As soon as we entered the apartment we understood we were in for some excitement. We'd heard different stories of how this young woman had been terrorized by a ghost for the last nine years, of how just the other week she had been hospitalized due to a flying chair striking her in the head, and how she was now at the limit of her sanity. We'd been told of knives flying across the room, pictures leaping from the walls and levitating coffee machines. Chairs and other objects independently shaking and smashing into walls was a daily occurrence in this home.
"Hey, but ghosts don't exist". Well for many people and cultures they do. Ancient Indian culture explains that a ghost is someone, a soul, who, upon dying is not awarded a new physical body, but painfully lingers around in their subtle body made of mind, intelligence and false ego. Such a situation may occur due to a sudden death or extreme negative acts such as suicide, and is a position of suffering as one has a mind full of desires yet no body to enact them. Ghosts often take advantage of weak minded persons or those under intoxication, entering their physical bodies and attempt to enjoy through this borrowed facility. Many people cannot believe what they have done whilst under intoxication or depression, acts they normally would refrain from.
So, such was the situation we found in a quiet village just outside Rome. The woman and her boyfriend had tried everything they knew to free themselves from this terrifying situation. On one occasion they'd lit incense and chanted prayers in order to purify the atmosphere only to find the nearby wardrobe seemingly come to life and violently vibrate, splitting into two equal pieces. Upon moving the ruptured closet they had been horrified to find a swarming mass of bleach-white worms, quite different from the indigenous species, covering the wall and floor.
The woman explained that nine years before she had been the object of attraction for one boy in her school. Repeatedly denying his requests for a relationships, she had found herself cursed by the boy's satanic mother, who was well practiced in the black arts of witchcraft. She was told that she would suffer for the rest of her life for this refusal. That had been nine years before, yet with some incident every evening it already felt like a lifetime. One may ask why they stayed in the same apartment, why not move? Well, theirs was a family home for several generations, and they still lived with her parents. Whilst her mother was very sympathetic to her daughter, the father had been always skeptical. Most of the happenings had been directed only to his daughter, until he also started to experience strange things.
Out of desperation, they had once invited the local Catholic monks to come and assist. The monks explained that they could perform an exorcism on the woman but they couldn't guarantee the ghost would leave the property. "Anyhow, at least let's do something", they decided, although they were not prepared for what they would witness.
At one point in the ceremony with the woman white like a sheet, trembling and covered with sweat, they beheld countless 3-inch nails shooting from her mouth, followed by a deep ghastly roar clearly not from such a simple lady. Whilst the couple were completely shocked, the monks explained that it was all quite normal in these situations and that the Vatican was full of such incidents.
Seeing no alternative, the boyfriend called upon his parents for help. As they were Vaisnava practitioners, Hare Krishnas, for more than twenty years, they enthusiastically seized the opportunity and organized a troop of devout spiritual followers, we were seven in total. We meditated not only on trying to help the disturbed family but also on helping the ghost who was himself imprisoned in such an agonizing situation. Our strategy would be to perform loud, intense chanting of Krishna 's names which purify everything and are feared by fear personified. It is said that all negativity flies away when one chants the holy name of Krishna .This would be a chance to see how much we believed in what we had dedicated our lives to, were we really taking our spiritual life seriously or were we just pretenders.
We were not sure what to expect but we were certain that we wanted to experience something extraordinary. Were we ready for what was to come?
"Oh no, it's started....it's started!"
The expression on the woman's face changed rapidly as did ours. What we had been expectantly awaiting was now immediately happening. As soon as we crossed the threshold of the apartment our hearts had taken on a new gear, sensing the thick heavy atmosphere. As if to ignite fear within us, two pictures of Christian saints had sprung from the hallway wall and crashed to the floor. Was this a message from our apparently hostile poltergeist suggesting our own immanent destiny? As each devotee individually deepened their soft recital of Krishna's names, we confidently ventured forward. Within a second a dining chair in the adjoining kitchen seemingly leaped up and smashed to the ground, sending the woman into a state of hysteria, as she frantically moved from room to room. We had been in the apartment for about ten seconds and had already experienced more than we could have imagined.
