USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘past life’
Folk Beliefs

Karma

My roommate’s parents were both born in Indian (she was born in the United States) so she sat down with me in my apartment and explained some folklore that she learned from her parents. Her relationship to the folklore isn’t necessarily that she truly believes in it, but that’s an important part of her culture.

“We believe, or like, in general, not like I’m a crazy person…bad things happen to you because you’re paying for deeds that happened from your previous life/your previous birth. And so, shit happens now because you did something bad in a previous life. It’s also like karma.”

Q: Is karma related to reincarnation?

“Karma means you pay for every deed. So, this is a form of karma.”

Q: What would be an example of karma?

“Well, the way we interpreted it was when my dad got sick, it was because in a prior life or a prior form he had done something bad and this was… he was paying for it now.”

Q: How widespread is this belief?

“Pretty universal in Hinduism”

Q: Where did you first learn about karma?

“From my parents. It was one of those principles I grew up with. So, it was like, don’t be mean to people, because it’s going to come back and bite you. What goes around comes around. That’s how it started, because when you’re little you’re like ‘What is reincarnation, I don’t know’ And then when you learn about reincarnation…it’s applied on a larger scale

 

 

Folk Beliefs
Magic

Possessed by an Old Friend

This is the story [translated from Mandarin] of what happened to a childhood friend of mine (who will henceforth be referred to as ‘L’) in the Bay Area, relayed through his mother and then my mother.

It started during L’s freshman year of high school, when he started hearing a voice in his head. L refused to leave the house and also refused to sleep. His mother thought it was a phase, but when the symptoms persisted and worsened, she brought him to a psychiatrist.

The psychiatrist ran some tests but was unable to diagnose any psychotic disorder or prescribe treatment. After more psychiatrists, more doctors, more hospitals, they were still unable to figure out what was wrong. One of the doctors, however, told L’s mother, “You know, I’ve heard of cases like this before. You should go consult a spirit medium.” The mother, being non-religious and rather distant from her Taiwanese roots, was skeptical, but desperate to cure her son.

When the spirit medium heard their situation, she asked, “Does L’s room have a wide window that is always closed because it wouldn’t let light in anyway?” Upon confirmation from the astonished mother, the spirit medium said that a ghost had entered L’s room through the window, which was considered very yin (i.e. dark; negative) in fengshui. According to the spirit medium, this ghost had been looking for L for a very long time (i.e. many reincarnations on L’s part). They had been best friends many lives ago—possibly even brothers through a blood oath, because the ghost never stopped looking after they were separated. Now that the ghost found him, he did not want to leave and wanted to keep L all to himself in his room.

Conversations with other spirit mediums wielded the same results. Though skeptic at first, L’s mother began to believe in these spiritual beliefs in order to cure her son. With the ghost in his mind, however, it was difficult for L to accept the practices of spiritual cleansing (exorcism).

The first step that the spiritual mediums suggested was to leave the yin house. After many struggles, L was finally able to live at a relative’s house and began to feel better. Talismans and Buddhist chants were used to cleanse his house, but because L’s family only halfheartedly believed in the spiritual powers, L relapsed when he returned. The second time he was able to leave the house, he went travelling around California with friends, and felt better again. Spiritual mediums then suggested to L to travel to Taiwan, where more experienced spiritual mediums (i.e. Buddhist monks) could help him. He has been better since.

It was interesting to me how this all happened in the United States, with Caucasian spirit mediums believing in ghosts more than the Taiwanese family did. The vast majority of the people in Taiwan believe in ghosts due to the prevalence of Taoism and Buddhism there.

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