Tulpa (Tibetan: སྤྲུལ་པ, Wylie: sprul-pa; Sanskrit: निर्मित nirmita and निर्माण nirmāṇa; "to build" or "to construct") also translated as "magical emanation", "conjured thing" and "phantom" is a concept in mysticism of a being or object which is created...
Tulpa (Tibetan: སྤྲུལ་པ, Wylie: sprul-pa; Sanskrit: निर्मित nirmita and निर्माण nirmāṇa; "to build" or "to construct") also translated as "magical emanation", "conjured thing" and "phantom" is a concept in mysticism of a being or object which is created through sheer spiritual or mental discipline alone. It is defined in Indian Buddhist texts as any unreal, illusory or mind created apparition.
According to Tibet explorer Alexandra David-Néel, tulpas are "magic formations generated by a powerful concentration of thought." It is a materialized thought that has taken physical form and is usually regarded as synonymous to a thoughtform.
One early Buddhist text, the Samaññaphala Sutta lists the ability to create a "mind-made body" (manomāyakāya) as one of the "fruits of the contemplative life". Commentarial texts such as the Patisambhidamagga and the Visuddhimagga state that this mind-made body is how Gautama Buddha and arhats are able to travel into heavenly realms using the continuum of the mindstream (bodhi) and it is also used to explain the multiplication miracle of the Buddha as illustrated in the Divyavadana, in which the Buddha multiplied his emanation body ("nirmita") into countless other bodies which filled the sky. A Buddha or other realized being is able to project many such "nirmitas" simultaneously in an infinite variety of forms, in different realms simultaneously.
The Indian Buddhist philosopher Vasubandhu defined nirmita as a siddhi or psychic power (Pali: iddhi, Skt: ṛddhi) developed through Buddhist discipline, concentrated discipline and wisdom (samadhi) in his seminal work on Buddhist philosophy, the Abhidharmakośa. Asanga's Bodhisattvabhūmi defines nirmāṇa as a magical illusion and "basically, something without a basis". The Madhyamaka school of philosophy sees all reality as empty of essence, all reality is seen as a form of nirmita or magical illusion.
Tulpa is a spiritual discipline and teachings concept in Tibetan Buddhism and Bon. The term "thoughtform" is used as early as 1927 in Evans-Wentz' translation of the Tibetan Book of the Dead. John Myrdhin Reynolds in a note to his English translation of the life story of Garab Dorje defines a tulpa as "an emanation or a manifestation."
As the Tibetan use of the tulpa concept is described in the book Magical Use of Thoughtforms, the student was expected to come to the understanding that the tulpa was just a hallucination. While they were told that the tulpa was a genuine deity, "The pupil who accepted this was deemed a failure – and set off to spend the rest of his life in an uncomfortable hallucination."
The term is used in the works of Alexandra David-Néel, a Belgian-French explorer, spiritualist and Buddhist, who observed these practices in 20th century Tibet. David-Néel wrote that "an accomplished Bodhisattva is capable of effecting ten kinds of magic creations. The power of producing magic formations, tulkus or less lasting and materialized tulpas, does not, however, belong exclusively to such mystic exalted beings. Any human, divine or demoniac being may be possessed of it. The only difference comes from the degree of power, and this depends on the strength of the concentration and the quality of the mind itself."
David-Néel also wrote of the tulpa's ability to develop a mind of its own: "Once the tulpa is endowed with enough vitality to be capable of playing the part of a real being, it tends to free itself from its maker's control. This, say Tibetan occultists, happens nearly mechanically, just as the child, when his body is completed and able to live apart, leaves its mother's womb." David-Néel claimed to have created a tulpa in the image of a jolly Friar Tuck-like monk which later developed a life of its own and had to be destroyed. David-Néel raised the possibility that her experience was illusory: "I may have created my own hallucination." However, she adds "The interesting point is that in these cases of materialisations, others see the thoughtforms that have been created."
A thoughtform is the equivalent concept to a tulpa but within the Western occult tradition. The Western understanding is believed by some to have originated as an interpretation of the Tibetan concept. Its concept is related to the Western philosophy and practice of magic. Occultist William Walker Atkinson in his book The Human Aura described thought-forms as simple ethereal objects emanating from the auras surrounding people, generating from their thoughts and feelings. He further elaborated on thoughtforms in his following book, Clairvoyance and Occult Powers. The book explains how experienced practitioners of the occult can produce thoughtforms from their auras that serve as astral projections which may or may not look like the person who is projecting them, or as illusions that can only be seen by those with "awakened astral senses". The theosophist Annie Besant wrote a book titled Thought Forms, describing them in detail. The book divides them into three classes: forms in the shape of the person who creates them, forms that resemble objects or people and may become "ensouled" by "nature spirits" or by the dead, and forms that represent "inherent qualities" from the astral or mental planes, such as emotions.
In recent years, a loosely-knit community has formed online who claim to create companions which they call tulpas/tulpae, and believe to be sentient. Many of these individuals do not believe that there is anything supernatural about tulpas. Several web sites explain the methods people use to create tulpas of this sort. As of April, 2016, there is a subreddit devoted to this form of Tulpamancy, though, due to the user-submitted nature of the website, it does not lend credence beyond anecdotal evidence to the existence of tulpas. There is currently no empirical evidence to support the existence of these playmates, but nevertheless, their creators will insist they are real, and may claim to be unaware of their origins. Chidambaram Ramesh, an Indian author and researcher, has mentioned in his book "Thought Forms and Hallucinations" that the creation of thought forms and other mental entities like Tulpa etc., is the result of holographic mind processing.