The Six Supernatural Powers of Buddha
Ma Tin Hla, M. A
Vol. III, Nos. 4 & 6, 1958
It can be said that there is hardly a parallel in any religious history, ancient or modern, to Gautama Buddha a most compassionate spiritual leader and indefatigable worker who dedicated himself to an enormous task of promoting universal well-being for full forty-five years. When the world was enveloped in darkness and looking for the way of Deliverance, it was He, the Enlightened One, who discovered the "Four Noble Truths" through His supreme knowledge as the harbinger of peace, prosperity and happiness to mankind. This will be proved at the outset by the best advantageous result and all the blessings derived from the ethical disciplines embodied in the Mingala Sutta a short treatise on morals, if carefully observed.
Truly, the Buddha can be called the "Light of the Universe" and His teaching called the Dhamma are the emblems of peace and security pacifying human consciousness, remedying human ills and stirring emotional sensibility towards the ultimate aim of life. "The real goal is liberation or absolute freedom from bondage. That bondage is within ourselves in the form of greed, hatred and delusion which must be extirpated" says the Buddha. Through analytical knowledge, the Buddha teaches the structure of human mind, the function of our mind and the perfect method as to how the mind can be systematically cultivated and developed in order to realise the 'Deathlessness', how to transcend all conditioned life and change by the attainment of final Salvation (Nibbana) even in this very life.
Along with this supra-mundane consciousness, all psychic powers arose one after another in the Buddha as a perfect whole. In the doctrine, are mentioned nine epithets for the Buddha by virtue of His highest attributes and they are as good as His words, deeds and thoughts absolutely pure and stainless. Of these, the word "Vijjasarana Sampanno" signifying literally 'Possessing knowledge and virtuous morality" mainly concerns the subject matter we are now dealing with.
Now, before we come to the supernatural powers of the Buddha, some of the causal factors leading to the achievement of these noble qualities may require a few comments for comparative study or general information. It may also be noted that without a clear exposition in the early teachings of the Buddha, none either terrestrial or celestial would be able to fully comprehend the mind (citta) mental concomitants (citasika), material qualities (rupa) and Nibbana which are too profound, subtle and abstruse.
In the creed of the Buddha, the word 'Resurrection' never occurs. The Scriptural text says that Buddha appears once in one world cycle (Thara Kappa), and sometimes not even once for aeons and aeons of time (Sunna Kappa). Hence, to a Buddhist it is a most felicitous and rarest of coincidence for a living being to be reborn in the human world while the Buddha. His teachings (Dhamma) and His Arahats (Perfect Arahants) are existing for the purpose of saving mankind submerged in the mire of suffering and woe.
As a most Perfect Arahant, a foremost Philosopher of a class by himself, a social Reformer of first magnitude, a Blessed One and All-knowing endowed with supernatural powers, Buddha Gautama is undoubtedly a Superman (Uttama purisa) who never allied to any divinity. Unlike ordinary man, his thirty-two major signs and one hundred and eight minor signs are physiognomically marvellous. These most extraordinary features or attributes were acquired through the result of previous excellent Kamma as conditioned by countless meritorious deeds in complete fulfilment of highest virtuous life in all his previous existences.
The gods of different grades were his regular worshippers frequenting to listen the Dhamma and to ask questions on most intricate problems of life which were beyond the scope of their intellect to fathom. They, of course, with better intuition and clearer insight than the earthly beings should naturally have better faculty of understanding to realise the Four Noble Truths comprising the "Law of Kamma", the "Doctrine of Rebirth", the "Law of Dependent Origination", the "System of Co-relation", the "Theory of Psychic Factors and Material Qualities" and several others embodying the whole phenomena of existence. These heavenly beings had themselves experienced individually the good result of spiritual dynamics that elevated them to enjoy the bliss of higher realms. But it must, however, be noted that the ultimate aim of a Buddhist aspirant is not to gain into heavenly Kingdom but to attain Nibbana and nothing less, as heaven itself is not the highest good.
