Scriptural

Kevatta Sutta – Part 17

Supranormal Powers

“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 the modes of supranormal powers.

The type of supranormal powess that is acknowledged by Buddha is a result of one’s mind training. Having reached the 4th Jhana, one is capable of developing “mind over matter”. However, such achievements does not signify enlightenment.

Supranormal power can also be the result of unseen beings lending spiritual support. Buddhism does not acknowledge such powess as spiritual attainments. This is because one is just an agent of the spiritual being.

He wields manifold supranormal 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. 

The above verses provide us some idea of supranormal powess.

Just as a skilled potter or his assistant could craft from well-prepared clay whatever kind of pottery vessel he likes, or as a skilled ivory-carver or his assistant could craft from well-prepared ivory any kind of ivory-work he likes, or as a skilled goldsmith or his assistant could craft from well-prepared gold any kind of gold article he likes; 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 the modes of supranormal powers… He exercises influence with his body even as far as the Brahma worlds. “This, too, is called the miracle of instruction.

We should understand that supranormal powess obtained from mental training is not dependent on supplicating an external supernatural being. One is completely in control of what is happening.

For example, in Thailand there was a monk who was stranded at sea and he turned the sea water around his leg into portable water when he stick his leg into the sea. Thus, saving the fellow passengers from thirst. In Tibet, great masters pressed into rock as if it is butter and left their hand imprints in the rock.


Clairaudience

“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 the divine ear-element. He hears — by means of the divine ear-element, purified and surpassing the human — both kinds of sounds: divine and human, whether near or far. Just as if a man traveling along a highway were to hear the sounds of kettledrums, small drums, conchs, cymbals, and tom-toms. He would know, ‘That is the sound of kettledrums, that is the sound of small drums, that is the sound of conchs, that is the sound of cymbals, and that is the sound of tom-toms.’ 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 the divine ear-element. He hears — by means of the divine ear-element, purified and surpassing the human — both kinds of sounds: divine and human, whether near or far. “This, too, is called the miracle of instruction.

From the above verse, it should impress upon us that divine ear faculty is no different from hearing with our healthy ear. One is not possessed nor under the influence of other supernatural beings.

Mind Reading

“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 knowledge of the awareness of other beings. He knows the awareness of other beings, other individuals, having encompassed it with his own awareness. He discerns a mind with passion as a mind with passion, and a mind without passion as a mind without passion. He discerns a mind with aversion as a mind with aversion, and a mind without aversion as a mind without aversion. He discerns a mind with delusion as a mind with delusion, and a mind without delusion as a mind without delusion. He discerns a restricted mind as a restricted mind, and a scattered mind as a scattered mind. He discerns an enlarged mind as an enlarged mind, and an unenlarged mind as an unenlarged mind. He discerns an excelled mind [one that is not at the most excellent level] as an excelled mind, and an unexcelled mind as an unexcelled mind. He discerns a concentrated mind as a concentrated mind, and an unconcentrated mind as an unconcentrated mind. He discerns a released mind as a released mind, and an unreleased mind as an unreleased mind. Just as if a young woman — or man — fond of ornaments, examining the reflection of her own face in a bright mirror or a bowl of clear water would know ‘blemished’ if it were blemished, or ‘unblemished’ if it were not. 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 knowledge of the awareness of other beings. He knows the awareness of other beings, other individuals, having encompassed it with his own awareness. He discerns a mind with passion as a mind with passion, and a mind without passion as a mind without passion… a released mind as a released mind, and an unreleased mind as an unreleased mind. “This, too, is called 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 .

I have shared numerous story of great masters of recent times with such ability. It is useful because these masters can correct their disciples’ minds quickly. On the other hand, few disciples can withstand having their mind exposed. During Buddha’s time, Maudgalyayana possessed such ability and was assigned to guide advance meditators. This is because he would know what is going on in their mind and can provide timely solutions. However, he was not as proficient when training beginners. Instead, Sariputra (who didn’t possess supranormal powess) was assigned the duties of helping beginners. This is because Sariputra’s discourses was able to guide an unenlightened mind to see the truth and attain sotapanna enlightenment (1st level awakening)

May all be well and happy.

Categories: Scriptural

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