Parapsychology and Buddhism – to afford a comparison between descriptions of psychic experiences in Buddhist works and in parapsychological research

  • Chetak Nangare

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


The presented research project is aimed at affording a comparison between the description of psychic experiences in Buddhist works and Parapsychological research. As such, this thesis scholastically outlines the Buddhist Pāli Canon’s perspective on the phenomenon of psychic power or psi. This particular Theravadin Buddhist scripture has long been available but has not been scrutinised until now to academically research the instances of psi contained within it. Moreover, no previous attempt has been made by Buddhist academics and parapsychologists to gather all such instances in a separate collection. Therefore, during the first phase of this research project, all the psi incidences from the Pāli Canon in English were collected and were then analysed qualitatively, using the content analysis method. The analysis identified 257 instances of psi and drew out several themes which linked the possibility of psi with the concept of merit, which is the central finding of this thesis. During the second phase, fifteen expert Vipassana meditators across India were interviewed, not only to get their perspectives on psi but also to compare the findings from the Pāli Canon analysis with contemporary living practitioners. The interview data analysis was carried out using the thematic analysis method; these results were consistent with the findings of the first phase of the research and formed the basis for the proposal of an experiment that can be implemented in the future to test psi in a novel way. The body of research represents a strong response to the aim of this study by critically justifying the nature of psi based on merits, in contrast with parapsychologists’ description of psi as spontaneous or as that which can be elicited with the help of psi-conductive states. Accordingly, this thesis adds valuable knowledge to the academic disciplines of parapsychology and Buddhist studies, in which the theme of merit has not previously been linked to the possibility of psi, although there was some parallel understanding from both the fields to some extent. This research suggests the possibility of providing evidence for psi with a proposal on the idea of the act of truth (pāli: saccakiriya, meaning assertion of truth speech), which can be carried out in future. The time required and the huge and complex nature of the Pāli Canon was perceived as one of the limitations. This PhD research finds its place in various psychology and theology related subject areas.
Date of AwardOct 2021
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorChris Roe (Supervisor) & Alasdair Gordon-Finlayson (Supervisor)


  • Parapsychology
  • Buddism
  • Theravada
  • Pali Canon
  • Iddhi
  • Psychic Powers
  • Psi
  • Merits
  • Good Deeds

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