Spirits and ghosts

What is the difference between spirits and ghosts? Do they co-exist with the humans? Some folks claim that they can even see them…


至于灵魂 (soul),中国民间的传说很多,对人的生死,把生当作是灵魂的投胎;死是灵魂脱离肉体;认为人是灵魂套上了肉体的东西,肉体可以换了又换,灵魂是一成不变的。




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Buddhism view on ‘spirits’:

Buddhism does not deny the existence of good and evil spirits. There are visible and invisible beings or spirits in the same way as there are visible and invisible lights. We need special instruments to see the invisible light and we need a special sense to see the invisible beings. One cannot deny the existence of such spirits just because one is unable to see them with one’s naked eyes. These spirits are also subject to birth and death. They are not going to stay permanently in the spirit form. They too exist in the same world where we live.

The Buddha never advised His followers to worship such spirits or to be frightened of them. The Buddhist attitude towards them is to transfer merits and to radiate loving-kindness to them. Buddhists do not harm them. On the other hand, if person is religious, virtuous and pure in mind, and is also intelligent and possesses strong willpower and understanding capacity, then such a person could be deemed to be much stronger than spirits. The evil spirits will keep away and the good spirits will protect him or her.

Buddhism view on ‘soul’:

According to Buddhism there is no reason to believe that there is an eternal soul that comes from heaven or is created by itself or that it will transmigrate or proceed straight away either to heaven or hell after death. Buddhists cannot accept that there is anything either in this world or any other world that is eternal or unchangeable. The Buddha teaches that what we call ego, self, soul, personality, etc., are merely conventional terms that do not refer to any real, independent entity.

Extracted from: Venerable Dr. K. Sri Dhammanada “What Buddhist Believe”


Bumping up this topic in view that we have entered the 7th Lunar month. Many Chinese societies view this period as the Hungry Ghost Festival in which we are more likely to encounter supernatural entities like ghosts and spirits.

Let’s hear what 如得法师 has to say:

My own summary of the discourse:

  • 99% of the time such encounters are not ghostly in nature but a manifestation of one’s own mental and physical condition (i.e. your own imagination)
  • ghosts and spirits don’t really have a reason to harm you
  • Rather then being “receptive” to the presence of ghosts and spirit, we should keep the thoughts of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas in our mind and heart

Here is another video from the Singapore Buddhist Federation helping us to understand more about the Hungry Ghost Festival: