Starting from this post, it is going to be interesting for those who wish to learn more about supranormal ability in the context of Buddhist spiritualism. Although it is in the sutta, this topic is not widely taught for some good reasons. The main reason is that we shouldn’t waste time cultivating supranormal ability and neglect enlightenment.
Many people are tempted by power and it isn’t surprising that some decided to become “X-men” or “superman” instead of becoming enlightened. If we recall the earlier part of the sutta, Buddha taught about mental hinderances and a covetous mind is one of them. Craving for power definitely leads to suffering. Therefore, traditional teachings will stop after the topic of Vipassana meditation. The remaining of the sutta is glossed over and teachers will warn students not to pursue supranormal abilities when one isn’t enlightened yet.
After enlightenment, the temptation of being a superman amongst human kind is absent and many enlightened people simply do not bother developing them. (Example: Dipa Ma) Sariputra was reputed to be foremost in wisdom and he did not develop supranormal capabilities. In short, Buddhist students with proper guidance will focus on gaining enlightenment instead of hankering for supranormal power,
According to Buddhist legend, there is a deity (Mara) who is against enlightenment. Unlike Satan in Christianity, Mara is not living in hell nor a fallen angel. Instead, he lives and rules a heaven of his own and is a god / deity. According to Buddhist Myths, the six realms will quake at the moment of enlightenment. In short, Mara is pissed by the “earthquake” created by the energy of enlightenment tearing through the fabric of existence. Naturally, he tries to hinder cultivator from gaining enlightenment. One of his usual tricks is to lend supranormal support to progressive cultivators and try to bewitch them into developing a covetous mind for power. Therefore, many Buddhist teachers warn their students not to wish for supernatural experiences during our practices.
Okay, I try not to be a nag here. Craving for power prevents enlightenment and it can possibly mislead one into treading the wrong spiritual path.
For this post, let us continue with the sutta.
The Mind-made Body
The practice of mind-made body can be found in Vajrayana practices. In Thailand, meditation method taught by Luang Pu Sodh Candasaro (you’ll see his picture being worshipped everywhere in Thailand) also mention mind-made body. His meditation method is known as Dhamakaya Meditation. I will try to share about this method in another post. Let us continue with the sutta,
“With his mind thus concentrated, purified, and bright, unblemished, free from defects, pliant, malleable, steady, and attained to imperturbability, he directs and inclines it to creating a mind-made body.
It is important to note that one has to develop Jhana / Samadhi before doing the mind made body. Stilling the mind is no easy feat and to do that, we need to really let go of our attachments. If we are attached to past memory or fantasize about our future, there is no way of gaining stillness. Then we need to also “let go” of our attachment to our physical body and its sensory inputs during the meditation.
From this body he creates another body, endowed with form, made of the mind, complete in all its parts, not inferior in its faculties.
We start with our physical body and our meditation. That is the base. Therefore, we are alive and well when generating this mind made body. It will be a great error to think that mind made body can only be achieved after one dies. The challenge is in gaining the 4th Jhana. (where our mind is not “locked in” with our physical body. In a sense, it is a little bit similar to the western idea of Astral body.) Some people had practiced in their previous lifetimes and thus may find it easier when “letting go”. I don’t want to be a nag. But letting go of our physical body does not mean committing suicide.
You may find the above amusing and wonder why I keep emphasizing not to commit suicide. Well, that is what happens when one does not have right understanding and is influenced by malevolent forces. About 2 months ago, a “Buddhist” abbot in Thailand beheaded himself with the help of his followers because he believed that he will be “reborn” into higher power. Throughout the history of Buddhist mysticism and spiritualism, there had been numerous cases of practitioners going mentally astray while pursuing occult powess.
From the above passage, the mind-made body has form. That means it is not “nothingness”. One can incline the mind to assume the form of a celestial being. There are faculties like limbs and body, head(s) with eyes, nose(s) etc. One can see hear and communicate. In the spiritual realms with form, one can also interact with the inanimate articles there.
Just as if a man were to draw a reed from its sheath. The thought would occur to him: ‘This is the sheath, this is the reed. The sheath is one thing, the reed another, but the reed has been drawn out from the sheath.’ Or as if a man were to draw a sword from its scabbard. The thought would occur to him: ‘This is the sword, this is the scabbard. The sword is one thing, the scabbard another, but the sword has been drawn out from the scabbard.’ Or as if a man were to pull a snake out from its slough. The thought would occur to him: ‘This is the snake, this is the slough. The snake is one thing, the slough another, but the snake has been pulled out from the slough.’
From the above, we should understand that the deliberateness of intent in generating a mind made body, and being totally in awareness of the mind-made body versus the physical body. The mindfulness is not lost. Therefore, it is not about falling into a trance or going into a deep sleep. (Remember. We are talking about 4th Jhana) Lastly, the mind made body can function properly in the various spiritual realms.
It literally means, you can visit some of the various heavens and sit down to have a chat with the devas there.
In the same way — with his mind thus concentrated, purified, and bright, unblemished, free from defects, pliant, malleable, steady, and attained to imperturbability, the monk directs and inclines it to creating a mind-made body. From this body he creates another body, endowed with form, made of the mind, complete in all its parts, not inferior in its faculties.
“This, too, is called the miracle of instructions.
According to what is being described, the Buddhist mind made body is more than astral body. It is important to know that the ability to generate a mind made body does not help produce enlightenment.
It is better to do Vipassana and be enlightened.
May all be well and happy.