By way of elucidation, the Lord Buddha enjoined thus "O Monks, if wandering ascetics and members of another sects were to say to you "Sirs, is it in order to be reborn in the world of the gods that monk Gautama leads a holy life?" Would ye not, O Monks, if that question were put to you, be distressed at, ashamed of, and loathe the idea?
"Yes, Venerable Sir" replied the monks. The Lord then continued "So it appears, O Monks, that you are distressed at, and loathe the idea of life in heaven, heavenly beauty, heavenly happiness, heavenly glory, and that ye are distressed at, ashamed of, and loathe the idea of heavenly power. But much more, O Monks, should ye be distressed at, ashamed of and loathe doing evil with the body be distressed at, ashamed of and loathe doing evil with the voice and be distressed at, ashamed of and loathe doing evil with the mind." (Anguttara Nikaya, iii, 18)
So, it is well to understand that it is the purity of mind and the merit of benevolent actions that count in the register of previous life without any divine interference. Some of the gods and Brahmas such as Hari, Ishavara, Baka, Sahampati etc. are so powerful that people on earth regard them jointly or severally as the Almighty Creator and Arbitor of all things and happenings in the human world. Buddhism repudiated this concept by exposing categorically that all living beings, whether a Brahma, god, man or animal or purgatory inhabitants are of transient nature evanescent and subjected to rounds of rebirth (Samsara) thereby undergoing repeated changes, sufferings and pains throughout. In short, they are bound to carry their past until and unless Nibbana is attained as the final emancipation. On this point, ample proofs are forthcoming for the purpose of vindicating that the physical and mental powers of even the highest god or celestial being fall far too short of those acquired by the Buddha at the time of His Enlightenment in 529 B.C.
Here we find an illustration from the scriptural text as authority on the subject of dispute concerning their emulation.
In the Anguttara Nikaya (iii, 37) it was mentioned that Sakka, the leader of gods while admonishing his retinue of 'Tavatimsa' pronounced the following stanza:
"Come, tell me where's the man like me,
The Fourteenth day, the fifteenth day,
And eke the eight of each half month,
To celebrate as days of fast,
And keep the vows in number eight,
Through all the months of residence."
The Buddha hearing this declared "This stanza uttered by the Sakka was inapposite, ill-spoken, and unbefitting because the Sakka was not free from passion, hatred and infatuation. The stanza was fit to be chanted by a monk who is a Arahant, who has lost all depravities, led a holy life, has done what is behooved him to do, has laid aside the burden, has achieved the supreme good, has destroyed every fetter and released by perfect knowledge."
The Lord further pointed out that the Sakka is not released from birth, old age, decay, death, sorrow, lamentation, misery, grief arid despair, whereas, an Arahant is released from birth, old age, death, sorrow, lamentation, misery, grief and despair; in short, he is released from all misery and suffering.
Thus a Arahant is superior to the gods.
Again the Akankeyya Sutta of Majjhima Nikaya contains an interesting episode relating to a question raised by a Bhikkhu, who, having entered upon Samadhi, found 'Iddhi-vidha' in the composure of his mind and also the path to the deva-regions. The question which appeared to him was in this form "Where do the four primary elements, earth, water, fire and air entirely cease? No doubt, it afforded a ground to test the talent of heavenly beings. "It was first put to the devas in Catumaharaj, Tavatimsa, Yama and Vasavatti, but none was able to give any answer. The Bhikkhu next approached the Retinue of Brahma (Brahmaparisajja i.e. the 3rd grade in the 1st Jhana) for a solution and he was referred to their Lord the Great Brahma (1st Grade in the same Jhana). The Bhikkhu enquired where the Great Brahma was to be found and he was given a significant reply thus:
"We do not know, Bhikkhu, where, by what means or whence is the Great Brahma, but when there appear the omens by the light that arises and when his bodily lustre is visible, then will the Great Brahma appear."
