“Kevatta, there are these three miracles that I have declared, having directly known and realized them for myself. Which three? The miracle of psychic power, the miracle of telepathy, and the miracle of instruction.”“Kevatta (Kevaddha) Sutta: To Kevatta” (DN 11), translated from the Pali by Thanissaro Bhikkhu. Access to Insight (BCBS Edition), 30 November 2013, http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/dn/dn.11.0.than.html .
When we read the traditional biography of Shakyamuni Buddha, there are various narrations of miraculous activities happening around Buddha. The wonderful thing about Buddhism is that all these miraculous activities can be omitted and the Dharma will still present itself as useful, meaningful and profound. In another word, the Truth expounded by Buddha need not rely on “hocus pocus” to lend it credibility or religious authority. Many modern scholars or practicing Buddhist prefer such “sanitized” Buddhism because they relate better that way.
However, there are still many Buddhists who prefer a Buddhism that is rich in religious miracles and wonders. In the story, “Twin Miracle of Kapilavastu”, Buddha levitated and emitted water and fire simultaneously from his body in front of his kinsmen. This was because all of them viewed Buddha as no different from that little boy whom they knew all along. Just like how we are always a child in the eyes of our parents and elders. Thus, Buddha had to display that miracle to tame their arrogance. By doing so, they realized that the prince whom they adored was no longer the same mortal they knew.
Continuing from the previous post, after Buddha denied Kevatta’s request for monks to perform miracles for the purpose of attracting more followers; Buddha proceeded to explain miracles. In the above statement, Buddha stated empirically, that He knew miracles and is capable of performing them. This put to rest any depreciating views that Buddha is incapable of miraculous activities and thus, the reason why He discouraged miraculous activities.
Buddha further elaborated that there are 3 types of miracles.
- Psychic power – miraculous events that involves physical activities
- Mental power – miraculous events involving our mental activities
- Dharma power – miraculous events from embracing the Dharma
“And what is the miracle of psychic power? There is the case where a monk wields manifold psychic powers. Having been one he becomes many; having been many he becomes one. He appears. He vanishes. He goes unimpeded through walls, ramparts, and mountains as if through space. He dives in and out of the earth as if it were water. He walks on water without sinking as if it were dry land. Sitting cross-legged he flies through the air like a winged bird. With his hand he touches and strokes even the sun and moon, so mighty and powerful. He exercises influence with his body even as far as the Brahma worlds.“Kevatta (Kevaddha) Sutta: To Kevatta” (DN 11), translated from the Pali by Thanissaro Bhikkhu. Access to Insight (BCBS Edition), 30 November 2013, http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/dn/dn.11.0.than.html .
The above are examples of psychic miracles. Appearing and disappearing. Manifesting multiple body and then consolidating back into one. In recent times, one Lama managed to disappear in plain view, in front of his disciples and that feat was recorded by camera. He kind of “dissolve” into space. Another lama, left his palm print by pressing his palm into stone as if pressing on butter.
Walking through solid wall or matter is achievable by meditating on the Earth elements and reaching the fourth Level of Jhana. walking on water is by achieving 4th Jhana on water element meditation.
In the meditation diary of a Thai monk, he recounted how he levitated, was shocked by the unplanned levitation and lost focus. That resulted in him falling from about 2.5 meters in the air and bruising his body. He subsequently investigated his feat by placing and removing objects from the roof beam while levitating. Then invited fellow monk to witness this feat.
Then there is the story of a Chinese monk who appear and disappear from his meditation room while it is being guarded by attending disciples outside the room.
There are simply so many stories about miracles. However, stories are just stories. They do not really help us in our practice because Buddhist Dharma is not built upon devotional worship.
“Then someone who has faith and conviction in him sees him wielding manifold psychic powers… exercising influence with his body even as far as the Brahma worlds. He reports this to someone who has no faith and no conviction, telling him, ‘Isn’t it awesome. Isn’t it astounding, how great the power, how great the prowess of this contemplative. Just now I saw him wielding manifold psychic powers… exercising influence with his body even as far as the Brahma worlds.’
“Then the person without faith, without conviction, would say to the person with faith and with conviction: ‘Sir, there is a charm called the Gandhari charm by which the monk wielded manifold psychic powers… exercising influence with his body even as far as the Brahma worlds.’ What do you think, Kevatta — isn’t that what the man without faith, without conviction, would say to the man with faith and with conviction?”
“Yes, lord, that’s just what he would say.”
“Seeing this drawback to the miracle of psychic power, Kevatta, I feel horrified, humiliated, and disgusted with the miracle of psychic power.
When faced with disbelief, miracles doesn’t help and is useless. Worst of all, non believer can easily accuse the various miraculous activities as nothing more than sleight of hands, hypnotism, coordinated hoax and even hallucinogenic incense being burnt! Faced with such accusation, the dignity of Dharma would become tarnished.
This naturally has an adverse impact on the common people. Not only will people lose faith, the core message of Dharma will also be lost. Thus, Buddha forbade using miraculous activities as a bait to entice more disciples.
Although this sutta is from the Theravada tradition, we will find similar discouragement in the Mahayana scriptures. In the Surangama Sutra, we are being cautioned to be wary of miraculous activities. This is because Mara (Buddhist “demon”) is known to bestow power on people or possess people so that they can pronounce Fake-Dharma messages through these people. For example, advising people not to chant sutra at specific hour of the day or not to practice mindfulness, or not to respect the monastic communities, and etc.
In summary, Buddha rejected the proposal that psychic power is a good method for converting people to Dharma.
Therefore, if we see or attend any “Buddhist” events that promise or promote miraculous healing / activities, or advertise their leaders as Bodhisattva / Buddha, we should be wary that they may not be Buddhist. Since the Buddha already said no, the organizer is either ignorant about Dharma or more sinisterly, they are spreading ignorance in the world.
May all be well and happy.