The Role of Parapsychology in Buddhism

Subject: Psychology
Pages: 83
Words: 31666
Reading time:
109 min
Study level: PhD

Literature Review

The core objective of this chapter is to provide the reader with an all-inclusive view on the subjects of parapsychology and the Pali canon. This is very important because this PhD project is an attempt to make a comparison between understanding of psychic power phenomenon as perceived in Buddhism and Parapsychology, which is the aim of this thesis. This is also needed to outline the most important points inherent in the current understanding of these concepts and build the knowledge base necessary for the development of the experiment in the area. The researcher will provide a taxonomy of parapsychology and discuss its role in the development of parapsychology coming from the field of Eastern traditions. Then, the author will discuss the Pali canon and its formative elements. This chapter will provide a critical analysis of the basic concepts of this thesis so that the author may be able to discuss them in detail further throughout the dissertation. The aim of this literature review is to show that the understanding of psi derived from academic parapsychology is in part founded on Eastern scriptural material and practices in a manner that potentially misunderstands or misinterprets them. The author of the thesis is willing to test that suspicion by comparing the academic parapsychology account with that to be found in the Pali canon. In order to achieve this, the researcher will outline the current understanding in academic parapsychology and its claimed origins.

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Introduction to Parapsychology

In this subsection of the thesis, the researcher aims to get the reader acquainted with the basics of the science of parapsychology and describe all of its features in detail. The review is vital as it will contribute to the authors understanding of Parapsychology as an academic discipline and its interest of research. Parapsychology is an unconventional science that is intended to perform the investigation of all the cases of occurrence of near-death experiences and psychic abilities (Carter, 2007). The term itself derives from the Greek where the part “para” means “alongside”, and the part “psychology” is the combination of the words “psyche” (mind) and “logos” (study). It uses the scientific method to find the causes of these events and support the existence of such phenomena with facts (Irwin & Watt, 2007). One of the originators of the whole concept of parapsychology was Max Dessoir, a philosopher that devised the term “parapsychology” at the end of the 19th century. One of the first persons to accept this term and begin research on the topic was J. B. Rhine. By doing that, he triggered a shift toward the development of a new academic discipline and elaboration of a bigger number of experimental methodologies that could be used in psychical research (Rhine & Pratt, 2010).

This subsection of the thesis was devoted to introducing the reader to parapsychology. The major concerns regarding the nature of parapsychology and its association with Eastern traditions will be discussed in the upcoming sections.

The Definition of Parapsychology

According to the definition that was proposed by Irwin and Watt (2007), parapsychology is a science that is concentrated on the investigation of different abilities possessed by humans that are commonly outside the orthodox realm. This means that parapsychological phenomena can be described as either events or abilities which cannot be explained by any mainstream scientist that uses the canons set by materialist researchers (Irwin & Watt, 2007). One of the most well-known psychic ability that is recurrently addressed by parapsychologists is extrasensory perception. The latter defines the phenomena of receiving information through the sources other than any known sensory processes (Irwin & Watt, 2007). In their book, Irwin and Watt (2007) explained that parapsychology is an authentic science which is based solely on anomalous events and abilities. To sum it up, parapsychology is not at all a scientific field where investigators are interested in studying the paranormal. Instead, they focus on studying the experiences and aligning these interactions with the general psychology and one’s sensory capacities (Irwin & Watt, 2007). More importantly, there should also be a rather strict distinction between paranormal processes and parapsychological experiences. The former relates to the hypotheses connected to the existence of specific abilities while the latter is taken for granted by the researchers because parapsychological experiences is not a new thing and its existence has been witnessed numerous times (Irwin & Watt, 2007). To say the least, the relationships between parapsychology and mainstream science are a paradox. Regardless, parapsychology is rather close to the field of scientific psychology because of its behaviour-focused approach and appreciation of the underlying psychologic principles.

The Taxonomy of Parapsychology

In this section researcher will explain different types of psi phenomenon which are main interest of studies of parapsychology. It is rather important discussion as in later phases of research author’s intention is to make connection of these phenomenon with similar Buddhist understanding. There is a number of ostensive phenomena that have to be included in the array of disciplines that are of interest to parapsychologists. One of the most prevalent parapsychological concepts is telepathy. In other words, it is the ability to transfer information without the use of the basic five senses. Another area of research is precognition. The latter is the ability to perceive information regarding the events that have not occurred yet. Another ability that cannot be explained by the current science is clairvoyance. This is an exclusive capacity of gathering information concerning remote locations and events. Parapsychology is also interested in studying the ability to influence matter, space, and energy (Milton & Wiseman, 1997). This particular ability is often regarded as psychokinesis. One of the most controversial topics discussed by parapsychology is the revival after a clinical death (also known as a near-death experience). The rebirth of a soul is also perceived by parapsychologists as a kind of non-physical event that has to do with paranormal activity and cannot be explained by conventional science. Parapsychologists are keen on studying apparitional experiences (also known as ghosts) so as to investigate the issue of people seeing people who have passed away some time ago. Research on the topics of UFO, paganism, psychic development, witchcraft, vampires, and messages from other realms also falls under the concept of parapsychology. The review of the related literature reveals various parapsychological phenomena that are explored by other than usual sensory methods. Cardena, Palmer, and Marcusson-Clavertz (2015) distinguish between two types of psi phenomenon including cognitive and physical ones. The former group of phenomena contains precognition (the ability to see the future), telepathy (the ability to read one’s mind), and clairvoyance (the ability to perceive information beyond the conventional sensory contact), while the latter refers to such concept as psychokinesis (the ability to move objects by the mere mental effort). Cognitive types are based on extrasensory perception, which is used to designate the ability to know what is happening regardless of the receipt of data from the sensory organs (Zusne & Jones, 1982). In other words, extrasensory perception is the ability to perceive events that are not actually possible for perception by the physical senses (Kurtz, 1985). The physical type of parapsychology usually involves card guessing or movement of objects by poltergeists. It seems essential to provide the detailed taxonomy of the mentioned phenomena in order to comprehend them in an in-depth manner and conduct their further analysis. The author of the dissertation aims to characterize these phenomena from an academic parapsychology perspective so as to be able to compare these descriptions with traditional accounts from the Pali canon.


According to Bem (2011), the author of the theory of self-perception also studying psi phenomena, precognition is an abnormal process of transmitting information or energy about the events that will happen in the future that is currently inexplicable from the point of view of known physical or biological mechanisms. In his research study, the author argues that people are able to feel the future. The article reveals the statistical data obtained during the study of precognition. His work allowed to challenge contemporary scientific concepts of the linear nature of time. Roig et al. (1991) along with Zusne and Jones (1982) also emphasize the existence of precognition and its role in parapsychology.


Telepathy is the ability of the human brain to transmit information to other people or receive information from them without using any means of communication. It should be added that this feeling (perception, sensation, etc.) is performed extrasensory at a distance and without the participation of known sensory systems of a man such as hearing, smelling, touching, and so on. According to the nature of manifestation, Rhine and Pratt (2010) distinguish between spontaneous telepathy and experimental telepathy. The first one occurs when this psi phenomenon appears in addition to (or even without) the will of its participants (the sender – the person from whom telepathy originates and the recipient – the person to whom it is directed) (Rhine & Pratt, 2010). Experimental telepathy is marked by the fact that a researcher creates an artificial situation simulating a telepathic psi phenomenon.

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In parapsychology, telepathy may be of various types: separate conscious telepathy and the unconscious one. As for conscious telepathy, both people involved in the process are attuned to a telepathic dialogue (Kurtz, 1985). During unconscious telepathy, the transmission of thoughts, and, more often, images or emotions occurs spontaneously. Depending on the time binding, telepathy can be either cognitive or intuitive (information about the present) (Kurtz, 1985). In addition, there is also a distinction between telepathy, which can be sensual (transmission of sensations) and conceivable. It is said that the ancient shamans were able to relieve pain with the help of sensual telepathy. In its turn, conceivable telepathy encompasses communication of thoughts. Telepathic abilities often arise between people with a strong emotional connection, and they do not weaken even at a distance.


It denotes a form of sensory perception akin to intuition, according to which a person reveals knowledge, not through learning, experience, or physical sources. In other words, clairvoyance is the ability to know not knowing how or why one knows or does something, while the mind is only able to observe and remember (Shoup, 2002). There are two types of the specified phenomenon such as objective and subjective. Clairvoyance is one of the types of extrasensory perception that helps a person to receive information in addition to science and facts. People who are engaged in clairvoyance can observe the past and anticipate the future. At this point, space itself helps the psychics who are, according to the research of parapsychologists, capable of accumulating information (Shoup, 2002). This explains the ability of psychics to read information about people from their belongings to things. There are several types of clairvoyance that are currently known to parapsychologists – clairaudience, clairsentinence, and claircognizance (Shoup, 2002).


Psychokinesis is a person’s ability to influence objects with the help of an exclusively mental effort that manifests itself consciously or spontaneously. The mentioned concept also designates the section of parapsychology, which studies the control of mind over matter (Roney-Dougal & Solfvin, 2011). The ability of people to control the chaotic movement of beads scattered on the floor and other non-heavy objects is the simplest form of psychokinesis that did not receive a lot of scientific backing yet. Among the types of the above phenomenon, one may note telekinesis, hydrokinesis, cryokinesiss, etc. Telekinesis relates to the ability, by which a person moves objects without the direct contact with them (Roney-Dougal & Solfvin, 2011). Hydrokinesis represents the science of water manipulation that is extremely difficult to master. Cryokinesis indicates the ability to manipulate body temperature as well as to heat and cool objects or substances.

To conclude, reader can understand that there is array of different psi examples that are being recognized by parapsychology. However, as far as the discipline of Buddhism or eastern tradition is concerned it will be important to conduct an overview of this other field as well in order to develop thorough understanding for further research. Author will discuss about this area in details in subsequent sections.

Louisa Rhine’s Perspectives on Parapsychology

In this subsection of the dissertation, the author is going to investigate Louisa Rhine’s findings and align them with the key objectives of the thesis. This is an important step because it will allow the researcher to evaluate the influence of her findings on the field of parapsychology. In one of her first research works, Rhine (1953) reviewed approximately one thousand cases of different psychic experiences that were spontaneous in their nature. She analysed those cases in order to find out the most common forms of these psychic experiences and make necessary generalisations. Rhine (1953) was able to identify four main types of psychic experiences. First, there were intuitive experiences that revolved around simple experiences that were nothing else than an unreasoned expression (Rhine, 1953). The second type of experiences was called hallucinatory. In that case, the experience was projected as a sensation (Rhine, 1953). The third type of experiences related to unrealistic dreaming. In other words, those psychic experiences were underlined by fantasy (Rhine, 1953). The last type of most common psychic experiences included realistic dreaming. Those cases were highlighted by merely photographically realistic experiences (Rhine, 1953). It was found that the first two groups of experiences were only possible in the waking state. Rhine (1953) mentioned that generalisation was necessary to understand those processes inherent in the four types of psychic experiences mentioned above and how they contributed to the mental life of an individual. For Rhine, this generalisation meant that a lot of new questions had to be answered. In particular, she was interested in investigating the parts of a personality that could support the display of psychic powers and the ability to expose oneself to spontaneous psychic experiences (Rhine, 1953). At the end, she concluded that the process of acquiring knowledge had to occur on an unconscious level. She also added that the mechanisms of attaining that knowledge had to go over the threshold in order to contribute to a conscious perception of such experiences. Nonetheless, Rhine (1953) rightfully reached the verdict on psychic experiences and concluded that the process of our selective judgment occurred underneath the level of consciousness.

Rhine’s (1962a) another research project was aimed to investigate the process of research on psi abilities. She claimed that the progress was rather slow and partially limited. In most cases, Rhine (1962a) identified only negative effects of psi experiments and perfect scores were rather seldom. Nonetheless, she mentioned that one of the key points of psi research was the consistency of scores showed by the participants of such experiments. Rhine (1962a) reasonably stated that extrasensory perception might be seen as a sporadic phenomenon that was restricted and exercised with difficulty. Regardless, Rhine (1962a) associated those limitations and restrictions with the possibility to understand psi processes better. She analysed quite a few cases that were conducted in laboratory settings and a number of spontaneous cases in order to come up with the possibility to generalise their contributions. Rhine (1962a) was genuinely interested in identifying if there were any prospects to deduce the steps that allowed to make the information available for extrasensory perception and transport it to one’s consciousness. In her 1962 report, Rhine concentrated on waking experiences as she believed that those psi phenomena could be the answer to understanding parapsychic abilities. Her findings allowed to conclude that extrasensory perception that took place below the conscious level could be divided into elements (Rhine, 1962a). On a bigger scale, there were some elements that could cross the border of consciousness effortlessly and there were some that could not. According to these findings, Rhine (1962a) decided that such pseudo-sensory and hallucinatory experiences could be explained by means of ensuring that there was a direct relationship between the form of the extrasensory perception and intuitive experiences. It was found that those results could be considered relevant within the framework of research on psi.

In the second part of her research, Rhine (1962b) completed an analysis of the impact of incomplete realistic dreams that related to extrasensory perception. She was able to identify that there were numerous personal factors that could influence the formation of either an automatic reproduction of content-bearing imagery or incomplete realistic dreams. Rhine (1962b) also mentioned that there were several devices that contributed to the development of a greater magnitude of the phenomenon. Her findings validated the hypothesis that before an imagery is formed, unrealistic dreams could lead to the advent of an association of ideas that were below the level of common consciousness (Rhine, 1962b). This helped Rhine (1962b) to understand that even the nature of those imageries could be influenced by personal inclinations. The imagery was found to be re-interpreted after the process of receiving the imagery from below the conscious level. The transmittance of an incomplete realistic dream heavily relied on personal motives of the individual going through such psi experiences. Rhine’s (1962b) study on the four forms of psi experiences (intuitions, hallucinations, and realistic/ unrealistic dreams) showed that there were numerous psychological processes that took place in one’s brain below the conscious level. Initial judgment turned out to be one of the first processes while the re-interpretation was one of the final stages of extrasensory experiences. One of the key goals of her research was to show that there were some extreme delicacies when it came to the psychological processes that ensured the existence of extrasensory perception dreams. These fragilities related to the fragmented and distorted nature of such experiences (Rhine, 1962b). She was able to identify several critical difficulties that revolved around the idea that the limitations experienced by experimenters were psychological rather than directly associated with parapsychology.

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Within the framework of this subsection of the dissertation, it can be concluded that presumptive extrasensory experiences can be helpful in terms of tracing parapsychological constructs of incomplete realistic dreams. This can be possible because each of the four paradigms discussed above can help us to look at parapsychological abilities from a number of different perspectives. Further, the researcher is going to discuss the main concepts of Pali canon so as to make sure that the parapsychological context of this huge entry could be associated with Rhine’s findings regarding the process of transmitting and receiving information on the levels that are inferior to the level of common consciousness.