Not long after, the Great Brahma became manifest. The Bhikkhu approached him and asked "Where friend, do the four primary elements earth, water, fire, air entirely cease?. The great Brahma replied rather boastfully "Bhikkhu, I am Brahma, the Great Brahma, the Conqueror, Unvanquished, the All-seeing, wielding power, the Lord, the Unborn, the Excellent, the Creator having Mastery, the Father of all Pasts and Futures. The Bhikkhu replied "Friend, I am not asking you concerning your status. I am asking you where the four primary elements of earth, water, fire and air entirely cease". The Great Brahma gave the same reply as before. When the Bhikkhu put the same question again for the third time, the Great Brahma, taking the Bhikkhu by the arm and leading to one side said "The gods of the retinue of Brahma (Brahma parisajja) believe that there is nothing unseen by the Great Brahma. I did not therefore answer in their presence. Bhikkhu, I actually do not know where the four primary elements cease entirely. You have made a mistake when you by-passed the Exalted One and searched elsewhere for explanation of that question. You better go to the Exalted One and put it to him, and whatever answer he gave, shall abide."
The Bhikkhu then immediately returned to the Buddha and put the same question to Him. The Lord gave the following reply. "It is not so, Bhikkhu, that the question should be set. It should be thus:
(1) Where do water, earth, fire, air find no place?
(2) Where do (the ideas) long and short, fine and coarse, pleasant and unpleasant not occur?
(3) Where are mind and body, mental and physical states entirely stopped?
And the answers to these are:
(1) Where the consciousness that makes endless comparisons is entirely abandoned.
(2) Here 'long and short', 'fine and coarse', 'pleasant and unpleasant' do not occur.
(3) Here with the dying away of consciousness, these things cease.
They are indeed profound and highly philosophical even for, celestial beings.
The supernatural powers of the Buddha are manifold and of these, our present article is confined to Chalabinna which literally means six super-knowledge or powers. Knowledge itself is power in the sense that the latter arises spontaneously by application of knowledge or, wisdom which is capable of knowing or clearly understanding the way or method attainment. Lord Buddha very seldom exercised those power as an instrument for conversion. Only when occasions arose on the immediate need of the moment, He sparingly applied them. He also forbade His disciples to effect conversion by marvels and miracles as such things would not enhance any prestige in the eyes of unbelievers holding wrong Views.
In the seventh year of the Enlightenment, it is said that the Buddha gave a wonderful display of 'Iddhi' by walking to and fro in the sky an path stretching from horizon to horizon, emitting streams of fire and water (Yamaka-patihariya) displayed the six-rayed halo which reached even the 'Chakkavala' or space curve returning again to the Buddha's person. Such a marvellous feat was incomprehensible and looked superstitious in the opinion of the materialists until the genius of Albert Einstein enunciated the possibility by his theory of relativity thereby conforming- the Buddhist doctrine on this point specifically.
It may be necessary to mention that the Buddha should have given an exhibition of wonderful powers immediately after He had broken the sandalwood bowl which the Venerable Pindola had gained by display of Iddhi. But what the Buddha reprehended was not Iddhi but its way of employment, for the purpose of material gain and therefore He reserved to Himself the right to give such displays, which, although by the Lord's estimate is the lowest form of teaching, can be an effective means of winning the attention of vast multitude. It is said that after the display of Iddhi, the Buddha ascended to Tavatimsa, the abode of Thirty-three Devas and preached the Abhidhamma to the Holy Mother who was reborn as one of the devas named Santussita.
Here was enacted a great cosmic drama as devas from countless millions of world systems came round to pay homage to the Buddha. The Holy Mother was enthroned to the right hand of the Buddha high above the devas and the Brahmas whose splendour and radiance were superior to the combined brilliance of solar planets.
Again in Kevaddha Sutta, we find a narration which may be reproduced here as follows: On one occasion while the Buddha was staying at Nalanda in a mango grove which was later the site of a Great Buddhist University, a certain young householder named Kevaddha approached Him. He suggested the Buddha that as the Buddha had a great following in the city of Milanda, He should command a Bhikkhu to perform superhuman acts in the form of 'Iddhi' (miracles). The idea behind that suggestion seems to be that such a display would yet further enhance the Buddha's prestige and reputation and pave the way for easier conversion of the unbelievers.
