Why Is Halloween Bad According To Theravada Buddhism?

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While I’m sure most religions do not particularly like the tradition of Halloween, I thought it would be good to explain why Halloween is not good according to Theravāda Buddhism.

Celebrating Halloween in modern times, regardless of the reasons why it was started in the first place, consists of dressing up in costumes. In celebration, you either dress up or you praise other people’s costumes. It is mostly bad karma for the one dressing up and if you praise that, it is not good either. It is not always bad, but usually eventually it turns out that way. I will explain.

It is like Acting:

Acting as a career, generally is not so wholesome. If there is any movie or play that is considered “good” by literature and Hollywood standards, there is going to be one or more of the five precepts broken. The content might consist as the list below:

  • Killing
  • Stealing
  • Sexual misconduct (sex without the protector’s permission)
  • Lying
  • Taking Intoxicants

The five Buddhist precepts are to restrain from doing these Hollywood acts. It is dangerous to be an actor because no matter how wholesome the role will be, eventually one of the roles will be where one “acts out and embodies” someone doing the 5 types of wrong action as listed above. This is not good. If one is really a great actor, he or she will fully embody such actions while acting them out. Furthermore, this inspires regular real people to imitate such acts in real life. Even though Hollywood tricks you into thinking they are real, for the actor, he must believe and act it out as if it were real. So even though he is not killing in real life, he is creating potential intentional and unintentional “wishes” to become a killer in a future life. At that point, really bad kamma will occur. If you ever meet anyone who has completed Dependent Origination with knowledge of past lives, they will tell you this in summation:

“Be careful what you wish for because you might just get it.”

anyone you meet who has done dependent Origination

Acting In Halloween:

On Halloween, one is like an actor. One dresses up in full costume. While there are jokes and laughs, one of the goals is making it “believable” and “realistic”. Suppose you want to put scars on your face with a black eye and blood dripping down your face while holding a knife. Do you really want that to happen in your future life? When you praise such costumes and put lots of thought and effort into the makeup, do you really want to have this happen to yourself or to that person who is dressed up?

Try to think of all the costumes, especially the best ones. Usually the more wicked and gory “the better” according to Halloween standards. Unless of course you are an abstract artist who dresses up as a can of soda or something. In that case, I’m just not sure how to judge this :). You could dress up as something wholesome, like a good fairy or a philanthropist throwing fake money around as if it were really fake money. That might be okay, but what will you do next year? Just like the actor, eventually she will land a part where bad karma is committed.

Results of Acting:

When one acts, one is making a conscious or unconscious wish to have that come true. There is a famous sutta where an ascetic acted in every way as a dog. He would eat from the floor and walk on all fours. Everything he did was dog-like. He believed that this was the pathway to salvation. It was his religion. When he asked the Buddha what his future would be, the Buddha refused to answer. When he asked again, the Buddha told him:

Alaṃ, puṇṇa, tiṭṭhatetaṃ; mā maṃ etaṃ pucchīti;
‘Enough, Puṇṇa, let it be. Don’t ask me that.’

api ca tyāhaṃ byākarissāmi.
Nevertheless, I will answer you.

Idha, puṇṇa, ekacco kukkuravataṃ bhāveti paripuṇṇaṃ abbokiṇṇaṃ, kukkurasīlaṃ bhāveti paripuṇṇaṃ abbokiṇṇaṃ, kukkuracittaṃ bhāveti paripuṇṇaṃ abbokiṇṇaṃ, kukkurākappaṃ bhāveti paripuṇṇaṃ abbokiṇṇaṃ.
Take someone who develops the dog observance fully and uninterruptedly. They develop a dog’s ethics, a dog’s mentality, and a dog’s behavior fully and uninterruptedly.