Honorton’s Noise Reduction Model

Before switching this chapter’s attention towards eastern tradition, it would be interesting to review Honorton’s noise reduction model. This model is being used exhaustively in parapsychological researches however we do not find much connection of this model as far as research or experiments with meditation is concerned, especially the meditation of Buddhist tradition or of Theravada tradition. The noise reduction model realized and proposed in 1971 by Honorton was intended for the study of paranormal abilities. It seems that something unusual or even mystical stands behind the word ganzfeld. However, this is merely a visual and auditory environment that is homogeneous in many respects and called the German term ganzfeld meaning absolutely empty or neutral field introduced by Metzger (Friedman & Hartelius, 2015). In order to comprehend the notion of noise reduction model, it is critical to briefly explain the essence of ganzfeld method. While studying telepathic perception in terms of the above method, the perceiver was in a soundproof room in a comfortable chair with a folding back. The eyes of the perceiver of a telepathic signal were closed by the halves of a white ball used for playing table tennis. Light was directed to them to create a uniform visual field. In the headphones, the perceiver heard white noise that was homogeneous to the noise of a radio. The perceiver also performed several relaxation exercises to relieve internal tension. The sender arbitrarily selected one of eight images (a photograph or a frame on a videotape) and mentally sent the image to the perceiver (Bem & Honorton, 1994). The transmission lasted 30 minutes, and, at this time, the perceiver constantly told about all the images, emotions, and thoughts that arose in his mind.

As a parapsychologist, Honorton used automated methods in his experiments. The paramount hypothesis stated by this scholar was that the reduction of the ordinary sensory input leads to the enhanced psi mediation (Bem & Honorton, 1994). The positive effect of ganzfeld is a phenomenon of visual and auditory perception manifested while looking at homogeneous fields of color or sounds. Consistent with the previous research in the given field, Honorton stated that ganzfeld provides a state in which psi phenomena can manifest themselves better. Long stay in a uniform color field without any details can lead to abnormal abilities, which are rather similar to dreaming during sleep, since the brain lacks visual information in both states. The idea of Honorton was that telepathic abilities are drowned out in the contemporary world by a stream of external stimuli. According to the assumption articulated by Bem and Honorton (1994) in their research study, people see, hear, feel, and if one has a telepathic signal, he or she, perhaps, experience difficulties in noticing it. Thus, placing a person in the conditions of ganzfeld experiment alters the ratio of external noise and the telepathic signal, increasing the chances of telepathy to manifest itself. The results of the work of Honorton and his collaborator Bem were published in the Psychological Bulletin in 1994 (Bem & Honorton, 1994). The tone of the publication was moderately optimistic. The noise reduction model developed by Honorton encourages many to try to reproduce the effect of telepathy and investigate it in an in-depth manner. Honorton’s noise reduction model of psi is regarded as one of the dominant theories of the modern parapsychology as it serves as a goal-oriented approach taking into account both the inner chatter and the environmental sources of noise. To conclude, Honorton’s noise reduction model is a comprehensive one which could be utilised within this research depending on the needs of next phases and outcomes of the further analysis. In this section author discussed this model so that it could be employed future as per the need of experimental phase.

Serena Roney-Dougal’s View of Meditation

This subsection of the chapter is intended to get the reader acquainted with Roney-Dougal’s research in terms of the benefits of meditation and its association with parapsychology. By means of this review, the researcher aims to gain more insight into the issue of Eastern tradition being closely related to parapsychology. One of the most extensive research projects in the area was conducted by Serena Roney-Dougal as she tried to connect psi and meditation. One of her first experiments revolved around the idea that it might be required to find if there were any differences between precognition and clairvoyance (Roney-Dougal, 2015). She believed that clairvoyance was not easier to elicit simply because the target of practice was already there. Regardless, Roney-Dougal (2015) claimed that similar concepts could be found in parapsychology (such as both spontaneous precognition and clairvoyance, for example). Her findings are rather interesting to the author of the dissertation because Roney-Dougal (2015) found that the ability to achieve high scores in psi testing depended majorly on the years that were devoted by the monks to meditation practices. For the most part, the participants of Roney-Dougal’s (2015) experiment had less than ten years of meditation experience and could be described as relative beginners. It is also interesting how those monks who had more than a decade of experience in terms of meditation showed better psi results (Roney-Dougal, 2015). The monks whose experience reached at least 30 years, showed some exceptional results. The author of the current dissertation was able to identify a trend in Roney-Dougal’s (2015) research that revolved around the ‘psi-missing’ concept. This means that the experiment where the practitioners had to choose a picture always ended up with people not choosing the target picture they were expected to choose. The phenomenon of ‘psi-missing’ is recurrently used by Roney-Dougal (2015) because she believes that one’s attitude may seriously impact psi practices. According to Roney-Dougal (2015), there are certain blocks that may serve as defence mechanisms that limit one’s ability to elicit unconscious psychological processes.

The connection between meditation and psi can also be extended if we decide to talk more about the possible reasons for the display of psi-missing behaviours. One of the most important contributors to the ‘meditator’s block’ is the monks’ exposure to scientific knowledge (Roney-Dougal, 2015). Knowing that not a lot of monks recognise the importance of science and its premises because of their belief that science may break down their spiritual traditions, the researcher can conclude that a meditator’s experience can play a rather important role. At the same time, it is remarkable that some Buddhist teachings are inextricably linked to scientific findings. Roney-Dougal (2015) even mentioned that Dalai Lama supported meditation research regardless of the latter being something very outlandish to monks. Some of the most thought-provoking findings also revolved around the idea that out of the three best-performing participants of the experiment (two were Rinpoches (their previous incarnations are believed to be high lamas as they reincarnated to enlighten people surrounding them) and one was Geshe (PhD in Buddhist philosophy)), all reported several identical memories regarding previous lives and the Chinese invasion (Roney-Dougal, 2015). Captivatingly, they reported those findings independently of each other, and the outcomes of their past lives were identical as well – confined, contrived, deceased. No other participant of the experiment came close to such reports or outcomes. This led Roney-Dougal (2015) to the idea that there might be a kind of a psi block that elicits the psi-missing directions.

From the reviewed material, the researcher can conclude that meditation can be a serious contributor to the display of psi powers (and psi-missing behaviours as well). According to the conclusions made by Roney-Dougal (2015), only the most experienced meditators may be able to demonstrate psi abilities. Her study showed that there was a serious correlation between their meditation experience and correct choice of the target during the experiment. Nonetheless, Roney-Dougal’s (2015) findings can only be validated if more participants take part in the experiment and confirm these ‘premature’ findings. If the researcher were to characterise this contribution to their dissertation, they would describe it as an incomplete, but rather successful and thought-provoking project. One of the biggest concerns should be missing psi in the younger people (a rather low correlation was identified by Roney-Dougal (2015)). The significance of a higher level of correlation between psi-missing behaviours and meditation has to be researched further because the majority of younger participants tended to grant the experimenters’ willingness to witness psi abilities and validate their hypothesis regarding the interconnection between meditation practice (or experience) and psi abilities (Roney-Dougal, 2015). The researcher can also conclude that Roney-Dougal’s (2015) experiment directly supports the hypothesis that years of meditation practice can positively affect one’s awareness and help the individual to develop precognition and clairvoyance. This becomes rather interesting when we connect this hypothesis to the idea from the Buddhist teachings that revolves around the belief that meditation attainment is the key catalyst of psi abilities. Nonetheless, the value of Roney-Dougal’s (2015) research is undermined due to numerous psi-missing participants of the experiment that may be too inexperienced to display any psi abilities yet.

So as to get more insight into this issue and the role of meditation for Buddhism and psi, the researcher continued studying Roney-Dougal’s (2015) experiments. The latter claims that the majority of research projects in parapsychology are focused on eliciting subconscious processes. She explains these processes as a set of physiological replies to external stimuli. This may help the researcher to understand the nature of meditation in Eastern tradition and its probable parapsychological connections (Roney-Dougal, 2015). One of the experiments that she described in her article included a set of physiological measurements that had been made before a consciously-felt stimulus. This allowed her to test the subconscious nature of psi effects. Roney-Dougal (2015) summarized the findings by suggesting that the presence of psi abilities varies from one person to another. It is important to mention that both non-meditators and active Zen meditation practitioners (20 years of practice on average) participated in the experiment. The results showed that there are serious pre-stimulus differences between non-meditators and practitioners (p <.005) (Roney-Dougal, 2015). Also, it was found that there is a critical difference between these two groups in terms of habituation (this score was smaller among the practitioners). Roney-Dougal (2015) discussed the process of interaction between the type of stimulus and the subsequent state of consciousness. She concluded that a presentiment effect could be validated within the framework of such experiments for both meditators and non-meditators. This allows the researcher to reach the verdict that Eastern tradition (and meditation in particular) should be investigated further due to the fact that the impact of these practices on the human mind is underresearched while potentially bearing a number of critical connotations to academic parapsychology.

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Parapsychologists’ Examination on Buddhism and Meditation

According to the existing information on the topic of parapsychological examination of different experiments and Buddhist supranormal powers, it may be evident that the key objective of the parapsychological research is to identify the elements that contribute to the success of psi display (Roney-Dougal & Solfvin, 2011). We may also connect this to the concept of Buddhism and address the question of understanding that hints at the fact that there are things that heavily influence the occurrence of different supranormal events (that can be associated with the concept of psi either directly or indirectly) (Radin, 2006). One of the elements that are believed to be one of the underlying contributors to the parapsychological examination of psi is the subject’s state of mind. There is a hypothesis stating that the subject may be able to showcase their supranormal powers only in the case if they are relaxed and attentive during the process of meditation (Radin, 2006). This created a number of limitations for parapsychologists, but they still believe that the current use of such approach may be considered to be one of the best ways to discover psi (despite the lack of overall reliability) (Bem & Honorton, 1994). This is why numerous parapsychologists are still currently trying to elicit supranormal powers throughout observation. For the first time, one of the most renowned hypotheses in the history of parapsychology regarding the benefits of meditative practices was tested in the 1970s (Rao, 1978). Rao’s (1978) experiment focused on supranormal powers and psi encounters. The problem that parapsychologists usually deal with throughout their examination of the benefits of meditation and connection between Buddhism and parapsychology consists in the fact that the majority of the subjects that are taking part in the experiments are not some experienced meditators. At first, parapsychologists were keen on merely finding out if meditation was actually a source of power that increased the chances of occurrence of a variety of psychic effects (Radin, 2006). With time, parapsychologists were able to identify that the validity of the research results had grown significantly. This led to a situation where parapsychology now uses meditators to investigate different parapsychological questions instead of only conducting experiments to demonstrate the existence of psi. One of the aspects of meditation that still has to be examined by parapsychologists is the real-life effect of meditation and how it can be used in parapsychological research if it is psi-positive. Parapsychologists do not have a clear picture regarding a number of concepts (mindfulness, for example) (Rao & Palmer, 1987). This led to a situation where the majority of parapsychologists were criticised for not investigating different meditation techniques. The rationale for this criticism lies in the fact that different meditation techniques trigger the advent of diverse brain patterns which cannot be replicated. For instance, there are meditation practices that may produce alpha brain waves (such as transcendental meditation), beta waves (concentration), and theta waves (open awareness). Regardless of numerous other states of consciousness, parapsychologists believe that meditation is the most psi-conducive practice out of all of them (Roney-Dougal & Solfvin, 2011). Also, parapsychologists point out the value of the state of samadhi and dwell on the ecstasy trance state which may be rather critical within the framework of parapsychological research on supranormal powers possessed by powerful meditators. The key to successful experiments is the use of experienced meditators that know how to control their mind at all times. As this research project is also interested in the comparison of parapsychology with Buddhism, the meditation aspect that has been proclaimed by the Buddha is very important to make further connections. This review adds to the knowledge of author’s understanding about a gap in research that needs to be fulfilled with Theravada Buddhist tradition as this tradition is not being examined at all by parapsychologists. Pali canon is the main scripture of this tradition (discussed in detail in section 1.9 and 1.10) and it will be further interesting to review Pali canon so that the critical understanding of psi phenomenon from this tradition will be obtained thoroughly. This gap will also be a new addition to the world academia.

Parapsychologists Treatment to Eastern Tradition

There are two kinds of traditions known to parapsychologists – Western and Eastern. They are subdivided into a number of directions and schools. The pivotal difference between the mentioned approaches lays in their attitude to an individual. Parapsychology in Eastern tradition is an extended form of esotericism, through which modern science attempts to reconcile parapsychology built primarily on supersensible methods of cognition and the predominantly rationalistic ideology dominating in the contemporary world (Barash, 2017). The purpose of Eastern tradition is to live in harmony with oneself and the surrounding world along with the fullest disclosure of one’s abilities. It is the medicine of the body, mind, and soul requiring only persistent and independent work on oneself (Radin, 2009).

Aligning Eastern tradition to parapsychology, it is possible to mention that the combination of these components forces a person to look inside and focus on internal psi-conducive states rather than to explore those of others (Rao & Paranjpe, 2015). People living on East prefer working on their own condition to improve continuously and understand themselves better. In particular, raja yoga, bio-feedback, and some other Eastern techniques are utilized to concentrate on one’s internal state and establish paranormal connections (Rao & Paranjpe, 2015). It is considered, therefore, that Eastern tradition is closer and more aware of parapsychological manifestations. Since such practices as meditation and breathing control exercises are familiar to the majority of Orientals, it becomes evident that Eastern scholars and practitioners are more likely to discover new opportunities and challenges in the field of psi-related issues (Rao & Paranjpe, 2015).

Considering that psi-conducive efforts help a person to reveal his or her parapsychological capability, it is practiced to train children in East in special centres. May and Marwaha (2014) review the results of several studies and conclude that 47 % of children aged between six and 12 are trained to discover their psi ability by means of the qigong system. It presents special exercises aimed at breath control and energy reflection. McConnel claims that in spite of the widespread nature of qigong and the alternative medicine, the attitude of government is rather controversial (as cited in May & Marwaha, 2014). Another work by Dean Radin and Jong Shiah should be mentioned as well, since it aligns West and East based on the intention involved treatment. According to their randomized study, tea treated with good intention enhanced one’s mood more than the usual tea as a result of the focused concentration. Radin (2009) also emphasizes the increased attempts of Eastern scholars to investigate such Oriental concepts as religion and the alternative healing traditions from the point of parapsychology. It is safe to claim that the study of psi-conducive states and techniques from the mentioned point of view is likely to shed light on the essence, origin, and the role of psi-factors for a person and humanity in general. Ultimately, one may argue that both western and Eastern traditions tend to become more extensive and focused on international concerns rather than exclusively regional issues. As such, thought of aligning Eastern parapsychology, especially that of Buddhism with west will be fruitful.

Aligning Buddhism and Parapsychology

The consideration of Buddhism and parapsychology seems to be important to explore Eastern tradition and experience regarding the above explainations. The review of Eastern tradition treatment indicates that Orient is characterized by the deeper understanding, study, and practice of psi-conducive states (Verdu, 1981). Taking into account that Buddhism is one of the most representative religions of Eastern world, it is expected that the proposed study would outline the key assumptions and reveal the existing trends. The very nature of Buddhism containing a high level of spirituality and self-reflection is likely to promote the effectiveness of the study resulting in the discovery of the mentioned points. In order to highlight the key characteristics that are significant to consider in terms of parapsychology, it is essential to pinpoint a focus on one’s personality and meditation as a source of power. Radin (2006) states several psychic effects of the mentioned characteristics, which in case of psi-positivity may be used in the proposed study. Harnessing the researcher’s enthusiasm, psi-conducive states will be scrutinized as well.