The Buddha replied thus "It is not thus I preach the doctrine to the Bhikkhus telling them to perform superhuman acts, the iddhi miracles". Kevaddha repeated his suggestion twice and finally he received the following reply.
"There are three Kinds of miracles I have known, having understood them and experienced them for myself. They are (1) the miracle of Iddhi, (2) the miracle of discerning another persons's mind and (3) the miracle of instruction." It must be understood that these three miracles refer only to those acquired by an Arahant and that they would appear as the natural result of perfection in the Samatha section.
The Lord further amplified thus:
(1) "In the miracle of Iddhi, Iddhipatihariya (Superhuman power) the Bhikkhu experiences various kinds of power. From one form he becomes many, and from many he becomes one again; he becomes visible or invisible, passes through wall and rocks without touching them, as if they were space. He dives into and emerges from the earth as if it were water, and walks on water without disturbing the surface as if it were land; sitting crossed-legged, he moves in the sky like a bird. The Moon and the Sun in all their majesty, he touches and strokes with his hand, continuing with his body up to the realm of Brahma. When trusting person sees the Bhikkhu perform these acts, he relates it to some sceptic saying "The power and majesty of the Samana are stupendous. I saw him transforming himself from one form into many and so on." Then the sceptic says "That is the 'Gandhara charm' making the Bhikkhu perform those acts. What do you think, Kevaddha, would not the sceptic say so to the trusting one?" Kevaddha replied "He would, Sir." Thereupon, the Buddha warned "Well, seeing this advantage of the iddhi miracles, I am vexed with them; I deplore them and am disgusted with them".
Next the Buddha said:
(2) "What is the miracle of discerning the state of another person's mind? (Adesana patihariya). Here the Bhikkhu points out the state of consciousness, mental concomitants, initial and sustained application of the mind of another person saying "This is your mind, your mind in this way, thus is your state of consciousness." When a trusting person sees that Bhikkhu performing the act, he relates it to some sceptical person saying "The mystic power and majesty of Samana are stupendous. I saw the Bhikkhu reading the mind of another person etc." Then the sceptic says "That is the 'Manika charm' making the Bhikkhu do that." Therefore, seeing the disadvantage of the miracles of discerning the minds of others, I am vexed with them, I deplore them and I am disgusted with them."
The Lord continued:
(3) "What is the Miracle of Instruction? (Anusasani patihariya). Here Kevaddha, the Bhikkhu advises "Let the initial application of your mind to an object be in this way and not in that; pay attention in this way and not in that; renounce this; having attained to that, remain in it." This is called the Miracle of Instruction."
The Buddha also discouraged this form of controlling power over the mind of other persons. This kind of power seems to be the most advanced stage of hypnotism, mesmerism, telepathy, occultism etc. which we so often find being exercised by magicians and conjurers of the present day.
The present article relating to all these psychic powers of Arahats is only a prelude before we come to the six supernatural powers of the Buddha, and Eight Great Victories over His most formidable adversaries consisting of gods, men, woman and ferocious beasts.
Amongst the great attributes of the Buddha, that made him so revered universally were his penetrating wisdom into all phenomenal existence in the entire Universe, his iron will-power, all pervading compassion, self-less service, marvellous power of renunciation, unsullied purity in his words, deeds and thought. They were the embodiment of the noble virtues he acquired and taught humanity, in his spotless exemplary life. His tolerance in imparting profound ethico-religious and philosophical teachings, the most harmless and blameless methods employed by him to establish his Kingdom of righteousness and universal peace, his subtle doctrine of loving kindness and non-violence, evoked general applause wherever the Dhamma was preached.
In his own words, he was a man, a superman who attained perfection in all spheres quite independently through his Supreme Enlightenment. His teaching was not a Revelation and his injunction not commandments, but precepts, the ethical code of conduct for the willing if anyone volunteers to observe for his own edification. Without any monopoly or any dictatorial tone, the Buddha gave to every man freedom of thought and the right to think by himself. Thus he roused man's intellect and reason and set him on his feet to work out for his own Salvation without divine help or interference.