So kukkuravataṃ bhāvetvā paripuṇṇaṃ abbokiṇṇaṃ, kukkurasīlaṃ bhāvetvā paripuṇṇaṃ abbokiṇṇaṃ, kukkuracittaṃ bhāvetvā paripuṇṇaṃ abbokiṇṇaṃ, kukkurākappaṃ bhāvetvā paripuṇṇaṃ abbokiṇṇaṃ kāyassa bhedā paraṃ maraṇā kukkurānaṃ sahabyataṃ upapajjati.
When their body breaks up, after death, they’re reborn in the company of dogs.

Sace kho panassa evaṃdiṭṭhi hoti: ‘imināhaṃ sīlena vā vatena vā tapena vā brahmacariyena vā devo vā bhavissāmi devaññataro vā’ti, sāssa hoti micchādiṭṭhi.
But if they have such a view: ‘By this precept or observance or mortification or spiritual life, may I become one of the gods!’ This is their wrong view.

Micchādiṭṭhissa kho ahaṃ, puṇṇa, dvinnaṃ gatīnaṃ aññataraṃ gatiṃ vadāmi—nirayaṃ vā tiracchānayoniṃ vā.
An individual with wrong view is reborn in one of two places, I say: hell or the animal realm.

Iti kho, puṇṇa, sampajjamānaṃ kukkuravataṃ kukkurānaṃ sahabyataṃ upaneti, vipajjamānaṃ nirayan”ti.
So if the dog observance succeeds it leads to rebirth in the company of dogs, but if it fails it leads to hell.”


Raffle Tickets:

Of course, this Dog Duty Ascetic quote is an extreme example where one makes this his life, livelihood and does this all the time coupled with wrong view. However, in my other posts about kamma and rebirth, there are three major factors that will influence a near death moment that picks the kamma to result in the next life. They are:

  • Weightiness of kamma
  • Frequency of kamma (habitual kamma)
  • Proximity to the near death moment

It is like a raffle ticket system. If you do something heavy, it is like buying many tickets. The chances are much higher, and sometimes with really really bad kamma, one is guaranteed to win. The next is habitual kamma. Do something small everyday and it will add up. I am leading a project to translate a Pali Myanmar dictionary that has over 200,000 entries. While it seems impossible to do, we will have 84,000 completed today or tomorrow.1This was written on Nov 6, 2022 It is quite possible that a small donation made daily, like alms, or vandana can lead one to a higher birth. Each little item done puts a ticket in the pile to be picked. Do something daily for 10 years and you have 3,650 tickets. The last one is proximity to the near death moment. It is like putting a ticket on the top of the pile, for the ticket to be pulled out. Recent kamma is fresh in the mind and ready to be pulled out.

What inspired me to write this article? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seoul_Halloween_crowd_crush . Here people were dressing up as goblins and ghouls and then they were killed in that state with very unpleasant conditions. I didn’t watch any videos or read anything in detail, but I saw the headlines. I felt really bad for these people and we never know when death will come. In this case, we have proximity to death as a major factor for their death.

We never know what kamma will fire at the near death moment. It is literally a “crap shoot”. However, The Buddha said that we should not look lightly on any small kamma that is done. This is because it can add up, or even be selected from a one time event. Search Engines have recently taken notice of this website and are referring many people here. My advice is as strict as a doctor giving advice on his Youtube channel. Why? One small kamma might seem insignificant. However, if something is 1/1000 chance to happen, and 1000 people read this page and take advice, then something might just actually happen with my words as a cause.

Never Dress Up As a Monk:

As wholesome as it might appear to be at first glance, one should never dress up as a bhikkhu or bhikkhuni. This is one such heavy kamma that makes it forbidden to ordain. It is called, “theft of sangha”. This is where one pretends to be a monk and gets gains from this “praise or candy”. So please do not do this. It is very bad to do. It is probably a good idea to respect other religions as well in the same way.

 “Theyyasaṃvāsako, bhikkhave, anupasampanno na upasampādetabbo, upasampanno nāsetabboti.
 “Anyone living in the community by theft should not be given the full ordination. If it has been given, they should be expelled.