On the global scale, by aligning Buddhism and parapsychology, the researcher will contribute to the international parapsychology and encourage a comprehensive dialogue between West and East. With the aim of providing convincing and valuable arguments, it is critical to explore psi-conducive states and techniques that are common in Eastern world. To dwell on the specified theme and reflect on the given issue, both western and Eastern scholarly works need to be properly analyzed and interpreted. Buddha’s teaching presents essential grounds for studying parapsychology from the point of other than material knowledge that is, in one way or another, inherent in the contemporary science, as noted by Wiltshire (1990). It is safe to assume that the results of the potential study will be of interest both for scholars and average readers. The first ones may be interested in viewing Eastern traditions in parapsychology and their capability of integration with the rest of the world. More to the point, it should also be stressed that an open dialogue may offer greater opportunities to discuss the essence of paranormal contacts and abilities based on research and experiment. As for average readers, the work is likely to be informative and thought-provoking due to its focus on rather controversial yet elaborated phenomenon.

To sum it up, the paramount idea of this study is to critically analyze and evaluate Buddhists parapsychology and provide arguments that would prove that psi and paranormal phenomena take place and justify it. While some mainstream scientists reject the existence of telepathy and psychokinesis, others conduct experiments and reveal confirmations like ganzfeld experiment conducted by Honorton. In this connection, the growing body of the research needs to be extended with regards to supranormal powers, thus changing the current attitude to parapsychology. The establishment of association between Buddhism and parapsychologic conditions is the pivotal goal of the research based on the examination of parapsychological events along with the available literature.

Theravada Buddhism Contribution to Parapsychology

In this subsection of the dissertation, the researcher is willing to discover the core concept that contributes to Buddhist understanding of parapsychology and psychic experiences investigated by Rhine. In their article, Walpola, Walpola, Walpola, and Toneatto (2017) discussed the implications of Theravada Buddhism and proposed a model that could explain the functioning of mind on the basis of Theravadian outlooks. In order to do that, Walpola et al. (2017) conducted a literature review. The investigators explained the concept of mental proliferation and discussed the significance of clinging and craving to the concept of psi powers. They also expanded on the topic by means of validating the hypothesis that there are five key aggregates of the world that are personally formed by each given individual. Another important idea discussed by Walpola et al. (2017) was that Buddhism is based on a number of contemplative traditions that could facilitate the internal investigation of psi phenomena. From the perspective of the author of this dissertation, Theravada Buddhism allows practitioners to cultivate certain abilities that are mentioned in Pali sutta texts (this will be discussed in detail in the next subsection of the thesis). Walpola et al. (2017) were able to process Theravada Buddhist texts and design a model that could explain the functioning of our mind by means of the concept of careful attention. These findings can be supported by the fact that the willingness to realise how mind works and how we create our own suffering are the key two goals of meditation practice (Walpola et al., 2017). The authors of the article also proposed to develop a visual representation of mind functioning so as to see the causal relations and processes inherent in our brain. Overall, the author of the thesis can conclude that the concept of contact should be perceived as one of the key features of mind because it paves the way for the cognitive flow of mental phenomena that can also be regarded as psi (Walpola et al., 2017). In Theravada Buddhism, the notion of contact is also called a gateway that one should approach with right mindfulness and awareness in order to be exposed to psychic phenomena. Regardless, it has to be mentioned that the concept of careful attention is different from mindfulness. Any practitioner should be skilful at the necessary moment if they want to showcase the right mindfulness (Walpola et al., 2017). In the Pali canon, there is a notion of mindfulness-clear comprehension that unites all the concepts mentioned above in one particular element. The mental processes that occur within our brain can be characterised as rather dynamic and complex. This is why the descriptions of mental abilities present in Theravada Buddhism texts have to be simplified. Such action may contribute to the increase in accessibility and more individuals interested in studying the Pali canon and its parapsychological implications will have additional opportunities to investigate these phenomena.

Walpola et al. (2017) emphasised that even personal practice can be used as a supportive tool in terms of studying Buddhist roots of parapsychology and the connections between Theravada Buddhism and psi phenomena. The author of the dissertation supports this idea and concludes that mental processes that occur in our minds have to be assessed either through our personal experiences or research on sutta texts. This may be necessary to free ourselves from suffering as the latter is one of the core concepts that go in line with Buddhism. These findings implicitly hint at the fact that the researcher will have to apply the concept of careful attention in order to be able to get rid of ignorance and free themselves of the suffering that can be generated in their mind. Then, they will get the ability to investigate the mental processes discussed in Theravada Buddhism and evaluate the impact of contact on the occurrence of psi phenomena. These insights will have to be addressed in real time because otherwise, the researcher will not be able to perceive the information contained in the Pali canon correctly. Based on this, the researcher can hypothesise that Buddhist practitioners have to avoid habitual thinking patterns in order to elicit psi abilities. At their level of contact, experienced Buddhist practitioners stop their cognitive series in order to lessen the burden of suffering and clear the mind. Therefore, the author of the thesis believes that practical application of Theravada Buddhism concepts may be a rather helpful asset within the framework of the current research project. Walpola et al. (2017) also shared an idea that Theravada Buddhism pays special attention to extinguishing suffering at its source so as not to let the latter interfere with the possibility to display psychic abilities. Based on Walpola et al.’s (2017) ideas, the researcher can also conclude that the underpinnings of human mental activity have to be entirely understood before addressing the incidences of psychic powers mentioned in the Pali canon. This is why it is so important to bear in mind the fact that numerous practitioners are still willing to study the mechanisms of cognitive functioning. Within the framework of the next subsection of the dissertation, the author will discuss the connections between cognitive phenomena and the Pali canon. The model outlined by Walpola et al. (2017) can be considered to be one of the most advantageous instruments that can be used to achieve this objective. This subsection discussed Theravada Buddhism in detail and it may be safe to say that the Pali canon should be investigated for the presence of cases of psychic abilities and the benefits of meditation practices to achieve other states of mind.

Another explanation why Pali canon should be used within the framework of this thesis will be, as far as Buddhist academicians are concerned we do not get any separate collection of psychic powers found in Pali canon despite just one book written by Nyanaponika Thera (2003). In this book (the great disciples of the Buddha) researcher found only one separate chapter dedicated on psychic powers, and that too written on Mahamogallana, who considered as a master disciple of psychic powers. When the review of Pali canon was conducted by researcher (more details in methodology chapter 2), it suggests that there are many more examples of psychic phenomenon that could be found Pali canon but lack of efforts by academician to date opens up the possibility of further research in this area.

Pali Canon and Parapsychology

This particular subsection of the thesis concentrates on the definition and description of the Pali canon. The researcher will get the reader acquainted with the basic Buddhist concepts inherent in the Pali canon and discuss the ways in which one might draw parallels between the science of parapsychology and Buddhist Pali canon. Therefore, in the case if the religion of Buddhism is involved in the discussion on the topic of parapsychology, it is critical to address the Pali canon. The latter (also known as the Tipitaka) comes from the “pali ti” meaning “three” and “pitaka” meaning “baskets” (Maurice, 1967). The Pali canon is an assortment of language texts that are founded on Theravada Buddhism. The overall body of fundamental Theravada texts consists of the paracanonical Pali texts and the Tipitaka. When translated into English, the Pali canon may take the space of thousands of pages. The majority of the Pali canon texts are already published in English (but not all of them). There are three main divisions of the Pali canon that can be outlined:

Vinaya Pitaka. This collection of texts dwells on the rules of conduct within the Sangha (including the ordained monks (also known as bhikkhus) and nuns (also known as bhikkhunis)) (Webster, 2005). Besides being a simple set of rules and guidelines, the Vinaya Pitaka is also an in-depth description of how each rule originated. In this division of the Pali canon, Buddha’s solution to being in harmony with the exterior is provided.

Sutta Pitaka. Essentially, this is a collection of sermons (suttas) that are commonly associated with Buddha and a number of his closest followers (Webster, 2005). These suttas are known to comprise the fundamental teachings of Theravada Buddhism. There are five main nikayas that are included in the suttas:

  1. Khuddaka – little texts
  2. Majjhima – middle-length texts
  3. Digha – long-length texts
  4. Samyutta – grouped texts
  5. Anguttara – further-factored texts

Abhidhamma Pitaka. This division of Pali canon is focused on the doctrinal principles that are inherent in the Sutta Pitaka. Within the framework of this division, these philosophies are rationalised and revised so as to apply Abhidhamma to the study of the nature of matter and mind (Webster, 2005).

The discussion on the topic of parapsychology is closely related to materialistic Buddhism. The literature on parapsychology does not insist on taking for granted the fact that something spiritual is absolutely real or related to Buddhism. The reason for this is the fact that labelling will not get one far enough. It is essential to develop the ethics of the subject and increase the interest in this research area if parapsychologists are keen on moving forward. Buddha Shakyamuni was from the Northern India, and he taught and lived there approximately 25 hundred years ago (Bhikkhu, 1972). One of the most important points about the teachings of Buddha was the fact that he never let his disciples record or write them down. The only way was to memorise his teachings. After the Buddha’s death, the memorised versions of his teachings were transferred orally. About the first century BCE, these teachings were first written down. The first assembly of ascetic Buddha’s followers occurred shortly after his death and all of Buddha’s oral teachings were approved during that council. The council was organised by Mahakassapa (one of the Buddha’s foremost followers). Ananda, another Buddha’s loyal disciple, recited some of the Buddha’s teachings as well. His recital was usually started by the words “thus have I heard” (Sinha, 2009). Consequently, these gatherings grew into a canon of Buddha’s wisdom. Despite the regular nature of meetings, Buddhism divided into different schools over the next several centuries. Each of those schools can be characterised by a specific set of teachings and traditions. The history says that all of the canons that have been developed after the death of Buddha were written down. Nonetheless, the Muslim invaders destroyed them completely throughout the 11th and 12th centuries (Webb & Bhikkhu, 2011). One of the canons, which is evidently written in Pali language, survived the invasion and became the last resort of the Theravada Buddhism. This language is believed to be the one that the Buddha himself was speaking when transferring the knowledge. The Pali canon was transported to Sri Lanka somewhere around the third century BCE, and this became the main reason why the Muslim invaders were not able to destroy it. There is also a Chinese translation of the Canon that is very similar to the Pali canon in terms of its contents (this version is also known as the Agamas) (Sinha, 2009). It is safe to say that the Pali canon is the oldest collection of the Buddha’s teachings that are currently available to the public. Unfortunately, there is no other evidence of the Buddha’s speeches that took place 2500 years ago (Woodward, 1973). More importantly, the Pali canon serves as the backbone for the practice of more than 100 million Buddhists across the area that includes South-East Asia, America, Europe, Myanmar, and Sri Lanka. The Tibetan Buddhist canon (also known as Kangyur) comprises only a small number of the Buddha’s teachings that can be found in the Pali canon and the Agamas (Kingsbury, 2006). This happened because the majority of the Buddha’s wisdoms included in the Agamas and the Pali canon were not translated into Tibetan. One of the books that dwelled on the teachings of the Buddha quite in-depth (“In the Buddha’s Words”) was written by Bhikkhu Bodhi. According to Dalai Lama, the Pali canon should be acknowledged for the reason that the latter is the fundamental Buddhist doctrine that gave the green light to all consequent Buddhist literature.

The attempt to find any scientific evidence for Buddhist ideas such as reincarnation may lead us to certain strong-willed verdicts. The literature on this subject has to be addressed with robust attention to detail because certain facts may trigger specific outcomes in terms of parapsychology and its overall validity. Buddhism and parapsychology are rather similar in terms of the point which relates to the perception of reality. One of the key ideas that are inherent in classical Buddhism is the ability to lessen and eradicate one’s suffering (Biddulph, Flynn, & Cleare, 2016). While it is not the ultimate goal within the framework of parapsychology, the connection between Buddhism and parapsychology is evident. One of the biggest questions of all time that relates to Buddhism is whether the core aspects of Buddhism are relevant within the realities of the modern world and from the scientific point of view. Such paranormal phenomena as reincarnation and spirits are not literally true, of course, but during the Buddha’s time, these factors were perceived as something that is not out-of-the-box. Nonetheless, the background of these phenomena may leave us confused and distracted, and this may become a serious limitation in terms of the psychological functions of Buddhism. There is also a relevant idea regarding both materialist and physicalist versions of Buddhism that relates to the truthfulness of declining or ending one’s suffering (Woodward, 1973). From the materialist point of view, there is nothing except the physical objects and forces which we can explain rationally and become familiar with by means of our physical senses or instruments intended to extend the latter. Consequently, all human interactions with the nature and certain aspects of our personality such as consciousness can be explained by the physical forces inherent in the human brain. Moreover, this point of view also presupposes that the brain ceases to function at the same time as the person dies. Practically speaking, any of the experiences (for instance, reading this thesis) can be reduced to the chemical and electrical configurations of the reader’s brain. Based on the information above, it can be concluded that the electrochemical state of our brain is the most vivid indicator of our suffering. If we take out a bit of materialism out of the parapsychological equation, we will be able to review the basic Buddhism that is inextricably linked to meditation and the process of living a moral life. This approach is used to lessen one’s sufferings and can be rightfully considered a psychological method designed to eliminate the unwanted brain states and replace them with pleasing or acceptable ones (Crosby, 2014). This is also called “complete materialism” and serves as the basic understanding of Buddhism for many of its followers.

The reason behind separating the “complete” materialism is that there are philosophical postulates that acknowledge the significance of physical matter without refusing the existence of nonphysical features and events. The concept behind Buddhism that can be applied within the framework of parapsychology is that there are hypotheses that presuppose the existence of “mind” that has an ultimate impact on the brain and body and differs from the common physical notion of the brain. Despite the materialist hypotheses, the Universe, according to this outlook, does not have to be perceived as incomplete without several supernatural concepts that are inherently incomprehensible (Schopen, 2002). The notion of “mind” does not have to be of a different nature. Instead, we should realise that there may be its own regularities and properties that differentiate it from the physical concepts that are used by conventional psychologists. In other words, it can be claimed that classical Buddhism did not know anything about the brain, but it knew quite a lot about minds and the effects of the latter. Another real-life example that can be used here is the author of this thesis being the “mind” while typing this thesis, but from the physical point of view, these actions are nothing else but a series of electrical configurations that translate the author’s mind into text by means of a computer. Respectively, such approach to Buddhism and parapsychology can be called dualist. There is also a materialistic adaptation of Buddhism that does not pay attention to any phenomena such as psychic events, minds, and spirits (Jayatilleke, 2008). Instead, it is based on meditation and the brain states intended to reduce suffering and optimise brain functioning. In this case, the word combination “mental practices” is merely a semantical definition of all the physical processes that take place in one’s brain. This materialistic point of view led us to the situation where we may witness pharmaceutic companies developing medications that can have a serious impact on the brain and optimise our brain states. If the materialistic philosophy is in place, we have to address the question of personal suffering and make a choice in terms of either trying to learn how to meditate properly or treat yourself with medications that will save us tons of time.

It should be understood that there is no point in either denying or siding completely with one of the outlooks (such as the above-mentioned completely materialistic view of life). Generally speaking, both Buddhism and brain state-altering medications have the right to exist as long as they are in line with one’s beliefs. Therefore, a number of conclusions can be made here on the basis of the reviewed literature. First of all, the concept of materialism should not be limited to being perceived as science. Second, spirituality should not be seen as baloney merely because there were numerous accusations coming from scientists that overlooked the concept of “mind” and sided with the conformist view of the Universe and matter (Anderson, 2013). The connection between materialistic philosophy and science is addressed in numerous journal publications that can be found in peer-reviewed, prestigious science journals.