Buddha Gautama was not an Indian God, nor had he any alliance to divinity. Though godless, he was most godlike and far superior to any heavenly being. He attained all his supernatural powers or supernormal heights by his own efforts quite independent of the traditional way of the time. The marks of a "Great person" (Maha-purisa) distinguished him from other morals, and miracles gathered round in his life and activities. With the acquirement of six powers or rather the penetrating knowledge of All things, fifteen holy practices (Sarana) peculiar to him which enable him to possess omniscience and to adjust his ideal conduct, speech and mind properly in all matters, and the assurances that made him know positively that he has attained the saving knowledge entitled to many distinguished titles or epithets such as Jina, Sugata, Tathagata, Bhagava, Sayambhu etc., the Buddha was entitled to claim that he had come in a line of succession of Buddhas. This began from the time of Buddha Dipankara under whom the present Buddha, then known as Sumeda, had taken a vow that he would dedicate his life to the weal of humanity and by whom Supreme Enlightenment was solemnly predicted for, him as Gautama Buddha, the World Saviour.
The journey to final illumination takes countless number of years: it is long and arduous and it needs Ten Paramitas (Virtues), namely, charity, morality, renunciation, wisdom, energy, forbearance, truthfulness, determination, loving-compassion and equanimity which are the gateway to human Perfection.
Now, coming to Chalabinna, the six supernatural powers of the, Buddha, the enumeration may be given thus. (1) Iddhividha, (2) Dibbasota. (3) Cetopariya, (4) Pubbenivasa, (5) Dibba-cakkhu and (6) Asavakkhaya. They require amplification in the light of doctrinal concept.
In the Akankheyya Sutta of the Majjhima-Nikaya, a detailed explanation for each of them is given by the Buddha Himself in the form of instruction as to how they may be acquired.
1. IDDHIVIDHA - THE POWER OF TRANSFORMATION.
The Buddha said "If a monk should frame a wish as follows: "Let me exercise the various magical powers, let me being one become multiform., let me being multiform become one, let me become visible, become invisible, go without hindrance through walls, ramparts or mountains as if through air, let me rise and sink in the ground as if in the water, let me walk on the water as if on unyielding ground, let me travel cross-legged through the air liked a winged bird, let me touch and feel with my hand the moon and the sun mighty and powerful though they are, and let me go without my body even up to the Brahma world," then must he be perfect in the precepts (Sila), bring his thoughts to a state of quiescence (Samadhi), practice diligently the trances (Jhana), attain to insight (Panna) and be frequenter to lonely places."
2. DIBBASOTA - CELESTIAL HEARING.
The Enlightened One expounded thus: "If a monk should frame a wish as follows: Let me hear with a divinely clear hearing, surpassing that of men, sounds both celestial and" human, far and near," then he must be perfect in the precepts, bring his thoughts to a state of quiescence, practise diligently to the trances, attain to insight and be a frequenter to lonely places.
3. CETOPARIYA. - THE POWER OF DISCERNMENT OF THE MIND OF OTHERS. The Omniscient One amplified thus: "If a monk should frame a wish as follows:- "Let me by my own heart investigate and discern the hearts of other beings, the hearts of other men, let me discern a passionate mind to be passionate, let me discern a mind free from passion to be free from passion, let me discern a mind full of hatred to be full of hatred, let me discern a mind free from hatred to be free from hatred, let me discern an infatuated mind to be infatuated, let me discern a mind free from infatuation to be free from infatuation, let me discern an intent mind to be intent, let me discern a wandering mind to be wandering, let me discern an exalted mind to be exalted, let me discern an unexalted mind to be unexalted, let me discern an inferior mind to be inferior, let me discern a superior mind to be superior, let me discern a concentrated mind to be concentrated, let me discern an unconcentrated mind to be unconcentrated, let me discern an emancipated mind to be emancipated, let me discern an unemancipated mind to be unemancipated" then must he be perfect in the precepts etc. (as mentioned above).