Standing in the centre of the main room we all looked at one another for a moment and then spontaneously erupted into kirtan, the loud calling of the names of Krishna , themselves feared by fear personified. The leader of the chanting requested we all chant in unison with full voice instead of the usual call and response style we are familiar with. What with the accordion sounding, clay drum booming and countless hand symbols chiming, along with the resounding call of a conchshell being blown, overall the effect was quite tumultuous. Placing all of our breath into the chanting we searched to find the protection promised from these all powerful names of the Supreme. What the neighbours were thinking was far from our thoughts as we absorbed our minds in the pure transcendental vibration;
Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare
One of our party had brought several sacred Narasingha stones called Salagram, and proceeded to bath them with pure water. These transcendental manifestations offer powerful protection as well as removal of inauspicious obstacles on our spiritual path. Spraying the bathing water all around we gradually moved from one room to another ardently chanting the recommended mantra for this age, Hare Krishna.
Noticing that the heavy wooden dining chairs had each begun to vibrate, the woman lay them down under the table, all the while rambling through prayers in a frenzied manner. Her mother tried to console her but had little effect. Just then a wooden drawer from a cupboard in an adjacent room came flying across the ceiling and smashed against the wall just behind the woman, spraying its contents everywhere. We instinctively moved closer to the woman and desperately called out the names. Meanwhile, in the kitchen a devotee was offering the bathing water to drink for protection to the family, when a chair rose one metre from the floor and within a split second zoomed across the room colliding with the boyfriend. Seeing no other means to assist, the devotee practically threw the liquid down the boyfriends throat only then to see the coffee machine also begin its levitation.
Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare
We had been hoping to experience something and this local spook was certainly entertaining us. Whilst the dining chairs were continuing to vibrate we moved through to the parents bedroom all the while intensifying our chanting of the all purifying names of Krishna .Vedic scripture explains that these names, the Maha-mantra, being completely spiritual, have the unlimited power of God by which the dirt of our hearts can be cleansed. Just as the sun can cleanse urine and waste from the earth by its scorching rays yet remain unpolluted, similarly the names of Krishna can never be contaminated, yet themselves clean even the reservoir of dirt in our consciousness.
As we danced to the sweet sound, the woman along with her Mother and Father was standing in the doorway, nervously chanting to herself. She appeared distant, lost in her racing thoughts. At that moment, seemingly thrust up against the wall, she was pinned by her invisible assaulter. As if held by the throat she was dragged along the wall banging into her parents. Pandemonium arose amongst them as we chased after throwing our weapon of the Maha-mantra in an act of rescue. Again she was released, although severely shaken.
We had now been chanting intensely for forty minutes and still the atmosphere seemed thick and heavy with darkness. Although violent events had occurred to the family members, nothing had touched any of us who were taking refuge in the sound incarnation of Krishna's names. We all felt completely protected and fearless. With such faith in Krishna names as well as the mood of compassion to help both the family and their uninvited phantom, we courageously danced and span around the home. Gradually we managed to involve the family in dancing and chanting with us which brought unlimited heights of bliss as the father of the family smiled for the first time. Then the atmosphere lightened and everyone felt the overwhelming joy of freedom whilst chanting Hare Krishna. It felt like a wonderful sunrise clearing away the darkness and fog of the evening, whilst simultaneously eradicating fear of thieves and dacoits. Carrying on for another fifteen minutes we all tasted the true happiness of the soul as he reawakens his relationship with his long lost friend, Krishna.
With the mood considerably transformed we sat together on the floor and recited the twelfth chapter of the Bhagavad Gita in both Sanskrit and Italian, entitled Devotional service. We were refreshing ourselves with knowledge of our pure loving relationship with Krishna, whilst also praying that our poltergeist friend be now fully purified and able again to reawaken his own love.
We cannot be know what has happened to this ghost, although we are sure that immense purification took place not just for him but also the family and ourselves who came as menial servants of the sweet, all-powerful names of Krishna. By chanting the Maha-mantra we can purify our existence and fully reawaken our dormant love for Krishna and consequently each other. That love is within us all, even ghosts, but due to absorption in material pursuits we forget our real treasure within.
Since that day there have been no further disturbances in that home. That night was there first peaceful night in nine years. All glories to the unlimited glorious names of Krishna and all glories to the pure devotee of those names who has compassionately spread them throughout the entire world, Srila Prabhupada.
- Written by Sanatana Goswami dasa, Italy