The reason why the Pali canon is so substantial within the framework of the current research is that it can help us learn more about the nature of science. Moreover, a number of scientific concepts can be aligned with the observations from the Pali canon, and the researcher is keen on addressing this issue within the current thesis. Any given theory, regardless of its either mathematical or spiritual nature, has to be tested recurrently and this is one of the reasons why the Pali canon is subject to the further research. Accordingly, if any psychological concepts are not consistent with Buddhism, there may be a point in revising the approach to the problem instead of rejecting something that was earlier perceived as irrational. According to the existing literature on the subject, the advent of state-specific sciences is a realistic scenario. It can be interesting to investigate (and likely expand) the limits of Buddhism by means of scientific research. The Pali canon contains information regarding the ways of how mental states can be altered, so in perspective, this may be really helpful when extending our scientific knowledge base (Gombrich, 2011). There is also an idea that altered states of consciousness can broaden our horizons and let us obtain never-before-seen evidence throughout parapsychological experiments. The majority of conventional psychologists see this idea as an unrealistic concept while the new parapsychologists and their mainstream counterparts are rather interested in engaging in science in the so-called “irrational” state of mind. One of the ideas that are also discussed within the Pali canon is that the ordinary human consciousness is a state of samsara (which can also be defined as either attachment or illusion). Therefore, if we address the bigger picture, we cannot define materialism as science because it can only be used when we have to explain an event by means of the objects and forces that are both (a) material and (b) known to us. Within the framework of parapsychology and Buddhism, this kind of samsaric attachment is intolerable. One of the reasons why the Pali canon and other spiritual literature may be ignored by mainstream scientists is the fact that materialism only works out well with the existing material world while parapsychology does not (Johnston, 2000). The decision to believe that material explanations can support the Pali canon can be compared to performing a leap of faith because there is still a lot of observation to do in order to provide a relevant explanation for spirituality and all the phenomena related to the latter. The only thing that is evident here, according to quite a few researchers interested in this field of study, is samsara. The Pali canon revolves around the idea that we should see a bigger picture and look beyond materialism in order to realise that such spiritual phenomena as psychic healing and reincarnation actually exist. Siding with the materialistic view of the world, we may leave out quite an array of evidence. It can be said here that science does not provide us with contradictory evidence, so it is critical to investigate Buddhism and parapsychology further. From a psychological point view, this attitude towards the world is understandable, but it has to do more with samsara and not science. The existing situation hints at the fact that the majority of scientists that disregard parapsychology is in a state of samsara as well (Wagle, 1995). The alleged rationality may be perceived by Buddhists and other “believers” as irrational.

The question of whether there is relevant evidence for psychic phenomena is still considered by a number of researchers from all over the world. According to the Pali canon and the underlying concepts of Buddhism, there is an 8-fold path that can help one to end their suffering. Here, mysterious meditation practices and the concept of “right speech” can be applied. The possibility of the existence of different spiritual realities may lead one to the conclusion that psychic phenomena such as telepathy or reincarnation are not irrational. There are several books on the subject of materialism that use accurate scientific evidence to outline the evidence proving the existence of such phenomena. The concept of right speech does not make it possible to claim that psychic phenomena do not exist. Instead, one can make a claim like this – a priori, I believe that there are no other spiritual realities where the evidence of paranormal phenomena may exist, and I will not pay attention to it because it contradicts my view of the world (Keown, 2013). This claim can be further expanded by one’s willingness to explore the existing literature with the intention to find evidence that will support their view and contradict the existence of spiritual realities. There are many people that choose to overlook the information listed in the Pali canon simply because they believe that it is easier to find flaws in something they do not understand instead of critically evaluating the materialistic claims that do not take anything psychic into consideration (Ganeri, 2003). Also, there is a chance that a person’s attitude towards the information from the Pali canon can be influenced by their beliefs and cultural conditioning rather than cogent thought. It can be concluded here that if it is necessary to make any conclusions regarding the rightfulness of the Pali canon, one has to use the concept of “right speech” in order to make an accurate statement regarding the area that is currently underresearched.

For the most part, the existing parapsychological research bears many resemblances to the wisdoms from the Pali canon, and it is critical to address the latter before jumping to any conclusions in terms of the validity of spirituality, meditation, and other realms (Ray, 1999). The materialistic point of view can be characterised as irrelevant because human beings are subject to demonstrating their psychic abilities from time to time and that is evidenced in the Pali canon. Within the framework of the current subsection of the dissertation, the author concludes that humans are spiritual beings, so there is nothing wrong in combining both scientific and spiritual approaches when addressing parapsychological concepts and investigating the subject of existence of paranormal. In this subsection of the thesis, the basic elements of the Pali canon were discussed in detail and connected to the notion of parapsychology.

The Four Sources of Power (Iddhi)

This subsection of the dissertation will provide the reader with the information regarding the Iddhis. Iddhi is a word from the Pali language that can be roughly translated as “power” but there is no exact equivalent for this word in English. Some other definitions that fall under the concept of Iddhi are dexterity, achievement, and success. If we only address the concept of power outlined in Iddhi, we will have to pay attention to a number of supranormal powers that can be possible throughout an exclusive level of concentration (Hecker, 2007). Some of the phenomena that can be enumerated here are clairaudience, levitation, telepathy, and the ending of mental run-offs. According to the analysis performed by the Buddha’s disciples, only the last phenomenon can be called superior. If one wants to take the path to Awakening, the ending of mental run-offs is categorically essential. The others are not required (especially for an unawakened person) because it may lead to supranormal greed and the overall delusion in the mind. There are several cases that can be found in the text records that state that even Arahants displayed their powers in inapt settings because they did not completely realise the impact of their actions on others. This was one of the reasons why the Buddha prohibited his disciples to display any powers in front of the worshipers. He stated that the powers that could be displayed by the disciples were not matching the wonders of his teachings throughout the period when the promised results were achieved in real life and put into practice (Pio, 1988). It can be definitely stated that there are individuals that can acquire such power during their meditation sessions. The question here is that they usually need to be guided properly in order to be helped and not hindered. This is one of the core ideas that stand behind the concept of Iddhi and define its role in the process of teaching. The mastery of the inferior abilities can be put into the framework of meditation so as to trigger the ending of the effluents (which is the most important power in Buddhism meaning that the individual is experiencing the release). There are two basic formulae that can be used to explain the source and origin of power. The brief formula dwells on the case where a monk acquires power from the act of concentration while the latter is based on particular energetic efforts. The monk is persistent in his efforts and intents and he tends to discriminate anything else in order to fabricate an efficient level of exertion (Guang, 2010). There are numerous pieces of evidence in different texts that dwell on the processes that lead to the development of the bases of power. There are also texts that state that the basic formulae define the powers themselves. The inconsistency between the two concepts can be resolved as soon as we address the ideas that are outlined in the first text. There, practice is the base of power as it leads to the attainment of power. One of the ideas that are disclosed within the brief formula is that there are more things to be processed than merely the attainment of power. This explanation is discussed within the framework of the extended formula. It is stated in the Iddhi that there are three main components that make up for the four bases of power. The first is the production of an effort, the second is concentration, and the third is the component on which the previous component is based (it may be persistence, the mental quality-desire, discrimination, or intent) (Katz, 1982). According to the Iddhi, intent, desire, and persistence can be achieved within the state of jhana. Whenever one mentions the concept of “desire-based concentration,” it may be perceived as a combination of all three qualities where desire overrides other two representations of power. It should also be noted that desire has to be directed by the goal of the practice and nothing else. Extending on this topic, desire should not translate into craving because the latter is one of the main causes of stress and may interfere with the future states of the rebirth of an individual. The desire for Awakening can be frustrating at first. Nonetheless, the latter is described as a skilful emotion that only transpires when the actual desire for Awakening is not realised yet. The frustration has to be surpassed along the path to Awakening by means of acting on it appropriately. Only then, the person will be able to attain the desired results without actually deserting the desire itself. According to the basics of Iddhi, the right combination of discrimination and noble concentration leads to Awakening (even though the former is not always an essential component of jhana). The extended formula is based on the idea that discrimination is required throughout the whole process of mastering concentration (Davids & Davids, 1966). This is important because only by gaining mindful discernment in terms of the fundamental patterns of the mind one may reach Awakening. In Iddhi, it is shown that the process of developing one’s concentration is not possible without alertness, right exertion, and mindfulness. At this stage of discussion, we can equate the brief formula with the first stage of meditation where concentration is an underlying component of the latter.

There are numerous Western texts that share a great deal of criticism when addressing the discrimination, persistence, power-desire, and intent. According to the ideas listed in those works, these four qualities interfere with proper meditation and do not calm the mind. Moreover, the majority of Western authors believe that the concepts listed in Iddhi are adversative and are inferior to the qualities that are expected to improve one’s meditation practises. This is why the extended formula was designed to deal with the reproaches (Pande, 2006). One of the cases that can be used here is a monk that develops the base of power by means of concentrating on desire and exertion. His desire has to be neither overly listless nor overly vigorous and neither interiorly limited nor externally dispersed. The idea of such concentration is practically identical to the concentration that is based on discrimination, persistence, and intent. The issue with the qualities consists in the fact that they can be unskillfully applied or inadequately adjusted to the ultimate goal of concentration. If the qualities were absent, the motivation would eradicate itself, and the directions for practice would be lost. On the other hand, they would also interfere with heedful concentration if they were not under control. The thing is, it is critical to adjust these qualities to the existing state of affairs and not to deny them. One of the examples that can be used here is the idea that focusing entirely on desire will result in a failure because one should meditate to focus on the causes that lead to the wanted results and not on their hopes (Sayadaw, 2013). The desire becomes an inextricable link between the process of mastery and the present moment that is highlighted by a proper ordering of causes that are expected to lead the person towards their desire.

There is also another point in Iddhi that is recurrently being criticised. It relates to the fact that the concept of desire is opposed to the goal. On a bigger scale, it is argued that the qualities are abandoned at the end of the path when the goal is accomplished. There are numerous important implications that are inherent in the path itself. The very first thing that has to be addressed here is that the path is not the ultimate goal of the practice just as the road to the Statue of Liberty in New York City should not be mistaken for the monument itself. Even though the road towards the Statue of Liberty is not similar to the final destination, it does not mean that it does not lead where it should. Also, one of the core ideas inherent in Iddhi is that the path does not organise the goal just as the road to the Statue of Liberty does not contribute to the real-life existence of the monument. The peculiar point about the Buddhist path is that there is no certain amount of effort that can help you reach the goal at the end of the path (meaning that the goal itself is unfabricated) (Gokhale, 2001). At the same time, we cannot overlook the importance of desire, discrimination, intent, and effort within the whole concept of concentration because the path is a fabricated procedure. The extended formula also pays close attention to the process of aligning the qualities against the Awakening. This particular statement relies on the idea that a brightened mind can be developed by means of responsiveness and the removal of limitations. There is a passage in Iddhi that outlines the idea of completely mastering concentration. As long as a person is able to get rid of their materialistic distinctions (such as day-night and front-behind), they will be able to free their mind of the common limitations and open themselves to the cognisant wisdom of being positioned in time and space. The attainment of paranormal powers is impossible without this type of awareness. The Buddha always needs the individuals who found their supranatural powers to go even further and not stop at the moment where they cherish their meditation possibilities (Lopez, 2005). This type of awareness seriously relies on the presence of certain mental violations that can be detrimental to those who are not sensitive enough to go past the limitations. This sensitivity is the second phase of the process of meditation where the person has to evade the limited state of mind and go straight to the point where concentration is a part of one’s awareness.

The next phase of practice covered in Iddhi builds around the idea that one should abandon the ideas of (a) being in charge of their powers and (b) being aware that their mind is concentrated in order to achieve the full mastery of power (Dayal, 2004). It is being said that slanting the mind to the Eternity is one definite sign of an appropriate attitude towards the practice. The mind should be present in the present and nothing else should be taken into consideration. The so-called entry into emptiness in the third phase of the meditation practice. When the person is able to discriminate themselves like that, they reach the highest level of power and stop on the threshold of Awakening. The bases of powers were not addressed appropriately in the majority of Western works on Buddhism due to the fact that these bases were directly associated with several supranormal powers. On the other hand, the situation in the Asian countries differs from their Western counterparts a lot. The bases of power are generalised owing to the specific context, and each separate base of power is seen as a path to success on the whole (Mun, 2006). If a person expects to succeed at their task, they will have to find the perfect balance between exertion and concentration while directing their four qualities. This path is the most righteous way to end stress, and no monk has the right to neglect the four bases of power – persistence, exertion, concentration, and discrimination. There are numerous questions that Ananda asked the Buddha in order to gain more insight into the concept of Iddhi (such as the base of power, how it is developed, and what is the path to developing it successfully). Consequently, the Buddha gave him an example of a monk who exercised diverse supranormal powers. Then the Buddha continues by saying that the monk was able to vanish and reappear, go through walls and space, and dive in the earth as if it were water. The monk was able to walk on water, fly through the air, cross-legged, and touch the Sun and the Moon (Betty, 1994). The monk’s influence extended even to the Brahma worlds. In other words, the monks were able to practice their supranormal powers similar to how artisans could craft something with their bare hands. The Buddha went on and told Ananda about the concept of the divine ear that could help the monk to hear all kinds of sounds – human, divine, animal – regardless of the distance between him and the source. Therefore, the awareness of other individuals has incorporated into the awareness of the monk himself because he is able to separate different sources from each other. For him, it is easy to see if a mind is passionate or not and differentiate between the two. The same goes for the minds with or without aversion. The minds that are subject to delusion are also not a problem for the monk who reached the highest level of concentration because he sees clearly. All the mind restrictions and disseminations are evident for the monk, and he perceives them without any sign of distortion (Davids, 2015). An excelled, or enlarged mind is also easily recognizable for the monk as he knows the difference between its forms. The Buddha continued and addressed the idea that the monk is able to distinguish an unconcentrated mind from its concentrated counterpart and can discern both a released and an unreleased mind (the monk knows the awareness of other human beings just as if a person looked at the reflection of their face and knew if their face was flawed or not. The Buddha also dwelled on the experiences that came from the numerous past lives of that monk (including quite a few iterations of aeons of cosmic expansion and contraction). This meant that the monk was able to remember all of his physical appearances, clans to which he belonged, food that he consumed, and each and every instance of pain and pleasure that he had gone through. When passing away, the monk remembered the time and the state in which he left the previous body and where he re-arose after that. The iteration repeated itself, and the monk found himself in another body (Kalansuriya, 1987). It may be safe to say that the monk remembered all the crucial details about his manifold past lives similarly to how one may remember trading places recurrently and going from one city to another. The thing is, the monk was able to reproduce his experiences in detail without any significant effort. Consequently, he uses the divine eye to surpass the humans and see beyond their appearance or inferiority/ superiority. This whole observation is based on karma – the monk said that those human beings who lived a low life were subject to holding wrong views and abusing the noble ones who led them to the break-up of the body and subsequent rebirth into the state of deprivation and lower realms (such as hell). Contrarily, those who showcased good conduct of mind, body, and speech and who did not abuse the moral ones were known to reemerge in the destinations such as the heavenly world. On a bigger scale, the monk was able to use the divine eye to look at people passing away and resurfacing while being able to discern and observe them (again, all the conclusions regarding their features were made on the basis of their karma) (Sasaki, 1931). A perfect example that can be used here to compare this experience can be a man with a perfect view standing at the top of a tall building from where he can see all other people doing their everyday stuff, strolling along the street, entering other buildings, and so on. Identically, the monk has seen other human beings passing away and resurfacing as if he were standing at the top of that imaginary tall building.