This power may be far superior to the highest form of modem thought-reading now largely practised all over the world.
4. PUBBENIVASA - POWER OF KNOWING PREVIOUS EXISTENCES. The All-knowing One further elucidated thus: "If a monk should frame a wish as follows:- Let me call to my mind many previous states of existence, to wit one birth, two births, three births, four births, five births, ten births, twenty births, thirty births, forty births, fifty births, one hundred births, one thousand births, one hundred thousand births, many destructions of a world cycle (Kappa), many renovations of a world cycle, many destructions and many renovations of a world cycle: I lived in such a place, had such a name was of such a family, of such a caste, had such a maintenance, experienced such happiness and such miseries had such a length of life. Then I passed from that existence and was reborn in such a place. There also I had such a name, was of such a family, of such a caste, had such a maintenance, experienced such happiness and such miseries, had such a length of life. Then I passed from that existence and was reborn in such a place. There also I had such a name, was of such a family, of such a caste, had such a maintenance, experienced such happiness and such miseries, had such a length of life. Then I passed from that existence and was reborn in this existence." Thus let me call to my mind many former states of existence and let me specifically characterise them," then must he be perfect in the precepts etc. -
This power is sorely attributable to the expounding of the "Theory of Rebirth" and 'Samsara' by the Buddha for all living beings in the entire Universe.
5. DIBBA-CAKKHU - CELESTIAL VISION.
The Blessed One also amplified thus: "If a monk should frame a wish as follows :- "Let me with a divinely clear vision, surpassing that of men, behold beings as they pass from one existence and spring up in another existence, let me discern the base and the noble, the handsome and the ugly, those in a higher state of existence and those in the lower state of existence undergoing the result of their deeds, so that I can know as follows:- 'Alas! these beings, having been wicked of body, wicked of voice, wicked of mind, slanderers of noble people, wrong in their views, acquirers of false merit under wrong views, have arrived after the dissolution of the body, after death, at a place of punishment, a place of suffering, perdition, hell; or again, these other beings, having been righteous of body, righteous of voice, righteous of mind, not slanderers of noble people, right in their views, acquirers of merit under right views, have arrived, after the dissolution of the body, after death, at a place of happiness, a heavenly world." Thus let me with a divinely clear vision, surpassing that of men, discern beings as they pass from one existence and spring up in another existence; let me discern the base and the noble, the handsome and the ugly, those in a higher state of existence and those in a lower state of existence undergoing the result of their deeds," then he must be perfect in the precepts etc. This refers to the power of knowing the 'Law of Karma'.
6. ASAVAKKHAYA - SUPRA-MUNDANE KNOWLEDGE OR POWER RELATING TO DESTRUCTIONOF ASAVAS AND THE RECOGNITION OF THE FOUR NOBLE TRUTHS.
The Compassionate One further illustrated thus:
"If a monk should frame a wish as follows;- Let me through destruction of depravity, in the present life and in my own person, attain to freedom from depravity, to deliverance of the mind, to deliverance by wisdom, then he must be perfect in the precepts (Sila) and bring his thoughts to a state of quiescence, (Samadhi) practise diligently the trances (Jhana), attain to insight (Panna) and be a frequener of lonely places."
It must, however, be understood that the Buddha did not consider every trance to be necessarily good, for it must aim at the right end. He, however, realised that there were those who devoted to yogic exercises to acquire supernatural powers. So the Buddha refined the practice by telling them that even such powers could be acquired only through the practice of righteouaness and wisdom. ( Akankheyya Sutta, S. B. E. Vol. XI, ) Acquisition of supernatural powers does not confer any spiritual advantage. It was for this reason that the Buddha forbade his disciples to work miracles for display. Here it would not be out of place to mention that the yogic beliefs of Buddhism are not to be seen clearly in the Lamaism of Tibet. Craving for supernatural powers and taking delight therein after acquirement do not help us to free ourselves, from lust, hatred and ignorance. This has to be guarded against by those striving in the path of holiness for final liberation only and nothing else.
