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Divination

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Divination is the supposed ability to tell the future and magic is a power that is supposed to be able to change the course of natural events by other than normal means. Luck is a quality which, if a person has it, is able to confer on him or her success or happiness while fate is the supposed pre-determined course of all events. The Buddha called these and numerous related superstitions practices and beliefs kotåhalamaïgalika or maïgalaü paccetinokamma (Anguttara Nikaya 3. 205). He also dubbed them ‘base arts’ (tiracchànavijjà) and expressly forbade his monks and nuns to practice them (Digha Nikaya 1. 9). In one of the most severe rebukes he ever made, the Buddha also said that any lay disciple of his who believed in or practiced these superstitions would be ‘the outcaste, the filth, the scum of the lay community’ (Anguttara Nikaya 3. 205). The Buddha was probably opposed to all these superstitions for several reasons. Firstly, the belief in luck and fate contradicts the teaching of kamma. The practice of divination and magic is inevitably related to a concern with wealth and thus reinforces ignorance and greed. Fortune telling and the hawking of magic charms and amulets usually involve fraud, dishonesty and cheating. Paradoxically, all these superstitions are widely accepted as true in most Buddhist countries today, and in fact are often practised by monks.

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