When the mental effluents come to an end, the monk is able to stay within the effluent-free “zone” while his awareness and discernment are released. During that same moment, these ideas become evident, and here, we can use an example of a pool of transparent water and a man with good eyesight who can see fish swimming in that water, shells, and pebbles. These things can be perceived as the origination of effluents and the effluents themselves. Similarly to effluents, this may also mean the origination and cessation of stress. As a result, the monk is able to get rid of several limitations such as ignorance, sensuality, and the effluent of becoming that are typical of those whose hearts do not know or see the world objectively. The Buddha’s main idea was that a human being gains more knowledge owing to the act of being released (Fryba, 1989). When the Birth ends, the monk’s task is done as there is nothing in this world that can be done for the world. According to Iddhi, this is the real power. The base of this power consists in the practice and the path that is chosen by the Buddha’s disciple. The attainment of power means being in control of your own mind. The concept of the development of the base of power can be explained by means of another example. Here, the monk develops the base of power by means of robust concentration grounded on exertion and desire. His fabrication of exertion, intent, discrimination, and persistence allowed him to develop the base of power and attain concentration. The path of practice that leads to the base of power consists of eight interconnected concepts inherent in Buddhism – right resolve, right view, right livelihood, right action, right effort, right speech, right concentration, and right mindfulness. The next idea that can be analysed within the framework of this literature review is the concept of concentration founded on desire. This phenomenon can only be achieved in the case if the monk attains the integrity of mind and overall concentration (Davids & Oldenberg, 1984). Consequently, the goal of this practice is to generate desire and stimulate tenacity. The monk’s endeavours are intended to uphold his exertions on the authority of non-arising of evil and other inept qualities that may break free. The Iddhi is destined to help an individual abandon evil and get rid of the unskillful qualities. Instead, all the positive qualities are expected to go through an increase and substantial development. The monk’s intentions should be maintenance-based while he practices non-confusion and plenitude. All of the above can be perceived as relevant fabrications of exertion. One can also add the concept of concentration on desire and the desire itself to the full picture of the fabrications of exertion. This phenomenon is also known as the base of power founded on concentration. There are several different types of concentration that are founded on different qualities. For instance, if the monk’s concentration depends on the integrity of his mind being founded on persistence, this type of concentration is persistence-caused (Anacker & Nanananda, 1972). Similarly, if the concentration is founded on the monk’s intent, the concentration is called intent-caused. If the monk’s singleness of mind is founded on discrimination, then the concentration is, obviously, discrimination-based.

The four bases of power can be really beneficial if pursued and developed correctly. Nonetheless, there is always the issue of how to pursue and develop the four bases of power correctly. Only the brightened mind can be able to produce relevant fabrications of exertion and build concentration that is founded on desire. The Iddhi makes the person realise that being in harmony with the environment is one of the keys to reaching the maximum level of concentration and developing positive qualities that were discussed earlier in the chapter. There should always be the perfect balance between sluggishness and excessive bustle. The monks say that any given desire that is touched and convoyed by laziness can be considered sluggish (Bhikkhu, 2007). An overly active desire is also a serious problem. It can be caused and maintained by restlessness. As it has been mentioned previously in the thesis, the desire can be inwardly restricted. This means that the desire is full of idleness and it is pushed forward by drowsiness. The outwardly scattered desire means that it was dispersed inaccurately and mixed up by the five positive qualities. This ends in self-indulgence and “outwardly scattered” is a perfect name for such desires. The monk’s perception of the surroundings should be identical at all times in order to provide him with an accurate insight into the world by means of his discernment. Only then, the front and the back start looking the same and the environment becomes homogenous. On the other hand, the monk has to distinguish between what is below and what is above and see these concepts as identical. In order to do that, the monk has to reflect on his body and realise that there are various things and particles from which the body exists (such as hairs, skin, nails, phlegm, flesh, mucus, heart, fluid in the joints, and much more). When the monk is able to address his surroundings in such a way, he can realise that what is above is the same as below and vice versa. There is also an important connection between day and night in the monk’s consciousness (Waddell, 1914). In order to dwell by night as by day and vice versa, the monk will have to develop the base of power formed on desire-caused concentration with the use of the same permutations that he uses either by day or night. It is vital that these two are identical so as to allow the monk to dwell by day as by night and vice versa. The last question that remains here is the problem of a monk being able to develop a brightened mind that is accompanied by no restrictions and an exclusive level of awareness. A brightened mind can be an achievable goal if the monk is able to perceive the light and the daytime accurately. The monk’s diverse supranormal powers can only be developed under the influence of the four bases of power (which have to be pursued and developed by the monk himself). Again, the monk has to hear (by means of the divine eye) different kinds of sounds coming from divine creatures and humans from either close or distant (remote) locations. This monk is capable of realising the awareness of other humans and beings while putting it in line with his very own consciousness (McMahan, 2009). This monk is able to recollect his numerous past lives and dwell on the other human beings dying and re-appearing. The four bases of power (the Iddhi) that are developed and pursued are beneficial because the monk is able to end the mental effluents and release his discernment.

One of the most significant occasions on which the Iddhi was discussed in-depth was Ananda staying in Kosambi and having a dialogue with the Brahman Unnabha. One of the first questions that Unnabha asked Ananda was the aim of the holy life under the meditative Gotama. Ananda told him that the aim is to abandon desire as to live freely under the Blessed One. He also said that there is a path to abandon the desire that can be practised. When being asked regarding the path to abandoning the desire, Ananda said that the case where a person develops the base of power on desire-based concentration and fabricate an exertion would help them to make the most out of different types of concentration. There were persistence, intent, and discrimination. According to Ananda, concentration based on each of them was the underlying component of the path towards abandoning the desire. The next interesting question consisted in the fact that one can abandon desire only by means of another desire and this made the path endless (Powers, 2016). In order to answer this question, Ananda compared Unnabha’s desire to go to the park and have a discussion with him about the fact of allaying a particular desire. He explained that there was also persistence that contributed to the interviewer’s desire to go to the park (meaning that when he reached the park, his persistence was allayed). Ananda then continued dwelling on the subject by adding that the intent to go to the park was allayed as well when Unnabha reached the destination. The last example coming from Ananda included an act of discrimination that was also aligned with the desire to go to the park. Ananda was able to explain that the ability to end one’s mental effluents can be compared to reaching fulfilment. The attainment of the true goal and destruction of the shackles of becoming can be synonymous with completing the task. Any given positive quality out of the four that were listed by Ananda should have been allayed in order for the individual to accomplish their goal and attain concentration (Barash, 2017). By providing this example, Ananda proved to the interviewer that the path towards concentration and alleviation is not endless.

The discussion on the subject of the Iddhi can be closed by a dialogue between Ananda and the Buddha. The latter explained to his closest disciple that the Blessed One could use his supranormal powers to go to the Brahma world. The fact is, even a mind-made body is sufficient to complete such task. The Buddha then dwelled even more on this subject and said that the Blessed One could go to the Brahma with his physical body (by dint of his supranormal powers) (Muller, 1963). He ensured Ananda that the four great elements were necessary to complete that task. The latter displayed his amazement and said that it would be awe-inspiring to see the Blessed One to go to Brahma either in his mind-made or physical body composed of the four great elements. The Buddha told Ananda that Tathagatas (in the Pali canon, this is how Gotama Buddha refers to himself and describes this phenomenon as something that is always between all the transitory events) are endowed with wonderful qualities (Muller, 1963). When the Tathagata merges his mind with his body and vice versa, he becomes able to develop a rather different perception of flexibility and affluence – the Tathagata’s body becomes lighter, suppler, and more radiant. The Buddha compares this Tathagata to an iron ball that was heated all day as it absorbs all the qualities stated above. The Tathagata settles on certain perceptions of buoyancy so as to reference his body and mind accordingly (Muller, 1963). Therefore, the Tathagata can naturally raise his body up into the sky and experience numerous supranormal powers that are different in their nature. This subsection of the dissertation dwelled on the four sources of power (the Iddhis) and explained their importance to the process of developing psychic powers.


In this chapter, the researcher has been trying to show that the issue of connection between parapsychology and Buddhism is rather robust and has to be investigated from a number of perspectives. This is why within the framework of the first chapter of the thesis, the author of the dissertation tried to dwell on Honorton’s and Rhine’s contribution to parapsychology in rich detail. Throughout the process of the literature review, the investigator also realised that there is a need to scrutinise the history of parapsychological science as far as meditation and eastern tradition is concerned, in order to understand the roots of this science and be able to connect this field of study to the phenomena described in the Pali canon. Regardless of the complexity of mental processes that are associated with the display of psychic powers and their allegedly sophisticated representation in Pali texts, the researcher is willing to go even deeper and integrate their findings regarding meditation in the framework of supranormal phenomena. The notion of parapsychology is rather extensive and cannot be addressed right away when studying the subject of paranormal activity and its connection to the core concepts of Buddhism. This is why the researcher conducted an all-inclusive literature review on parapsychology and the Pali canon. Consequently, the researcher found out that there is a rather substantial connection between Buddhism and parapsychology because numerous phenomena that have to be explained by the latter can be found in the Buddha’s teachings. Therefore, it was essential to conduct the literature review further and learn more about the Pali canon and the Iddhi. The last concept relates to the four powers that may allow a person to go through walls, levitate, see things with their divine eye, walk on water, and leave their body. All of these abilities can only be achieved by the highest level of concentration that is based on several additional notions such as exertion, desire, discrimination, and tenacity. The information that can be located in the Pali canon provides us with the idea of what is possible if we are able to get in control of our mind and body. These topics are closely linked to the subject of parapsychology despite their virtual similarities. Throughout the history of parapsychological science, people were keen on studying the phenomena of being in control of one’s body while the Buddha had seen this as something supranormal rather than paranormal. In other words, one of the ideas that is present in Buddhism but absent in parapsychology is the fact that the things that we may consider unreal may simply be out of our mental and physical reach (that, obviously, makes them not impossible but inaccessible for those who do not follow the path of concentration and control).


In the second chapter of the dissertation, the author is going to discuss the methodology that can be used to investigate the links between parapsychology and Buddhist literature. Even though the method of content analysis is chosen as a primary means of synthesising the information, the author of the dissertation will justify this choice throughout this chapter. In this chapter, it will be investigated if content analysis can be a decent tool to use within the framework of the current research project with the intention of synthesising psi events from the Pali canon. The first objective of this chapter is to validate the efficiency of content analysis. So as to be in line with that objective, the researcher is aiming to understand the significance of content analysis. Another objective that the author of the dissertation aims to achieve within the framework of the second chapter is an examination of the preliminary findings from the Pali canon. There are three key steps that the author is going to follow in order to validate the two objectives outlined above. First, the researcher is willing to conduct an in-depth study on the topic of Theravadian Buddhism and incidences of psi phenomena in it. This aim is supported by the idea that an expanded knowledge base may facilitate the process of content analysis in the future and help the author of the dissertation understand the concept of psychic powers better. Second, the author of the thesis is interested in identifying at least several common themes and concepts mentioned in the Pali canon that can contribute to our understanding of psi abilities. This requires an appropriate methodology and the researcher is going to validate the choice of content analysis by explaining its advantages over other pertinent methodologies. The identification of common themes is a rather serious challenge and will be addressed watchfully. Throughout this step, the author of the dissertation expects to evaluate the availability of resources necessary to conduct the research project. Third, the researcher will choose a relevant strategy to collect the data from Pali canon and compare it against parapsychological phenomena. From the previous chapter, the author of the dissertation has learned that there was no systematic review of the occurrence of Iddhis in the Pali canon and that will be the primary intention of the investigator along with the identification of patterns that could also be informative.

Aims and Objectives

The researcher concentrates on the three key aims and objectives so as to align the findings of this study with the idea that there is a gap in knowledge that can be closed by means of a qualitative analysis of the Pali canon. The very first objective is to collect, synthesise, and analyse the data that will be found in the Pali canon regarding the occurrence of psychic powers. The second objective is to introduce the content analysis method so as to compare and contrast the obtained data appropriately. The last objective is the justification of content analysis. The latter is important because content analysis is not always the main analysis approach and the researcher expects to make the best use of this particular methodology.

Dealing with Source Material

Strategies for Collecting Data from Pali Canon

There are two main strategies that were identified by the researcher as effective. The first strategy presupposes that it would be useful to search for the words “Abbhinna” and “Iddhi” in the Pali canon written in Pali language (PCP) and then try to look for the same records in the English translation of the Pali canon (PCE). The second strategy that the researcher came up with presupposes a vigilant process of reading the whole PCE and writing down all the times when psychic powers transpired throughout the original Pali canon. One of the main reasons why the researcher came up with these two particular words was that they could be translated as “psychic power” and are connected to the idea of psi (being referenced in Buddhist scriptures). In the case where the first strategy is used, it will be difficult to introduce other search queries in the research process. Even though the two words identified above are enough for a thorough data analysis, the process may become complicated due to the fact that the author of the research project is not fully aware of the contents of the Pali canon. Therefore, the second strategy can be used within the framework of this research project. The investigator expects to look through the whole canon and highlight all of the incidences of psychic powers. The advantage of this strategy consists in the fact that one does not have to have any knowledge of the Pali canon in order to be able to complete this assignment. On the other hand, the implementation of the first strategy revealed a number of shortcomings that are characteristic of this method. First of all, the lack of knowledge regarding Pali language became one of the key contributing factors to a limited understanding of the obtained data. In addition, the researcher had to go back and forth from the PCE to PCP, and the whole process can be described as rather time-consuming. The second shortcoming relates to the fact that this research project should not be limited only to mining the data regarding the incidence of psychic powers in the Pali canon.