This Asavakkhaya Nina is the most important of all being the knowledge or the way for complete elimination of both physical and mental defilements and thereby reaches the ultimate goal of life (Nibbana). To know its original meaning, the word 'Asavakkhaya" is derived from Asava (A+Sru corresponding to Sanskrit Asrava. cp. Asrava) i.e. certain specified ideas which intoxicate the mind; and the word Khaya denotes extinction. Thus freedom from "Asavas" constitutes Arahatship and the fight for extinction of Asavas forms one of the main duties of a human being. The four kinds of Asavas may briefly be enumerated as follows:-
(1) Kammasava - Sensuality (craving for sensual pleasures)
(2) Bhavasava - Rebirth (lust for life)
(3) Ditthisava - Speculation (Random mental view)
(4) Avijjasava - Ignorance (Without knowledge of what is right and what is wrong).
In many instances, the Buddha had valiantly encountered the challenges of mighty spiritual and earthy adversaries ranging from hostile gods right down to ferocious beasts. On account of Iddhis, the buddha was practically invulnerable and he triumphed all the time comfortably after taming them or converting them. Out of the innumerable tests of wisdom, power and prowess, the most notable are his "Eight Victories" during the ministry for forty-five years. They are:
1. Mara, the god of Vasavatti;
2. Alavaka, the giant of Alavi (near Himalayas);
3. Nalagirii, the War-elephant of Rajagriha;
4. Ahimsaka (a) Angulimala, the ruffian of Savatthi;
5. Cincmanavika, the shameless termagant of Savatthi;
6. Kuthadanta (a) Siccaka Paribbajaka, the renowned sophist of Vesali;
7. Nandopananda, The Serpent King;
8. Baka, the Brahma of the highest grade in 1st Jhana.
Almost in every religion, biographical accounts of the Founder largely contain laudatory tributes to his marvellous feats and miracles. They, in fact, pale into insignificance when compared to those of Lord Buddha who never coveted them. All living beings whether a god, king or his subject are equal before Him. From the supra-mundane aspect, how can one assume that the highly paid pilot of a big flying fortress is in any way superior to a poor labourer inside the colliery? This can only be realised from the three characteristics of life as shown in Buddhism and no other. In the words of the Buddha, these three characteristics are enunciated thus:
(1) Whether Buddha arise, O priests, or whether Buddhas do not arrise, it remains a fact and the fixed and necessary constitution of being, that all its constituents are transitory (anicca). This fact a Buddha discovers and masters, and when he has discovered and mastered it, he announces, teaches, publishes, proclaims, discloses, minutely explains, and makes it clear, that all the constituents of being are transitory.
(2) Whether Buddha arise, O priests, or whether Buddhas do not arise, it remains a fact and the fixed and necessary constitution of being, that all its constituents are misery (dukkha). This fact a Buddha discovers and masters, and when he has discovered and mastered it, he announces, teaches, publishes, proclaims, discloses, minutely explains, and makes it dear, that all the constituents of beings are misery.
(3) Whether Buddha arise, O priests, or whether Buddhas do not arise, it remains a fact and the fixed and necessary constitution of being, that all its elements are lacking in an Ego (Anatta). This fact a Buddha discovers and masters, and when he has discovered and mastered it, he announces, teaches, publishes, proclaims, discloses, minutely explains, and makes it clear, that all the elements of being are lacking in an Ego.
Anguttara Nikaya (iii, 134).
It cannot be denied that they are inevitable and inexhorable laws as three great warnings for all beings whether terrestrial or celestial. The reflections or constant awareness of these characteristics surely opens our mental access for clearer vision., intuitive insight and supra-mundane consciousness penetrating into the thick veils of ignorance and the depth of world illusions. Along with it, the absolute reality of life-process, direct perception of truth, complete detachment, inner calmness, peace, tranquility, supreme bliss and deliverance emerge as beneficial results. Without the highest clarity of insight, one cannot see things as they really are, and not what they seem to be. (Yatha bhutam nanam pajanati). It is The finding of reality of all things that destroys the barrier of separation.