Mahāvaggapāḷi,, Theyyasaṃvāsakavatthu

Live Out The Good In Real Life:

The best thing for one to do, is to embody and live out a real character that is wholesome and that you admire. I totally recommend this. It was my dream to become a monk for a long time until I finally made the plunge. It was not an easy choice, but I finally did it with some arm-bending from the universe (kamma). Today, I no longer need to wish for this to happen because everyday I am blessed with my real robes that I get to wear every real day. I even changed my legal name to match my identity. The difficult part is to really really really be the best and ideal monk. I’m still working on that. But for now, I am what I am. Bhante Bhikkhu Subhūti. May you act out and become the real wholesome character in real life, everyday.

5 thoughts on “Why Is Halloween Bad According To Theravada Buddhism?”

  1. ” “Be careful what you wish for because you might just get it.”
    Anyone you meet who has done dependent origination”
    Sadhu! Sadhu! Sadhu! Hence, for our own wellbeing, of others and of the world, all we should wish for is the realization of Nibbāna!

  2. For the most part I don´t understand the need for such a missive as posted here. Firstly Halloween, at its present form is a secular holiday for small children. Apart for being in a role of a chaperone for children, I have not seen any adults going trick or treating. Adults who do celebrate Halloween, usually just meet at some kind of party dressed up in costumes, but I have not heard of anyone actually acting out their costume 😀 Children should of course be guided by the example of adults to engage in virtuous actions, but at the same time, we should not take away their childhood – the play and fun – from them. Secondly, people who are genuinely on the path of Buddhadharma, would not waste their time on celebration of Halloween, they understand that is it just an entertainment and entertainment as such is not a very fruitful endeavor. So to whom is this text intended? Practitioners of Dharma do not need it and people not following Dharma will not adhere to it. While the text sure is well intentioned, to me it comes across as using quotes from suttas to justify one’s own divorce from reality and to pass judgment upon others.

    1. You have a right to your opinion. This website is conservative Orthodox Theravāda Buddhist website.. It is written in that context and wishing wholesome activities for those who read. Samsara is very dangerous and the advice is given to help one navigate that samsara. I have to be safe in my advice. If somethingI wrote about (not specific to this topic) is 1/1000 chance to happen, but the webpage reaches 1000 people , then it could very well happen to someone.. For this reason, I don’t take any chances when I give advice , just like a doctor would do on a YouTube channel.

  3. Greetings Bhikkhu, peace to you 🙏
    I don’t understand how the dog-duty ascetic’s practice is really so comparable to kids dressing up like a superhero for a night and bringing candy home. Agree with you totally that dressing up as a bhikkhu for Halloween isn’t a good practice for Buddhists & is, at the least, disrespectful from non-Buddhists
    Let’s look at the Talaputa Sutta (SN 42.2)
    > Thus the actor — himself intoxicated & heedless, having made others intoxicated & heedless — with the breakup of the body, after death, is reborn in what is called the hell of laughter.
    This is a better argument against costume play, and to a greater degree, being an actor — we can certainly call acting and costume play unskillful behavior that generates some measure of bad karma, but I’m a bit skeptical of the claim that all people who do such things are necessarily hell-bound.
    Of course it takes an enlightened one to make definite claims about what destination another is bound for upon dying, and I am not one; we need to ask how to interpret the meaning behind such suttas, and in my opinion a skillful handling is to remind people that all kinds of “normal, everyday lifestyle activities” can produce bad kamma — and as such, there is all the more need for lay Buddhist practitioners to strive for mindfulness, good conduct, taking refuge, and so on, in spite of that.
    Are all lay people who are happily married bound for a “hell of sex” for producing lust in their partners ? 5 lay precepts say — no wrong sensuality, not no sensuality.
    I thought I was a sotapana – if I’d decided to attend a costume party, in a costume, would it be more accurate to say that I was deluded about being a sotapana, or that kamma isn’t as black and white as some suttas make it out to be?
    With metta

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