Knowing that all the concepts and theories listed in the Pali canon are not given within one separate section, we have to address all three baskets of the Pali canon in order to understand the basis of psychic powers in Buddhism in the section 2.2.1. Consequently, this will lead to a situation where the researcher will be able not only to spot all the incidences of psychic powers in the English translation of the Pali canon but also comprehend the content of Buddhist theories appropriately. This supposition is based on the idea that as a researcher, the author of this thesis should possess exceptional knowledges in the areas of both Parapsychology and Theravada Buddhism. Therefore, studying the latter will be beneficial for the author of the dissertation because they will gain more insight into several aspects that are critical within the framework of this study – the paradigm of knowledge, Buddhist outlooks, and psi in Buddhism. It is also safe to say that quite a few incidences of psi and psychic powers can be missed out in the case if the researcher decides to align the research project with the first strategy. This may happen because the incidence of psychic powers may be present in the text but not underlined by the word “Iddhi.” Thus, numerous psi references can be overlooked and this will impact the results of the study. Currently, the researcher does not know how the Buddha’s teachings are structured and what exactly can be located within the Pali canon. Owing to this, the author of the thesis believes that the second strategy will be more beneficial. One of the shortcomings of the first strategy can be supported by a real-life example. One of the sermons of the Buddha contained information regarding the Iddhi but it was complicated to align the concepts presented there with spiritual powers because those other notions are unknown to the author of the dissertation at the moment of finding them. The key idea that has been identified by the researcher is that the Buddha provides in-depth descriptions of how a meditator (also known as monk or a bhikkhu) can cultivate the Noble path and develop consistent psychic abilities which can also be perceived as spiritual powers. Addressing only a single paragraph from the Pali canon, the researcher will not be able to realise the basics of the Noble path and other attainments that are associated with it. The latter include five spiritual faculties, four institutions of mindfulness, and seven aspects of enlightenment. It will be necessary to look for all these terms individually in the PCP and then come back to the PCE and complete the search process again. Consequently, this will trigger a number of additional search queries that will underline the time-consuming nature of this approach. What is even more important, it may be rather confusing for the researcher to keep going back and forth from the PCE to PCP and vice versa when searching for the required items. On the basis of the above findings, the researcher came to the conclusion that if it was necessary to simply find the incidences of psi in the Pali canon, this strategy would be perfect. Nonetheless, the explanatory background of all the underlying concepts will not be revealed so this would force several limitations on the study. The number of references regarding the incidence of psi phenomena would also become under-represented (Kerlinger & Lee, 2007). Another example that can be used here to help the readers get more insight into the issue revolves around the information regarding the monk’s psychic abilities that can be located in the Jataka. Ultimately, we will only be aware of the fact that some kind of psi is performed. For example, we may learn from the analysis that a Bodhisatta reached five supranormal institutions. At the same time, we do not have any answers regarding the nature of these five institutions and how these accomplishments can be explained. One of the suppositions that can be made here is that the latter was able to exercise a heavenly vision which is synonymous to the existing parapsychological phenomenon called clairvoyance. Nonetheless, the questions regarding any psychic powers that can be met in the Pali canon cannot be answered because the first methodology provides the author of the research project with numerous references with no background. The same situation can be described when it comes to the ability of levitation. Despite the fact that the first strategy can be effective in some situations, it is irrelevant within the framework of the current research because it does not provide the researcher with clear outlooks regarding the Theravadian Buddhism and any additional concepts that are enlisted in this literature. Here, it can be concluded that the analysis of Buddhist Pali canon is necessary to develop a complete understanding of the Buddha’s perspective on the development and cultivation of psychic powers. The Buddha’s teachings are based on the idea that the whole concept of psychic powers revolves around the states of consciousness which allow the individual to go beyond normal senses (Sandelowski & Barroso, 2003). The process of research in the area should be backed by attentiveness and indulgence. The issues that are associated with the first strategy make it impossible to utilise it in the light of the limitations discussed above. One of the major drawbacks that are associated with the second strategy is its time-consuming nature and excessive human resource costs. The latter can be explained by the fact that to read all the Tipitaka, the researcher will require at least six months (the ultimate time frame depends on the level of dedication and reading speed). Currently, there are 42 books of the Pali canon that can be accessed in English. The second strategy may seem conventional but the researcher believes that it will help them to gain more insight into the necessary teachings and categorise the existing materials appropriately. The conclusion that can be drawn here is that these insights are the only justifiable distinction between the two strategies. The accurate nature of the second strategy will possibly make it the most appropriate in terms of carrying out the current research project. The process of sorting and processing the obtained information throughout the first stage of conducting this PhD study will be highly contingent on the use of the second strategy. At the end, the researcher will be able to become more knowledgeable in terms of the Pali canon and gather all the data accurately.

Brief Rationale for Data Analysis

After the process of data collection, it will be necessary to analyse the obtained data and approach the materials from both academic and systematic perspectives. Therefore, the researcher will be keen on implementing several research techniques that will contribute to the research process in a number of ways. First of all, the obtained content will become subject to both qualitative and quantitative analyses due to the systematic approach to the data contained in the Pali canon. Second, the researcher will gain access to certain information contained in the Canon that relates to psi. Third, the researcher will be able to categorise the results of the research and identify the patterns and themes that can serve as codes. Fifth, this methodology will be beneficial in terms of answering the research question and contributing to the chosen field of study with the use of vibrant evidence. Here, it is safe to say that content analysis can be considered one of the best research methods that can be used to summarise the obtained body of data and make pertinent conclusions. The information regarding the method of content analysis is provided further in the thesis.

Pali Canon

When it comes to the section of the chapter that dwells on the Pali canon, the key objective of the researcher is to describe the characteristics of the data set in a detailed fashion so as to be able to make a judgement as to the best way of analysing that data set. As is has been previously mentioned in the thesis, the Pali canon (or the Theravada traditions stored in scriptures) are also known as Three Baskets (originally, the Tipitaka). The reason why the Tipitakas are also called “baskets” is the fact that they were written on palm leaves and then stockpiled in baskets (Gombrich, 2010). It is safe to say that the Tipitakas are the earliest Buddhist canon that is known to the outside public and survived to our days. The first basket, the Vinaya-pitaka, is also known as the basket of Discipline. The second basket (the Sutta-pitaka) is the basket of discourses. The last basket is called the basket of higher teachings (originally, the Abhidhamma-pitaka). The Vinaya-pitaka can be perceived as a set of guidelines or rules related to discipline that should have been followed by the Buddhist Sangha. The Buddha provides a series of specific situations that served as triggers to the creation of these rules. In addition to these guidelines, the Buddha came up with additional clarifications regarding the consequences of breaking the rules and the ways to minimise the adverse outcomes of those deeds. For instance, one of the rules claims that monks are not allowed to eat after the middle of the day but in the case if they are sick, they can eat in the evening as well (only if by doing this they will benefit themselves). The Sutta-pitaka is a large assortment of the Buddha’s talks that is also known as Siddhartha Gautama. Within this basket, one may find a variety of stories regarding the Buddha’s past lives (Jatakas) and a number of sermons concerning other holy beings. It is safe to say that one of the most renowned sermons that can be found in the Sutta-pitaka is a collection of almost 450 verses that encompasses a large set of instructions necessary to those who want to follow the Buddhist path. This scripture is also known under the name of Dhammapada. The last basket, the Abhidhamma-pitaka, was needed to provide a sound explanation for the words of the Buddha because they comprised deeper meanings at all times. Within the framework of these “higher teachings”, the nature of reality is discussed and explained in detail. The Abhidhamma-pitaka is a comprehensive source of information on the topic of what contributes to the development of a person as a whole. Also, it concentrates on the spiritual levels of development and one’s path to perfection.

The Pali canon was comprised by the Order of the Monks that is also called the Sangha. As it has been previously outlined in the chapter, after the death of the Buddha, the necessity to translate the teachings of the latter to written format became essential. By doing this, the monks expected to make the Buddha’s wisdoms available in the future. The three baskets that were described above had been formulated by the monks and included all the information that monks either had heard from the Buddha or learned randomly. The specifics of the Pali canon led the researcher to the conclusion that psi cannot be found in one of the baskets only because it is distributed unequally among all three of the baskets comprised in the Pali canon. The researcher realises that there is a large body of text that has to be analysed if they are expecting to close the identified research gap. This conclusion is also rationalised by the idea that Pali canon is inconsistent in terms of its narrative line. One of the biggest contributors to the translation of the Pali canon (Pali was the language of the Buddha and quite a few other Indians of that time) is an organisation that is currently known under the name of the Pali Text Society (PTS). The problem here consists in the fact that Pali is not an active language and those who wish to understand it have to learn it systematically. The knowledge of Pali language possessed by the researcher is rather limited. Due to that, the investigator will utilise the English translations of the Pali canon (which is the only obtainable source provided by the PTS). The core objective of the Pali Text Society (established at the end of the end of the 19th century) was to promote the research on the topic of Pali texts and provide adaptations for the existing texts from the canon. The members of the society publish English translations for the students of Pali in roman characters (including books, dictionaries, and journals). The majority of the classical texts from the Pali canon were translated into English and commented owing to the PTS (“Pali Text Society,” n.d.). It is safe to say that Pali Text Society is the biggest contributor to the process of translating the Pali canon works into the English language (“Pali Text Society,” n.d.). Within the framework of the current research project, the materials provided by the PTS will be the primary source of data. There are two key reasons that can explain the rationale behind using English translations of the Pali canon provided by the PTS in this dissertation. First, it is the most complete version of the Pali canon that is currently available in English. Second, there is another source of Pali texts online, but it is not considered reliable by the majority of Buddhist scholars (compared to the PTS publications). There are also other websites that display partial translations of the Pali canon, but there is no other collection of systematically assembled Pali texts as complete as the one provided by the Pali Text Society.

Rationale for the Methodology

The researcher is willing to choose a methodology that will serve as a data reduction tool. Therefore, so as to investigate the occurrence of psi in the Pali canon texts, the researcher will have to find an unobtrusive methodology that can effortlessly manage large volumes of text. At the same time, the methodology will have to be more than a mere word frequency count because there are numerous limitations that will not allow the author of the dissertation to develop the existing knowledge base on the Pali canon. It is also critical to point out the flaws that can seriously damage the utility of the findings. This led the researcher to the conclusion that there is a need to compare and contrast several appropriate methodologies in order to pick the best one.

Method of Initial Observation

One of the observations that have been made by the researcher is that in the Pali canon, the word Iddhi is used at all times when the subject of discussion is psi. Within the framework of any given Pali text, the word “Iddhi” means that some kind of psychic power is involved in the event. In order to generate the initial findings, the researcher used the software called TextStat so as to record the incidences of the word “Iddhi” in the Pali canon in a quantitative manner. The researcher also paid close attention to the word “Abhinna” which outlines the higher knowledge in the Pali canon. In the literature, the Iddhi is considered to be an essential part of the Abhinna. Taking this into consideration, the researcher decided to search for both these words at the same time for better overall effect. There are several other words that can also be included in the search query within the framework of the existing quantitative analysis – Iddhi-viddha (higher powers), Pubbe-nivasanussati (remembering one’s past lives), Dibba-sota (divine eye), Asavakkhaya (the extermination of spiritual intoxicants), and Ceto-pariya-nana (also known as mind-penetrating knowledge). All of these concepts represent the key Abhinnas, so it will not be sufficient to search through the Pali canon by means of TextStat. Regardless, this application can help the researcher in quite a few ways. First, it will help them to count the overall number of pages and words comprised in the Pali canon. Second, it will help the investigator to identify all the cases of Abhinna and Iddhi that can be met in the Pali canon. Third, the researcher will be able to make a conclusion regarding the effectiveness of TextStat within the framework of the next stages of this research project and the question of whether other requirements are necessary for a new analysis. The use of TextStat will be expected to contribute to the process of coding psi into categories.


This section of the dissertation is going to provide a detailed overview of the software that will be used to analyse the Pali canon preliminarily. The author of the dissertation expects to benefit from using TextStat because it is a really simple concordance computer program that only requires connection to the Internet in order to function properly. It features a user-friendly design which presupposes that data bodies can be organised from the obtained information and later stored in the program’s memory. These text frames can be analysed further so as to identify concordances and come up with word frequency lists. The program was developed with the use of Python programming language and is currently available in the form of a Windows-compatible application. Within the framework of this freeware program, one may analyse any text of any size. TextStat can be useful in terms of providing the information regarding the occurrence of a certain word or the context in which that particular word is used. This application can also evaluate different word combinations (Huning, n.d.). In this research project, the investigator expects to use TextStat software in order to count all the incidences of Abhinna (higher knowledge) and the Iddhi (psi, psychic powers) that can be met in the Pali canon. This is necessary to see which psi incidences occur the most throughout the Pali canon. One of the specifics of TextStat is that it only processes MS Word documents (such as.txt and.doc) that are written in Roman script. Therefore, collecting all the Tipitaka chapters that comply with these requirements was of critical importance. The research process showed that the only available source of the Pali canon texts is the Pali language compilation. The English translations were not available in any online format or PDF as well. One of the most accurate sources of the Pali canon in Pali language is Chatta Sangayana that can be found in Vipassana Research Institute. The facility offers the Pali canon in an online format and PDF. The existence of a web version of the Pali canon allowed the researcher to copy the required text to a separate MS Word file so that the analysis of the data in TextStat could be carried out. The creation of a Word file that contains the whole Tipitaka in Pali language from the Pali canon will lead to its further analysis by means of TextStat. The researcher will be able to identify several queries that can be required to complete the first stage of this research project.

Findings from the TextStat

Table 1. TextStat overall findings.

Approx. total words and pages of Pali Canon in Pali (PCP): 2856496 & 14597
Total words and pages in Vinaya 411994 & 1852
Total words and pages in Sutta 1641245 & 8097
Total words and pages in Abhidhamma 803257 & 4649
The total number of times word Iddhi occurred in PCP 298
The total number of times word abhinna occurred in PCP 19

From the findings above (see Table 1), it can be understood that the occurrence of incidence of psychic powers is rather high in the Pali canon. Overall, the researcher was able to meet the words “Iddhi” and “Abhinna” for more than 300 times in the Pali canon. It may be concluded that the data source that was chosen by the author of this thesis can be perceived as rather huge and relevant at the same time. The analysis by means of TextStat will be useful because it shows which sections of the Pali canon require more attention. In order to be able to use these findings, there is a need to review other available research methods. The researcher chose to evaluate the benefits and downsides of literature review and systematic review methodologies within the framework of the next two subsections.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Literature Review Methodology

First, the researcher is going to dwell on the characteristics of literature reviews. The latter may serve as a critical part of a research proposal and include research methods and hypotheses. Therefore, there may be quite a few advantages identified that can significantly impact the process of research on the Pali canon and instances of psi. The first advantage that can contribute to research is the possibility to consider diverse cognitive levels. Moreover the use of literature reviews can improve project management and life-long learning (the benefits associated with learning perspectives of literature reviews will be discussed a bit further). One of the key aspects of literature reviews that can be advantageous for the existing research project is the possibility to obtain a clear idea regarding what is included in the Pali canon in relation to psi (Levy & Ellis, 2006). On the one hand, this may be helpful because the information contained in the Pali texts may generate more research topics and discussions. On the other hand, there is also the concept of cost-efficiency that seriously impacts the amount of time spent on looking for resources (Webster & Watson, 2002). The researcher may benefit from identifying the differences between their work and previous research on the subject of the Pali canon. The biggest advantage of literature reviews is the ability to learn though conducting them. On a bigger scale, this means that the author would be able to critique the literature on the Pali canon and conceptualize the textual data on psi that was identified. By doing this, they would be able to develop new research themes and contribute to the knowledge regarding the Pali canon. In addition to this, literature reviews also offer the possibility to examine methodological assumptions (Hart, 1998). One of the benefits of this aspect of literature reviews is the increased understanding of knowledge on the Pali canon. The use of literature review methodology presupposes that that the researcher has to have certain knowledge in the field in order to be able to conduct all-inclusive literature reviews that disclose new information.

There are also several disadvantages of literature reviews that cannot be left out within the framework of the current research. First, the author of the dissertation does not have online access to certain Pali canon texts. This significantly impacts the time spent on processing data and identifying pivotal points in the literature. Knowing that literature reviews are typically divided into several stages, it is safe to say that the time spent on a literature review may vary critically (Cronin, Ryan, & Coughlan, 2008). Considering the size of the Pali canon, a great deal of time may be needed to identify all the necessary points required to advance. The lack of access to information may lead to unnecessary resource expenditures (such as timely searches for reviews and primary sources) (Boote & Beile, 2005). At least three quarters of the researcher’s time will be spent on reviewing the literature. After all, a comprehensive literature review could become a concrete focus for the research on the Pali canon. The transition from the library to the research project may be rather complex. Collecting a lot of different information may paralyse the research project because of the lack of focus and unrewarding research directions (Randolph, 2009). Another disadvantage is the requirement of strict supervision in the case where students are inexperienced and lack necessary knowledge. Expanding on the previous disadvantage, the use of the literature review methodology may be disadvantageous because it may lack focus throughout the whole research process. The information contained in the Pali canon may be hard to conceptualise. The latter presents a rather robust challenge for the researcher because there will be a need to evaluate a broad cross-section of the Pali canon texts (Jesson, Matheson, & Lacey, 2011). To conclude, the literature review methodology can be considered a rather all-covering approach to dealing with the instances of psi in the Pali canon but the researcher decided to evaluate the methodology of systematic review so as to investigate the advantages and disadvantages of the latter as well.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Systematic Review Methodology

This subsection of the dissertation is devoted to an analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of systematic reviews that can be either beneficial or damaging to the existing research project. One of the most important benefits associated with systematic reviews is the possibility to follow the guidelines of the research process easily (Tranfield, Denyer, & Smart, 2003). At the same time, this research methodology can be seen as one of the best ways to improve methodological transparency. This leads the researcher to the idea that systematic reviews may elicit the opportunity to replicate certain findings in the future (Popay, Rogers, & Williams, 1998). Systematic reviews may also significantly contribute to the process of eradicating research bias by means of peer review. Within the framework of the current project, this may create a comparatively objective baseline that will support future research on the concept of psi in the Pali canon. The researcher will be able to evaluate the level of knowledge contribution and possibly prove the necessity to study psi incidences that can be found in the Pali canon. Compared to classic literature reviews, systematic reviews are much better for a number of reasons. First of all, the principles of systematic reviews are much more sensitive (Khan, Kuntz, Kleijnen, & Antes, 2003). This has a direct impact on the transparency and breadth of the study. A systematic review may be used within the framework of the current research because it minimises the level of implicit researcher bias and encourages to apply a more critical view of the evidence. In the case of the Pali canon, a systematic review may be problematic to apply for a number of different practical challenges.