Besides the Great Victories mentioned above, the attempts of Devadatta on the life of the Buddha are the vivid illustrations of the powers of the Buddha that made him practically invulnerable. According to the scriptural text, the story runs thus: Devadatta went to King Ajatasattu and proposed that he himself would kill the Buddha while Ajatasattu should kill his father Bimbisara. He having received skilful archers from Rajagariha put one on a certain path by which the Buddha would come, two on another, four further up, and so on up to sixteen with strict instructions to kill the Buddha with poisoned arrows. But when the first man approached the Buddha, he became terrified and his body became stiff and unable to raise his hand. The Buddha told him not to fear and the man threw down his weapons and confessed his nefarious purpose. Thereupon the Buddha preached to him, converted him and sent him back by a different route.
The next two archers not seeing the man, followed up and found the Buddha seated beneath a tree. They approached the Buddha but could not shoot, and like the first archer they became converted. The same happened to all the rest, and thus all attempts became abortive much to be disappointment of Devadatta who then decided to kill the Buddha himself.
While the Buddha was walking along the path in the shade of Gijjhakuta Hill, Devadatta in execution of his well devised plan hurled a big boulder down the hill. It was stopped by two peaks and only some splinters struck the Buddha's foot causing blood to flow. The Buddha looked up and said "Great demerit, evil man, have you produced for yourself in that, with murderous thought, you have caused the blood of Tathagata to flow." This was the second frustrated attempt to take the life of the Buddha.
The monks wished to have a guard provided for the security of the Buddha. But He pointed out that it was impossible for anyone to deprive Him of life, for the Tathagatas attain Parinibbana in the ordinary course of time.
On this point, the authority found in the Scriptural text ( Nalagiripesana, pp: 356-357, 6th Council Version ) runs as follows:
"Atthana me tam, bhikkhave anavakaso
Yam parupakkamena Tathagatam jivita
Voropeyya Anupakkamena, bhikkhave
Tathagata parinibbayanti ."
O monks, impossible it is to take the life
of a Tathagata as myself through the effort
of an outside agent. Free from such efforts,
O monks, the Tathagatas enter Parinibbana (in the ordinary course).
The third attempt of Devadatta was also proved futile. He caused the - elephant keepers of Ragagriha to let loose a fierce war-elephant Nalagiri on the road by which the Buddha was to come. The monks warned the Buddha of the impending danger but he refused to turn back pointing out that it was impossible for him to be killed. As the animal rushed on, the Buddha suffused it with waves of loving thought-force. It knelt down before the Buddha and became thoroughly subdued.
It is therefore said that neither on any account nor under any circumstances or policy, either by nature or phenomena, precedent or accident, spiritual or terrestrial, can the Buddha or Buddhas ever meet any Ignominious form the death due to the aggression of an enemy agent.
It is well to bear in mind that the original source of powers that make the Buddha practically invulnerable lies in the "Ten Virtues towards perfection" (Paramitas) with which to confront and overcome the forces of evil. Next comes the "Sila" (Morality) the keeping of which include the arising of confidence and the disappearance of fear against any danger. After that, it is followed by 'Samadhi which deals with a complete system of the guarding of the door of senses, mindfulness, concentration, awareness, contentment of simplicity, the search of solitude - and the abandonment of Five Hindrances to the development of mind and vision. The third group (Panna) concerns the Higher Spiritual Powers and the vision of supra-mundane type relating to the destruction of Asavas and the recognition of the "Four Noble Truths."
In Buddhism, there is a definite and perfect system of mind-control and mind-purification, and that system primarily leads one to analytical knowledge and the power of discrimination between the right and the wrong. Later by inclination, this knowledge develops to Higher Wisdom which is the governing factor in life's activities. Further it serves well to acquire the Highest Wisdom that can penetrate into the natural phenomena both mental and material, visible and invisible as the most potent of weapons.