The Buddha’s Supernatural Powers

Published January 30, 2015 by prathipriyap

 Buddha then goes on to list the other abilities which he possesses that Sunakkhatta will not be able to realize due to his dismissal of the Buddha and the Dharma. The first three are actually the first three of the six supernatural powers which are forms of direct knowledge attained either through meditative concentration or spiritual insight. The final three of the six are listed below as the last three of the ten powers of the Tathagata. Of these six supernatural powers or direct knowledges, the first five can be attained as a by-product of meditative concentration and are available even to those who are not spiritually mature are liberated. The sixth, however, is attained only through spiritual insight and is possessed only by arhats, advanced bodhisattvas, and buddhas. “And he will never infer of me according to Dhamma: `That Blessed One enjoys the various kinds of supernormal power: having been one, he becomes many; having been many, he becomes one; he appears and vanishes; he goes unhindered through a wall, through an enclosure, through a mountain, as though through space; he dives in and out of the earth as though it were water; he walks on water without sinking as though it were earth; seated cross-legged, he travels in space like a bird; with his hand he touches and strokes the moon and the sun so powerful and mighty; he wields bodily mastery even as far as the Brahma-world.’ (Ibid, p. 165)This first power of supernatural mastery over the body covers many of the standard miracles which holy men were thought to be capable of in ancient India and elsewhere. Many of these powers, such as walking on water or through walls, were also attributed to Jesus in the Gospels. One may or may not choose to believe in such miracles. Though the Buddha claimed to have possessed such powers, he did not consider them important, and even refused to make a display of them. The Buddha even forbid his disciples from using such powers for the sake of cheap displays to impress the masses. Assuming for a moment that such powers are actually attainable and were in fact possessed by the Buddha, it would seem as though the Buddha considered these powers a distraction from the real work of attaining insight and did not wish to draw any undue attention to such things. On a more mundane level, these miraculous powers poetically describe the accomplished meditator’s total self-mastery and ease in relation to their body and surroundings.“And he will never infer of me according to Dhamma: `With the divine ear element, which is purified and surpasses the human, the Blessed One hears both kinds of sounds, the heavenly and the human, those that are far as well as near.’ (Ibid, p.165)This power corresponds to the psychic ability known as clairaudience – the ability to hear things in remote locations beyond the power of the unaided human ear. This ability may have a basis in fact, but again it could also be an indication of the increased awareness of those who have cultivated mindful awareness through meditation.“And he will never infer of me according to Dhamma: `That Blessed One encompasses with his own mind, the minds of other beings, other persons. He understands a mind affected by lust as affected by lust and a mind unaffected by lust as unaffected by lust; he understands a mind affected by hate as affected by hate and a mind unaffected by hate as unaffected by hate; he understands a mind affected by delusion as affected by delusion and a mind unaffected by delusion as unaffected by delusion; he understands a contracted mind as contracted and a distracted mind as distracted; he understands an exalted mind as exalted and an unexalted mind as unexalted; he understands a surpassed mind as surpassed and an unsurpassed mind as unsurpassed; he understands a concentrated mind as concentrated and an unconcentrated mind as unconcentrated; he understands a liberated mind as liberated and an unliberated mind as unliberated.’ (Ibid, p. 165)This ability is currently known as telepathy. As with the first two, there have been and still are reports of people who claim to be able to read the minds of others. Whatever the factual basis, this power would also describe the ability of someone whose awareness and empathy is so acute that they are able to intuit the mental states of others.


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