The three issues that can impact the research process the most are searching, transmitting, and synthesising (Manolov, Guilera, & Solanas, 2017). In order to be able to conduct a successful systematic review on the Pali canon, the researcher has to have access to an extensive number of peer-reviewed journals and database entries. Nonetheless, it may be problematic as there is no possibility to identify a decent number of sources that contain information regarding the Pali canon and psi. The evidence that the researcher expects to use may be hard to obtain but systematic reviews are still a decent contributor to the process of evidence building (Smith, Devane, Begley, & Clarke, 2011). Yet, the problem of the breadth of the study still remains because the information regarding the Pali canon and instances of psi in the latter cannot be found through peer-reviewed channels only. Even though the use of a systematic review may disclose the gap in research, it has already been identified and therefore, the objectivity of the study has to be achieved by means of other instruments rather than a systematic review (Lichtenstein, Yetley, & Lau, 2008). Moreover, the use of a systematic review may be subject to researcher bias because they may lack certain knowledge on the subject or constrained by time or resources. In the case of the Pali canon, this can seriously limit the number of studies that can contribute to the understanding of psi and help the researcher to close the knowledge gap. Also, considering the low number of studies on the Pali canon, a systematic review can become inconsistent. This may lead to a situation where the findings will be too broad to take them into consideration and too research-oriented to close the gap in research (Pullin & Stewart, 2006). The quality of reviewed studies may contribute to methodological consistency of the current research as well – the problem consists in the fact that the review of the Pali canon may become too resource-intensive with time. The researcher will be exposed to the problem of conducting a systematic review that is overly time-consuming and demanding (Bearman et al., 2012). In order to obtain relevant findings regarding the Pali canon, an enormous array of data will have to be reviewed. In the case of a systematic review the size of that array is even bigger because there should be a definite protocol that supports the process of each review. Consequently, each of the identified sources will have to be evaluated with excessive thoroughness and the original anticipations in terms of the time that will be spent on the project are likely to be violated (Harden et al., 2004). To conclude, the use of a systematic review in the case of addressing the Pali canon is a rather specific and resource-intensive task that may not exceed or at least meet the expectations of the researcher in terms of the breadth of the research project. This hints at the idea that it may be necessary to come up with another option for the current research project that would combine the best points of literature reviews and systematic reviews. The author of the dissertation chose to go with content analysis. Within the framework of the next subsection, they will address the general value of content analysis and how it can benefit the study from several different perspectives.

Content Analysis

What is Content Analysis

When the data is collected from a number of documented sources, the main objective of any given researcher is to reduce the amount of information without affecting the quality and reliability of the data (Drisko & Maschi, 2016). The rationale behind doing this also consists in the necessity of deducing the meaning from the obtained data to answer the research questions that are usually posed at the beginning of the study. The result of the deduction described above typically revolves around the process of analysing evidence. This research methodology is referred to as “content analysis.” There are quite a few various strategies used to analyse texts that are collectively titled “content analysis” (Powers & Knapp, 2014). On the other hand, content analysis can also be described as a categorising approach to the process of going through large amounts of textual data. While using it to address the Pali canon, this action has to be performed in an unassuming manner so as to be able to identify relevant patterns and determine the key trends regarding the word usage, relationships among them, frequency of certain word phrases, and the most prevalent structures of communication (Grbich, 2013; Mayring, 2014; Pope & Mays, 2007). In other words, content analysis is useful when it is necessary to evaluate the content of a text document and define the effect of the words and word combinations that can be met in that document (Bloor & Wood, 2006). The concept of content analysis is rather close to the notion of documentary analysis. The latter presupposes that the analysis of the evidence present in the processed text is an efficient operation. Content analysis is an important research methodology because it can help the researcher to determine the underlying ideas inherent in the text and compile a number of messages on the basis of these ideas. The very first definition of content analysis was provided by Holsti (1969) who believed that this methodology could be perceived as a scientific method that was applied to textual evidence with the intention of pointing out the core structures comprised in the data. It is also safe to say that the outcome of the content analysis is usually mixed (meaning that it is both qualitative and quantitative at the same time) but there are cases when the end results are either exclusively qualitative or quantitative (Guthrie, Petty, Yongvanich, & Ricceri, 2004). When the content analysis is done quantitatively, the key focus of the study is the frequency of a particular event. In its qualitative counterpart, the key objective of the study is to address the subjective contents of the reviewed data so as to realise the rationale behind values, interests, and attitudes. As a research methodology, content analysis is one of the best approaches in the academic field because it can be introduced within the framework of any given investigation – be that an analysis of a written text, digital articles, or some kind of digital media (Marks & Yardley, 2004). It is also interesting to mention that content analysis can be used when addressing both overt and covert contents of the chosen text. The explicit data relates to the observable elements of the message while the implicit focuses on the data that has to be deducted from the existing information blocks. The concept of content analysis can also be closely associated with the substantive and formal features of the textual data bodies. The former typically relate to the information that is conveyed within a particular message. The latter requires the researcher to investigate the way in which the message was communicated (Schreier, 2013). It will be used to record the data that is of interest to the investigator. Fundamentally, the concept of content analysis presupposes that the researcher has to develop a relevant classification of text segments so as to elaborate a structured coding system (Murray, 1956). Only on the basis of such content analysis, adequate conclusions can be made. To conclude, it can be said that content analysis should be conducted in a way that would make it replicable and allow other academics to reproduce the study.

Types of Content Analysis

There are two types of content analysis that are generally distinguished by researchers. They include relational and conceptual analyses. The latter can be perceived as a means of establishing the frequency of occurrence of certain concepts in a definite text. The former is formed on the basis of conceptual analysis because it helps to evaluate the relationships between the concepts that are identified within the given text (Franzosi, 2011). It is safe to say that conceptual analysis is one of the oldest ways to analyse content and it is commonly associated with it. When we take a recorded text, we can use conceptual analysis to examine the occurrence of the chosen concept in the text. In order to minimise the possibility of bias and subjectivity throughout the process of concept definition, the researcher may make the best use of specialised dictionaries (Hansen, 2009). Similarly to any other research method, conceptual analysis is based on the process of identifying research questions and finding a relevant research sample. As soon as the sample is identified, the researcher is responsible for coding the text into controllable content categories. The researcher may use the method of selective reduction (this concept is synonymous with the process of coding) (Neuendorf, 2016). Conceptual analysis can be a powerful asset when it is necessary to analyse certain characteristics of the text and interpret them accordingly with the use of pertinent units of information that can be achieved by breaking down the existing content into equivalent parts. One of the basic examples of a conceptual analysis can be the process of examining a certain text and coding it that relies on the existence of predefined words in the text itself. One of the most popular approaches to this type of content analysis is the examination of both positive and negative arguments related to the research question (Weber, 2008). This is done in order to describe the status of the issue. Therefore, the key researcher’s concern would be not the willingness (or necessity) to identify and analyse the relationships between the words but to quantify them. The relationships between words are obviously addressed by means of a relational analysis. Contrarily, conceptual analysis is built on the idea that the researcher’s objective is to examine the occurrence of positive and negative words that can either validate or refute their research question in terms of a specific argument (West, 2001). On the other hand, relational analysis cannot exist without the conceptual analysis because the former has to have access to the words and concepts in order to analyse them. Similarly to other research types, the initial decision to study a certain area always impacts the options that are available to the researcher. Within the framework of relational analysis, it is crucial to come up with the concepts to be analysed first. The number of concepts that can be included in a relational analysis may include from one to five hundred concept categories (Cole, 1988). One has always take into consideration the possible limitations of the number of categories because too many categories may overload the research results while too few categories may generate untrustworthy outcomes and inacceptable conclusions. Accordingly, the coding procedures that are applied within the framework of such research have to be based on the researcher’s necessities and the context of the investigation. Due to its flexibility, relational analysis became one of the most popular techniques for all kinds of researchers (Vaismoradi, Turunen, & Bondas, 2013). The nature of one’s project can be the guiding strength of it. Nonetheless, the comparison among samples can only be made after the procedure was tested meticulously. The process of relational analysis is quite resource-intensive in terms of the time spent on the analysis (regardless of computer automation that significantly impacted the process). Some of the benefits of using relational analysis include its statistical consistency and the high level of detalisation in comparison to other qualitative methods. The researcher decided that the conceptual model of content analysis can be used to investigate the Pali canon.

The Process of Content Analysis

According to Elo and Kyngas (2008), the process of content analysis consists of three steps (see Table 2). Completing the analysis while adhering to the steps presented below may significantly facilitate the researcher’s efforts. The author of the dissertation aims to review the whole process of content analysis and explain how it can be helpful for reviewing the Pali canon in the search of psi events.

Table 2. The process of content analysis.

Preparation Being immersed in the data and obtaining the sense of whole, selecting the unit of analysis, deciding on the analysis of manifest content or latent content.
Organising Open coding and creating categories, grouping codes under higher order headings, formulating a general description of the research topic through generating categories and subcategories as abstracting.
Reporting Reporting the analysing process and the results through models, conceptual systems, conceptual map or categories, and a story line.
A graphic representation of content analysis
Figure 1. A graphic representation of content analysis.

The process of observation was theorised by Krippendorff (2013). He also was able to come up with one of the simplest models for content analysis (see Figure 1). By means of the figure presented above, the author of the dissertation expects to provide a brief explanation of the content analysis methodology that will be employed within the framework of the current dissertation. The texts that will be analysed are all related to the Pali canon developed by Buddhists. The process of content analysis will be connected to the studies on parapsychology. Out of all the extrapolations which can be drawn here, the researcher points out that there are numerous dimensions and contextualisation areas which can be utilised within the framework of the current content analysis (Stemler, 2015). Consequently, one of the objectives of the investigator is to generate answers for the presence of psi in the Pali canon and compare and contrast both parapsychological and Buddhist concepts with each other. The only chance to do this is to rely on the texts of the BPE when trying to answer the questions that will be posed by the researcher. Even though one may witness the input and output data of the research project in the picture above, there are numerous additional steps that have to be fulfilled in order for the investigator to come up with a relevant analytical content analysis, according to Krippendorff (2013). The first step is to unitise the data – this means that the researcher will have to count on the descriptions of the units that they have previously identified. Another aspect of an efficient content analysis is coding – this means that the researcher will have to comply with the instructions specified during the first step. This step typically occurs when the researcher has to list their experiences via an analysis of the observed things. The process of coding usually transpires when the observer-independent rule is followed (Krippendorff, 2013). As it is evident from the name of the procedure, it provides different codes that allow the researcher to sort the initial data that is expected to provide answers to the research questions posed earlier in the thesis. The adherence to the major and minor characterisations will be achieved by means of assigning codes for the sampling procedure. With the use of coding, the researcher will be able to come up with a relevant sorting procedure (White & Marsh, 2006). Within the framework of the current research, the investigator is going to allocate different codes for various instances of psi. For example, the section with high powers will be defined as “Iddhis” while the subdivisions will be WW, WWI, TR, and TP which are walking on water, walking through walls, transformation, and teleportation respectively. After that, the investigator will have to scrutinise the statistical techniques that are currently available and simplify this data (Krippendorff & Bock, 2009). This step is also called data reduction because the researcher has to transform vast data bodies into manageable representations. Within the chosen context, the researcher will be able to have faith in the majority of typical analytical constructs that can also be addressed as surmising circumstantial phenomena (White & Marsh, 2006). This step might not be needed as the above steps will be very helpful in simplifying the process and providing the research data for proceeding towards the actual analysis. The ultimate decision regarding the utilisation of data reduction is on the researcher as the content analysis process does not initially require the investigator to employ data transformation techniques. The last aspect described by Krippendorff (2013) is the ability to align the outcomes of the research project with the conventions and traditions established within the theory of efficient content analysis. Evidently, this step can be accomplished easily as soon as all the contextual phenomena were identified and all the answers to the research questions were provided (White & Marsh, 2006). All of the steps described above will be completed with the help of the computer software called NVivo, which is going to be discussed in detail a bit further in the dissertation. It is safe to say that this program is widely held among academics that specialise on conducting analytic studies (White & Marsh, 2006). The researcher believes that abductive surmising can close the gap between the descriptive and inferred meanings of the Pali canon texts. The utilisation of this strategy will positively affect the process of analysing the phenomena that were not covered by a lot of authors before. The ability of the researcher to narrate the answers in line with the research questions significantly facilitates the process of content analysis (Krippendorff, 2013). One of the key objectives that have to be accomplished within the framework of the current research project is generalisation of the findings and their presentation based solely on the results of the content analysis procedure (Harwood & Garry, 2003). The six groups that are proposed by the researcher can be supportive in terms of aligning Buddhism with the parapsychological phenomena discussed earlier in the dissertation. It can be concluded that content analysis is a rather potent data analysis method (especially, when there are only two different streams of information that have to be analysed) (Matthes & Kohring, 2008). On a bigger scale, this content analysis will enable the researcher to reveal the connections between the Pali canon and parapsychological science irrespective of the data presentation style and various approaches to knowledge.

It is safe to say that all of the steps outlined above are rather descriptive. Therefore, the researcher is ready to assume that the application of this content analysis methodology in practice will positively affect the contribution of this thesis to the topic of parapsychology and its ultimate association with Buddhist concepts. The systematic application of these steps will rely on the project plan and the effectiveness of the chosen methodology. As it has been mentioned earlier, the process of unitisation will allow the researcher to count on specific definitions of appropriate units (Strijbos, Martens, Prins, & Jochems, 2006). Within the framework of this dissertation, the researcher will utilise numerous psychic powers as units and make different associations among Buddhist perspectives and the essential parapsychological notions. While comparing the data regarding the modern psychology to Buddhist viewpoints, the researcher will be able to gain more insight into both of these academic areas (Harwood & Garry, 2003). One of the questions that the researcher expects to answer is whether there is a research gap which can be identified at this stage of the research project and closed during the practical experimentations (Harwood & Garry, 2003). The author of the thesis is going to address this question in the upcoming dissertation chapters where the actual content analysis will be performed. In order to conduct the research project successfully, the investigator will utilise the context unit technique. The latter will help them to validate the systematic unitisation of the textual data (Bowen, 2009). According to Krippendorff (2013), context units can be found in the descriptions of several recording units at once.

