Question: I learnt that unseen beings comprising of ghosts and gods are able to read minds. Do they have the power to reward or punish a person after having read one’s good or bad thoughts?
Answer: You can just think of them as humans like us. For example, if person X knows person Y is harbouring ill thoughts about person X, or even person Z, whom person X cares about, person X might give some trouble to person Y.
Just as this applies to receiving of harm, the reverse applies to receiving of help. Just as humans can do this, unseen beings can do this too. The only differences are that they have the ability to read minds, travel swiftly (depending on their individual karma), and possible possession (which is not so easy), and their actions might seem mysterious as they are less readily seen.
Question: If person A is offended by person B and wishes person B dead, and this thought is perceived by an unseen being, does the being have the power to punish person A by taking away some of person A’s good karma, or bestow bad luck on person A?
Answer: ‘Punish’ is a vague word here. Just as a human who harms another need not have the intention to ‘punish’, but just to create trouble out of hatred or vengeance, unseen beings can do so too. Karma cannot be ‘removed’ by anyone. As there is no such thing as random ‘luck’, as all is based on the cause and effect of karma. Thus, any ‘luck’ cannot be given too. That an unseen being harms one is a negative karmic result experienced – though new positive karma can be created by the one harmed to mitigate with the results too. Unseen beings are not default just agents of karma, as karma can be expressed via any beings or experiences.
Question: Can an unseen being cause the death of person B since person A wished so?
Answer: Just as person A can instigate person C to kill person B, an unseen being can be instigated too. This usually involves ill agreements with evil malevolent spirits. Yet, for this to effectively happen, person B must have created very negative karma of deserving death in this way. Person A and the unseen being however, create very negative karma in the process of inflicting such deadly harm. This is why the Buddha advised for the ending of all vicious cycles of hatred. It should be noted too, that not all gods are good, just as not all ghosts are evil. They are reborn in the realms they are in due to the general quality of their karma, which does not determine their current inclination towards goodness or evil.
In Buddhism, it is taught that one who practises the Buddha’s teachings sincerely, especially those who have taken the Threefold Refuge and committed to observation of the Five Precepts will naturally (karmically) have good Dharma protector gods’ (and even Buddhas’ and Bodhisattvas’) protection in day and night, as they have vowed to protect all who practise the Dharma well. As such, when with good practice of the Dharma, all malevolent ghosts will be kept at bay. If trapped in times of (super/natural) emergencies, one should be sincerely mindful of a Buddha or Bodhisattva (using the name) to prevent being harmed too, by connecting to their blessings.