Madness and Possession in Pali Texts

Authors

  • Steven Collins Department of South Asian Languages and Civilizations, University of Chicago

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.1558/bsrv.v31i2.195

Keywords:

madness, possession, Pāli, pathology

Abstract

In the context of contemporary interest in the use of Buddhist meditation practices in modern psychology, psychiatry and psychotherapy, this article offers a preliminary survey of a subject hitherto almost completely unstudied: madness in Premodern Pali texts. (Possession, especially but not only by Mara, who is both a deity and a phenomenological reality, is regarded by the Pali tradition as a kind of madness.) Using story-literature as well as doctrinal and jurisprudential texts, the article aims to collect together material on three ways in which the ideas and behaviours of madness are used: (i) the literal-pathological, (ii) in comparisons (‘as if’ mad), and (iii) in the metaphorical-evaluative sense where it is alleged that everyone who is not enlightened (or at least on the Path to it) is ‘mad’. It is centered around an eightfold classification of madness given in the commentary to a Jataka story, the Birth Story about Darimukha (Ja III #378, III 238–246).

References

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Published

2015-01-15

How to Cite

Collins, S. (2015). Madness and Possession in Pali Texts. Buddhist Studies Review, 31(2), 195–214. https://doi.org/10.1558/bsrv.v31i2.195

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Articles