satisfied”. The second arrow is “I am a bad person for wanting, needing, and feeling that I’m not satisfied”. It’s the self version that we pile on that is a very notable part of the addiction cycle. Eat too much, then feel really bad about ourselves. Feel like such as bad person, and then feel so miserable that we eat more, and return to feeling bad about ourselves again. The cycle keeps getting fuelled like this.

Level 3: Never being present and never arriving

The last level is just like in the casino: when we really want to win but are not quite there yet or when we are seeking approval and when we are trying to in some ways get something we don’t have, we’re not present. It’s kind of like we’re leaning forward, wanting the next moment to contain what this moment does not. We’re not present, and we’re always on our way to somewhere else.

Such wanting, addiction, and attachment is the heart of the suffering that comes with the hungry ghosts.

How many moments of our life is there a sense of we’re on our way to something rather than this moment counts?

A comforting perspective

Our attachment and addiction can be a flag to pause, and deepen our attention to what is here. And if we are willing to pause, and deepen our attention, we can begin to discover that rather than hitching to our addicting habits, the star we felt away from is right here. It is in this present moment. Right here.

Whoever is overcome by this wretched and sticky craving, 
his sorrows grow like grass after the rains.

But whoever overcomes this wretched craving, so difficult to overcome, 
from him sorrows fall away like water from a lotus leaf.

– Dhammapada verse 335 & 336

How To Fearlessly Face The Ghosts Within

How To Fearlessly Face The Ghosts Within

Ghost Month Series: This series explores different angles of the 7th Lunar Month, also known as the Ghost Month. Festivals, Cultures, and Religions often mix together in one place, offering space for different interpretations. We, like you, are keen to explore more. Discern what is helpful to your practice and discard whatever is not.


TLDR: The memories from our past are scarier than the ghosts, they live within and the haunting never seems to cease.

It happens again. It likes to sneak up on you when you are most vulnerable, terrorizes you when you are unaware. Dark at night, when I’m about to fall asleep, when I’m alone staring at the ceiling or listening to an old song when I’m on the bus. I can’t pretend I don’t see them. It’s always right there in my mind even when I close my eyes. What am I talking about? I’m talking about the painful memories of my past.  

If you are quiet, you can hear them, loud and clear — the shadows of who we once were, the lives we’ve lived and people we’ve loved. We’re left with mournful and never-ending remembrance. The haunting never seems to cease. Our memories are scarier than ghost sightings.

Wouldn’t you think our lives are already filled with ghosts? The loved ones that left us stay as memories, like a ghost that lives inside you, and like this you keep them alive.

The sweetest memories can sometimes turn into a moment of tears clouding my eyes. Sometimes, I can’t seem to get out of it. It can be a dreadful burden. The older we are, the more haunted we are. The regrets, guilts, and the attachment we hold on to the happy times we can’t go back again. The memories are like the seaweed that is hard to get untangled. 

Should we banish them entirely, all those ghosts of who we are and who we loved? Should we exorcise them completely? Or should we find a way to lay them at last to rest?

Untangle The Past

Although memories reflect what actually happened in the past, they are not the reality. We don’t have to let our memories control our emotions and bind us like a dog chain. If we handle our memories mindfully, we can unburden ourselves of them; we are able to view them with an open heart, looking in from the window outside the house, that brings calm to the mind and in turn heals any gloomy emotion that arises.

When our memories resurface, learn to switch our thoughts to an observation frequency. Not to overload ourselves with heavy emotions by allowing memories to interpose into our thoughts making it a hyperreality.

Letting Go Of The Past

Sometimes I wonder why these memories keep resurfacing, and I realized it’s because I can’t let go. The past can’t be changed and yet we keep playing it in our head a million times.

It keeps reliving and by doing that. I’ve sacrificed the present and the future that could create happier memories. 

Buddha once talked about letting go, “Your letting go of it will be for your long-term happiness & benefit. Whatever arises in dependence on intellect-contact, experienced either as pleasure, as pain, or as neither-pleasure-nor-pain, that too is not yours: let go of it. Your letting go of it will be for your long-term happiness & benefit.”. 

For any long-term sustainable happiness, we have to learn how to let go, not holding on or creating a blockage. Happiness and sadness can’t happen at the same time and they are never yours, to begin with. 

Sending Loving Kindness To Ourselves

There is no doubt our past decisions make us who we are today, but it doesn’t make sense to let the past define who we are. If we treat our memories sensitively, with loving kindness, we can cultivate intuition and discernment for our future selves, rather than judging and blaming the ghosts from our past.

Memories Of My Father

Once when I was having breakfast, my father asked, “Why did I skip the bread skin and go straight to the softer piece of the bread?” 

“The top layer is always dry and hard.” I answered. 

“Who is going to eat that, if you don’t eat it?” My father replied

I lost my father a few years ago and that memory of him always brings me to tears. Instead of weeping, I now see it as a way to inspire me to be more selfless.  

Some of us may feel like weeping when confronted with our ghastly memories, but there is no need to run away from it or continue feeling sad about it. Instead, we can rise above the conditions and conditioning of our past. When we hold our memories carefully, we are no longer haunted by what has happened to us; we view our past and present experiences from a different perspective. 

Lay The Ghosts To Rest

I’m still human. I walk with my ghosts from time to time, and sometimes I can confront them and sometimes, I’m overwhelmed by them. But, at least I feel like I’m slowly reaching a state of mind where I can see them truly as the past and putting it to rest. 

It’s a matter of acknowledging the good memory, feeling it and then reminding myself of the good that is happening in my life now. Reach inside for gratitude for what was and what is and try to find a place of acceptance.

We can take the mournful and never-ending remembrance and turn it instead into memories that we can appreciate as a valuable part of our beautiful lives. We can learn, over time and with practice, how to be grateful for the changes, and we can stop mourning them. We can even celebrate all the aspects of who we were and are now and all of the people we’ve loved along the way.

Instead of fearing the ghost of my memories, I now see them as my companion I can live comfortably with.


Wise Steps:

  • Turn our memories into valuable parts of our beautiful lives that are worth appreciating regardless of the good or the bad.
  • Rise above the conditioning of our past by viewing our past and present experiences from a different perspective.
  • Acknowledging the good or bad memory, feeling it and then reminding yourself of the good that is in your life right now.