Knowing that the researcher will review the incidences of psi in Buddhism and parapsychology, it may be necessary to introduce some of the concepts inherent in these two knowledge areas. First of all, there are six basic types of higher knowledge that are typical of Buddhism (Clough, 2011). Knowing that there are numerous Pali sources, this unitisation of higher knowledge can be rather effective. The six types of higher knowledge (also known as Chalabhinna) are as follows: Iddhi-viddha (walking on water and going through walls – they are also called “higher powers”), Dibba-sota (Divine ear or clairaudience), Ceto-pariya-nana (this is also known under the names of telepathy and mind-penetrating knowledge), Pubbe-nivasanussati (recalling one’s past lives), Dibba-cakkhu (which means that a person knows about others’ karmic termini; it is also called the Divine eye), and Asavakkhaya (also known as the extermination of mental intoxicants). The collection of these six instances of higher knowledge can be supported by the idea that these six segments are recurrently addressed by the researchers in the area of Pali canon. Because of this, these six aspects can be considered to be the most “popular” and are described in high detail in the literature. Regardless, the researcher believes that the list of these concepts can be modified at any given moment of time when the necessity to either add or remove any item will appear. This depends on the information that will be disclosed in the Pali canon. All of the occurrences of higher powers in the Pali canon will be collected within the unit of higher power. These concepts will be discussed in detail in the next chapter of the dissertation. One of the particular notions that are of special interest to the researcher is the person who was able to attain the highest level of spiritual realisation which is also known as Arhant (Warder, 2008). The sampling of the data will be done in real life only after the process of unitisation. This strategy presupposes that the units have to be addressed only in accordance with their similarities. According to the strategy, the initial psychic powers will be unitised and then repeatedly scrutinised so as to analyse the phenomena and divide the incidences of psi into major and minor representations.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Content Analysis

The major benefit associated with the content analysis is that it becomes possible for the researcher to make use of the discreet means and measures (in the form of available literature) for collecting information or data regarding their research questions (Hennink, Hutter, & Bailey, 2011). It helps the researcher to distinguish the presence of concepts, theories, and facts hidden in the texts. It can also allow the researcher to conduct both qualitative and quantitative operations. The analysis can also lead to the reveal of valuable insights. Another advantage of content analysis is that it helps the researcher to identify the communication trends. The investigator is able to discuss behavioural responses to the latter and outline attitudinal trends based on this information. According to Morgan (1993), content analysis can determine the individual’s/ group’s emotional and psychological state. Another advantage that can be pointed out is the ability of the researcher to gain a better understanding of the models of human thought. When the content analysis is done correctly, it can be exceptionally precise. One of the biggest advantages associated with the content analysis is the fact that the researcher is not obliged to contact any person directly. Moreover, almost nothing has an impact (direct or indirect) on the outcomes of the investigation and all the participants of the experiment (Leetaru, 2012). Regardless, there are several disadvantages which may have critical implications for the current study. One of the key disadvantages of the method of content analysis is that there are numerous issues that are related to the inability to attain suitable evidence while going through the available sources of information. In addition to that, the researcher has always to make sure that the data is genuine so as not to spoil the validity and reliability of the content available within the framework of the current dissertation. The last disadvantage of content analysis is the fact that usually, the researcher is limited to the information regarding the events that had already occurred (Altheide, 2013). This means that the author of the dissertation will have to investigate the Pali canon only on the basis of events included in these texts. Thus, the concept of behavioural science research may be subject to misunderstandings in terms of addressing contemporary questions. Within the framework of this subsection of the dissertation, the researcher addressed the notion of content analysis and tried to gain more insight into the processes, advantages, and disadvantages that are associated with it. The findings led them to the idea that content analysis may be the most reliable research methodology within the framework of analysing the Pali canon. In the next section of the chapter, the investigator will discuss how content analysis can be applied in practice.

Reliability and Validity of Content Analysis

Content analysis is not any different when it comes to the issues of validity and reliability of the data obtained throughout this research. Within the framework of a study that involves content analysis, the concept of reliability relates to the possibility to recode the same data in the same way at any given period of time under any circumstances (Downe‐Wamboldt, 1992). Also, a group of coders can define reliability of the data by the level of reproducibility. The last thing that may be taken into consideration is the ability of a group of coders to define categories accurately and make sure that the classification matches both statistical and standard norms (Divakaran, 2009). One of the biggest challenges which can be identified here is the challengeable nature of concept analysis research that is caused by the inferential procedures that represent the major part of concept analysis research. In this case, the underlying factor is the level of the implication that can be considered acceptable within the framework of a data analysis. It may happen that there are huge amounts of qualitative/ quantitative data that were identified and validated, but the proof of reliability would still be absent (Elo & Kyngas, 2008). In order to come up with reliable categories and generalise the types of psychic powers, the researcher will be keen on determining concept categories correctly. Proper measurement of the idea/ item of interest is imperative for the investigator. The success of the content analysis within the framework of this thesis will be contingent on the construction of rules. Specific categories that were identified by the researcher will positively affect the reasonableness of the conclusions.

NVivo Software

Taking into consideration the previous findings from the section 2.6, the researcher concluded that there may be a need to use certain software in order to facilitate the process of research. This is why the current subsection is devoted to a detailed review and description of NVivo. NVivo is one of the most renowned qualitative data analysis programs in the world. It is a software package that is produced and marketed by QSR International (Bazeley & Jackson, 2013). This program can be rather interesting to the researchers who are recurrently working with lots of multimedia information and rich text-based data sources. NVivo is a perfect option for the situations where a deep level of analysis is necessary and large amounts of data are involved in the process (Gibbs, 2002). Predominantly, NVivo is utilised by academics, but governmental, healthcare, and commercial users are no strangers to analysing data by means of NVivo software. Even specialists in forensics and criminology can use it. The first version of the program came out in 1999. NVivo (called NUD*IST back then) was perfectly adjusted for the processes inherent in qualitative modelling. This software can be helpful if the end users are looking for a program that can help them organise and analyse different kinds of unstructured data (Leech & Onwuegbuzie, 2011). NVivo allows you to sort and assemble the data while being able to evaluate the relationships inherent in the data and combine these two concepts. The built-in search engine can be used by the researcher to identify certain trends inherent in the obtained data and test hypotheses that were stated at the beginning of the thesis. The ability to cross-examine the data can be beneficial in quite a few ways. One of them is the possibility to form a body of evidence that will be based on the observations (McNeill & Chapman, 2005). Some of the research methods that are successfully supported by NVivo are organisational analysis, literature reviews, grounded theory, and phenomenology. The number of formats that are supported by NVivo is practically limitless – social media, plain/ rich text, Word documents, PDFs, audio/ video files, and spreadsheets are only a small portion of the supported data options (Hutchison, Johnston, & Breckon, 2010). The data can be imported from and exported to such applications as Excel, OneNote, Word, SPSS, Survey Monkey, and numerous other computer programs. There is even a possibility to use TranscribeMe and generate transcripts directly from within the NVivo software. The company offers a number of different interfaces for their international clients – German, French, and Simplified Chinese. A separate Japanese version is also available. Many professional researchers use NVivo software for data analysis. It provides a space for the researcher for acquiring valuable transferable skills unlike traditional methods of cutting and pasting (Walsh, 2003). There are other alternatives for NVivo as well which include a notepad, scissors, and a photocopier for the researchers that have to deal with small number data. Microsoft Word or similar word-processing programmes are also used for bookmarking features and multiple documentation. NVivo has only two essential elements which include text introduction and nodes (Johnston, 2006). As such, NVivo is capable of delivering the following tasks: qualitative analysis (interpretation of the data trends), identifying themes/ patterns in the data, creating nodes (the latter are used to capture definite attributes of a data segment), and coding (Richards, 2002). After collecting data from the Pali canon, the researcher can import the data to NVivo. In NVivo, all these sources and materials can be kept together. After making specific links within the software, it will become easy to locate the file or data and retrieve its source to make comparisons. Likewise, it is also easier to reshape and reorganise the required material. The researcher has to make sure that they use codes and create nodes in NVivo. This will provide more space for the researcher in terms of focusing on the data and finding underlying themes and interpretations if compared to manual coding (Auld et al., 2007). Computers are crucial for the process of content analysis because they provide the end users with the possibility to process vast data sets at enormous speeds. The second reason why computers are useful in content analysis is their ability to process textual material consistently (Krippendorff, 2013). After entering the data from the Pali canon into NVivo, the researcher will create nodes in accordance with the psi phenomena. This stage will consist of two steps – unitisation and sampling. The same nodes will also be assigned to the data found in the parapsychological literature. Once this is done, the software itself will make room for a convenient content analysis (Zamawe, 2015). Therefore, it is safe to say that NVivo will form an important part of the qualitative data analysis by not only saving researcher’s time but also enhancing the accuracy and speed of the process of data analysis. Although, the researcher realises that this program has to beneficial to the analysis process, so the researcher will have to control it properly. Krippendorff (2013) suggests that the research must construct the world in which the texts make sense and answer the research questions. NVivo is going to serve as the tool that can help the researcher to address the research questions systematically and successfully carry out the first phase of the research project.

Advantages of NVivo and Its Practical Value

One of the benefits of using NVivo is its advanced possibilities in terms of data management. For the researcher, this may become a critical asset because it can help them to index certain segments of the text data and link them to particular subjects (themes) (AlYahmady & Alabri, 2013). It is safe to say that coding can be connected to research notes and quite a few operations can be retrieved. All of the hypothetical relationships between the themes also can be identified and examined. NVivo is an exceptionally flexible academic tool that can be useful regardless of the approach to the research process (Sotiriadou, Brouwers, & Le, 2014). There are four key advantages of NVivo that can be addressed within the framework of the current chapter as the contributors to the practical value of this software. First, it is possible to keep any type of data and associate it with the transcribed arrays of information gathered from the Pali canon. NVivo is majorly mistaken for a tool that only works with transcribed data (Franzosi, Doyle, McClelland, Rankin, & Vicari, 2013). The QSR did a great job and updated their software so that it could process all types of the data that was collected by the researcher. This particular option became one of the central benefits of NVivo because the source files are always accessible when it comes to collecting the data from different devices and then associating it with the existing transcribed data (Dean & Sharp, 2006). Second, NVivo will give the researcher the possibility to search through the large Pali canon texts effortlessly. This feature can help the researcher to find specific quotes in a matter of seconds or create a word tree with psi incidences using the obtained data. The results acquired after the search query can be organized in several ways: mind maps, word trees, and other similar approaches (Bernauer, Lichtman, Jacobs, & Robinson, 2013). The researcher believes that NVivo can be beneficial within the framework of this qualitative research and content analysis in particular due to the fact that it may help them to recover large data strings and utilize them to generalise large data arrays. The next advantage adding to the practical value of NVivo is the possibility to create codes. This function is essential within the framework of this research project because it will allow the researcher to identify major data patterns in the Pali canon and narrow them down so as to see all the dependencies inherent in this body of literature (Azeem, Salfi, & Dogar, 2012). The employment of data split by themes is commonly performed much quicker and more efficiently. The situations where there are multiple codes makes it easier to analyse the data and point out the themes that are characteristic of the given data set. Nonetheless, this can only be done if the data is arranged appropriately. For instance, the manual use of hyperlinks and connections can be rather time-consuming and complex (Godau, 2004). In this case, NVivo is an efficient tool that can set up links to numerous data sets (no matter how large) and give the researcher the luxury of time because of its quick and all-encompassing performance. NVivo may also be able to become beneficial because of its close connection to social media. In the case if the researcher will have to address some external sources, they may be able to import tweets, comments from YouTube, and Facebook posts into the system and code them as part of the data on the Pali canon. The researcher believes that such dynamic approach to data processing can be beneficial within the framework of the current research.

To conclude, there are numerous advantages inherent in NVivo that are much more important than trivial limitations. The researcher comes to the conclusion that this software, developed by QSR International, perfectly fits the objectives and the purpose of the current thesis. The topics of parapsychology and Buddhist beliefs and powers will be aligned with each other, and all the common themes will be addressed.


Within the framework of the second chapter of the dissertation, the author was willing to validate the choice of a strategy that would allow to conduct data analysis efficiently. There were two key objectives that had to be achieved by the end of this chapter. The first objective revolved around the idea that content analysis methodology is the most appropriate method to conduct data analysis within the framework of the current research. Nonetheless, the researcher also addressed systematic review and meta-analysis methodologies so as to validate the effectiveness of content analysis when compared to other research methods. The author of the dissertation conducted a literature review on the notion of content analysis and identified the majority of strengths and weaknesses that could interfere with the quality of obtained data. In addition to this, the researcher underlined the significance of content analysis and discussed the implications of this methodology for the current research project. They also concluded that content analysis is a powerful methodology that can be used to analyse such extensive bodies of literature as the Pali canon. The second objective that the author of the dissertation was willing to achieve was an examination of the preliminary findings from the Pali canon such as the total number of words in different sections of it. In the end, it can be concluded that the objectives set at the beginning of the chapter were successfully met and the researcher was able to address all the points of interest.

Speaking of content analysis methodology, researchers who use content analysis throughout their research projects are able to process large amounts of textual information. One of the most important concepts is the systematic identification of specific properties that are characteristic of the given research project. This may signify the frequency of certain words throughout the text or any other structures that contribute to the communication content. During the process of evaluation, the researcher should be able to categorise the textual information so as to gain insight into the question of interest. Currently, there are numerous coding frames that can be used to compare different arrays of data. The approach that is recurrently used by the majority of researchers from different professional segments can be characterised as content-analytic. It is safe to say that content analysis became one of the most widely used research tools that could be used for the assessment of media profiles or research on media relations. This type of analysis is recurrently united with other types of media data such as frequency of occurrence, the total number of instances, and so on. The concept of content analysis can even be used to identify different trends inherent in the data. One of the basic notions that are inherent in the creative approach associated with the content analysis is the creation of coding frames. In this thesis, the researcher expects to introduce several variables that will contribute to the process of analysing information. The key researcher’s objective is to assess the data from a dynamic perspective so as to make logical conclusions. The contingent logic that cannot always be found in the Pali canon will be observed by the researcher so as to point out a number of innovative themes and focus on the generalisation of the findings. The researcher is also keen on finding articulations that can help them to find contingent interventions. Research on the topics of parapsychology and Pali canon has to be convergent and integral in order to provide consistent and valid evidence of paranormal events. The content analysis that will be conducted within the framework of this thesis is expected to be in line with the hypotheses of the study. The researcher will not take a uniform position so as to be as open-minded and unbiased as possible. One of the advantages of content analysis is that it can be perceived as the process of quasi-evaluation due to the fact the final judgements do not have to be grounded on value statements. Nonetheless, the disadvantage here is that this is only true in the case if the research objective is directly related to certain subjective experiences. Another advantage of using content analysis is that the researcher can build the thesis around daily experience and knowledge of common people. On the other hand, a thoughtful evaluation (meaning the content analysis that is based on values) can also become a kind of content analysis. The researcher can conclude this subsection of the chapter by stating that the compression of numerous words comprised in a text can be rightfully considered to be an instance of qualitative content analysis that is functioning on the basis of essential rules of coding. In order to be able to do this, the researcher developed a list of powers that will be analysed within the framework of this thesis and aligned them with the notions of parapsychology. Throughout this chapter of the dissertation, the author justified the use of content analysis for the current research project and provided the readers with the information regarding the upcoming analysis of the instances of psi from the Pali canon.


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