Of Demons and Exorcism in Sanatana Dharma

  • By Dr. Subhasis Chattopadhyay
  • December 28, 2022
  • Demonism in Christianity, How to recognise demonic activity? Ways to recognise and demonic presences.

The followers of Abrahamic religions believe in the real presence of evil and all of them have rites of exorcism. Vajrayana and earlier, the Bon religious tradition of Tibet; both have well-established rituals for exorcism. The Vatican actually has training programs for would be exorcists.


It is sad that some Hindus mock the very idea of exorcism and the reality of evil. Swami Vivekananda had seen ghosts, and certainly Swamiji was not psychotic. Many Hindus have misread Immanuel Kant and Soren Kierkegaard and in their half-baked rationalist intentions forgotten their roots and while believing in Christian understandings of demonology and Islamic understandings of Iblis and his fallen followers; outright reject the reality of evil and the need for exorcism within Sanatana Dharma.


Hindus buy into expirations done by Catholic priests during exorcism but if Hindu exorcists do the same, the latter are labelled as practitioners of black magic.


This author is an ardent follower of Kant and Kierkegaard, the latter’s voluminous Journals and Notebooks have been reviewed by him for Prabuddha Bharata, a first in India and Asia, and finds that both Kant and Kierkegaard do not reject the truth of evil in its essentiality. It is high time that we sensitize ourselves to the existence of demons and the need for exorcising them. 


And without understanding the philosophical Problem of Evil, we should not speak about the subject. This author has done his Ph.D. on Patristics and the Problem of Evil and thus is venturing to write this essay.


Patristics and the Problem of Evil should not be simplified for often reductionism leads to little learning which itself is dangerous. One takes years to research these topics and one ought not to ridicule the efforts at understanding evil just because one does not have the time to study and research. Ridicule and mockery are often indicators of being intellectually vacuous.


This contextualisation of the reception of Hindu exorcism by Hindus needed doing since many Hindus are eager to mock what they do not understand because they are too lazy to actually study their own and others’ philosophies and theologies. 


The first point to stress is that one should never confuse mental illnesses with demonic possession. This author has trained in counselling and other behavioural sciences before he completed his doctoral work on evil. As a thumb rule, if a person is seeing ghosts, has daily visitations from supernatural beings and is feeling possessed then the person certainly needs the help of a psychiatrist and talk-therapists. Probably, the person is suffering from one or the other psychotic disorders which can be resolved by anti-psychotics.


Further, if someone is getting angry often or even violent or anger is followed by laughter and other un-inhibitory behaviour patterns, then that person may be suffering from bipolar disorders. The point here is that one should follow standard allopathic treatment and established psychological techniques informed by the Diagnostical and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5.


Another example will suffice, Covid 19 affects the brain in various ways. So, both the trauma of being in an isolation ward and the virus itself changes patterns of thinking to the extent that a person might cry uncontrollably and become obsessively religious as a reaction to helplessness in the face of isolation and organic brain damage. 


The other great danger in referring to demonic activity is to blame demons for one’s own acts of evil. One can easily blame demons for crimes and thus reduce personal responsibility/culpability. So how does one recognise demonic activity and go about exorcising demons in genuine cases of possession, manifestation, and obsession? And what are the rituals that our Dharma prescribes for exorcisms? 


It is only a very holy person who can distinguish demonic activity from natural causes. Ordinary people should not even think of helping others in finding out if demons are at work.


Unlike Abrahamic religions, within our Faith, demons are not eternally damned.


They are corporeal beings who due to their Karma have chosen absolute hatred for all creation. The Hindu exorcist helps the possessed person to get rid of the demon and also helps the demon to find mukti. This is the unique viewpoint of our Faith. The aim here is not to return a demon to hell, but to help that tortured being to realise that mukti is possible for everyone if they choose to help themselves. Demons can be recognised only by women and men of deep personal sanctity who have perfected themselves and won over themselves. Mere learning and reading will not help in confronting demons or recognising demonic activity.


Here are some points which might help one to recognise demonic presence.


1. Spontaneous appearance of objects which are simply not there at home. This author knows of a case where a needle appeared just at the tip of a child’s chin and due to the intervention of a great sadhaka, the needle did not pierce the child. The needle could not have been there, and it was free-floating at 1.30 am in the night. This is demonic activity. 


2. Sounds in the house which have no rational explanation.


3. Increasing domestic violence leading to marital breakups and a spiralling of the family into ruin. As it were, such families implode. Family members slowly become intolerable to each other as against being a cohesive family earlier. Counsellors will not be able to find reasons why the family has disintegrated into a whirlpool of violence and self-destructive behaviour. 


4. Financial ruin of individuals and families which were never into debt and there is no known cause for the ruin.


5. Individuals and families becoming isolated from their neighbours and slowly getting involved with the occult and black magic.


6. Uninhibited behaviour including promiscuity and a strong desire for what is morally not sanctioned by our Dharma.


7. A repulsion for everything associated with our Dharma.


8. Very rarely, sights of supernatural beings who are filled with hate.


Ways to prevent demonic presences include listening to the chants of the Bhagavad Gita daily. They are available for free online. Listening to Hanuman Chalisa daily. And reciting it along with the Gayatri Mantra. Weekly visits to temples and total avoidance of black magic also prevents demons from harming individuals. 


And, a point which will gall atheists; one should avoid those who do not believe in God. Because often people are atheists because of their intellectual arrogance and also because atheism, which is not the same as being a nastika, allows moral ambiguity and permits all kinds of deviant behaviours. Atheists are already often within the matrix of evil.


If you believe someone is suffering from demonic influence, then get in touch with very holy people and take their help. Do not delay. Because as days pass, the demon will become stronger. And the victim will be drawn into a vortex of unspeakable evil.  


Demons can be pishachas, pretas, vetalas and hundreds of other kinds. For the moment they are angry spirits who will not stop harming others. So be careful that you do not delay in seeking help. It is enough to know that they are beings who want your destruction. More knowledge than this is harmful. Take heed that you avoid the occult.


Author Subhasis Chattopadhyay has a Ph.D. in Patristics and the Problem of Evil in American Horror Literature from the University of Calcutta.

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