What does Buddhism say about astrology, psychics, etc.?

This Q&A series addresses frequently asked questions by those who are interested in Nichiren Buddhism.

Old Town Scottsdale District, SCOTTSDALE, ARIZONA. Photo: George Nakamura.

Q: What does Buddhism say about astrology, tarot cards, numerology, psychics, mediums and such?

A: What does my horoscope say about today? When will I meet the person I’m supposed to marry? What kind of person was I in my past life? What will my life be like?

Some people are fascinated by practices that seem to predict the future as well as those that attempt to look at the past—and there are a wide variety. Psychic readers, astrologers, readers of tarot cards, palms and the like are considered by some to have advanced abilities or extraordinary sensitivities.

Buddhist scriptures, too, refer to some of these abilities. For example, one of the Buddha’s great disciples, Maudgalyayana, was said to have had such remarkable supernatural powers that he could see his mother’s spirit suffering in the afterlife.

Buddhism in essence teaches, however, that all people equally have a far greater power within themselves to establish lives of absolute happiness. Nichiren Buddhism teaches that true happiness and fulfillment are achieved through our own inner transformation and our efforts to help others.

SGI President Ikeda comments on this, saying:

To make psychic powers or the like the standard is to set people with extraordinary abilities apart from regular human beings. This is dangerous.

We must also keep in mind that possessing superhuman powers is no guarantee of happiness. As a matter of fact, those who rely on their special ability may neglect their own growth as human beings and actually become miserable as a result. (The Wisdom of the Lotus Sutra, vol. 5, p. 139)

Buddhism teaches that life is based on the exacting law of cause and effect, as explained in the well-known passage: “If you want to understand the causes that existed in the past, look at the results as they are manifested in the present. And if you want to understand what results will be manifested in the future, look at the causes that exist in the present” (“The Opening of the Eyes,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 279).

Rather than becoming dependent on externals such as the supposed special capacities and insights of others, through Buddhist practice we develop the rich wisdom and powerful life force to live happily now, create our own future and even transform our past, based on the causes we make today.

For Maudgalyayana, despite being able to see his mother in the afterlife, he still could not change her suffering into happiness. Only his Buddhist practice accomplished that.

Nichiren says: “The Venerable Maudgalyayana put his faith in the Lotus Sutra, which is the greatest good there is, and thus not only did he himself attain Buddhahood, but his father and mother did so as well. And, amazing as it may seem, all the fathers and mothers of the preceding seven generations and the seven generations that followed, indeed, of countless lifetimes before and after, were able to become Buddhas” (“On Offerings for Deceased Ancestors,” WND-1, 820).

In short, by fully applying Buddhism to our lives, not only can we create confident, happy lives, we can also build fortune that extends to our loved ones and lasts far into the future.