Arahants and iddhi

Theravāda in the 21st century - modern applications of ancient wisdom
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Arahants and iddhi

Postby kkrotu » Sat Jul 17, 2010 12:11 am

I've been searching the internet for an answer to a simple question : Why is there no one in the world (present time) that has achieved iddhi (supernormal powers) ?

It doesn't even have to be an arahant because as i understand one achieves iddhi before full enlightement so it could just as well be a monk.

And for the purpose of this discussion I predict that someone will try to tell me that maybe there are such people but they do not want to show it off to the world because Buddha said he finds these powers to be repulsive and that they may slow down the path to enlightment because they are wordly illusions etc.
But these powers could be used to help raise the faith of the people and show them that there really is a path to enlightment that works.

So if a person is pursuing enlightment and in the process achieves iddhi supernormal powers then the only righteous thing to do is show it to the world and say : People look the path to enlightment really works I have proof of that so come join me and let us all reach Nirvana !

This is the only way someone could prove once and for all that The Noble Eightfolded Path works.

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Re: Arahants and iddhi

Postby retrofuturist » Sat Jul 17, 2010 12:30 am

Greetings kkrotu,

Welcome to Dhamma Wheel.

kkrotu wrote:I've been searching the internet for an answer to a simple question : Why is there no one in the world (present time) that has achieved iddhi (supernormal powers) ?

...

This is the only way someone could prove once and for all that The Noble Eightfolded Path works.

I think this might be a bit of a wild goose chase, because even if someone was found it wouldn't "prove once and for all that The Noble Eightfolded Path works".

Firstly, one can attain arahantship without iddhis.
Secondly, one can attain iddhis without even attaining stream-entry (i.e. meditators of non-Buddhist traditions).

So in the end, it would prove nothing.

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


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One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Arahants and iddhi

Postby Wind » Sat Jul 17, 2010 12:41 am

I'm with kkrotu on this. I would love to see someone show some superhuman powers. Just so that it would open the eyes of people to the possibility that what they think to be certain is not quite so esp the scientific community and the atheist who hold a pure material nihilistic world view. Lately, even Buddhist are incline to even discredit the Buddha's own powers. This issue isn't about the path to enlightenment but about not holding to fixed views. For me at least, it would finally clear some doubts.

But since there hasn't been any such evidence in modern times, makes one wonder if it even exist in the first place.

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Re: Arahants and iddhi

Postby kkrotu » Sat Jul 17, 2010 1:07 am

I understand what you're saying but i disagree on this part
retrofuturist wrote:So in the end, it would prove nothing.

I think it would prove a great deal of things .
Imagine if tomorrow someone would show some undeniable proof of iddhis . Then someone asks how did you gain such power? . And that person would reply something like: I have achieved this by following the path to enlightment as it was laid out by The Buddha.
That would be the kind of proof that would make someone who has never even heard of buddhism , pursue enlightment

And another thing how is it that someone can achieve arahantship without iddhis? since i've read this on wikipedia

In the "Neglected" discourse (Viraddha Sutta, SN 51.2), it states:

"Bhikkhus, those who have neglected the four bases for spiritual power have neglected the noble path leading to the complete destruction of suffering. Those who have undertaken the four bases for spiritual power have undertaken the noble path leading to the destruction of suffering."
In the Buddhist pursuit of Enlightenment, the associated spiritual powers are secondary to the four "base" mental qualities that achieve such powers.

So if the iddhis come after the four bases for spiritual power, and if you neglect these four bases you neglect the noble path , doesn't that mean you must achieve iddhis before full enlightment?

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Re: Arahants and iddhi

Postby Reductor » Sat Jul 17, 2010 1:09 am

kkrotu wrote:So if a person is pursuing enlightment and in the process achieves iddhi supernormal powers then the only righteous thing to do is show it to the world and say : People look the path to enlightment really works I have proof of that so come join me and let us all reach Nirvana !


You wouldn't have people flocking to the Dhamma for Nirvana, kkrotu. You'd just get a bunch of people that think "Holy S***! I wanna bend a fork with my mind!"

The path works. If you are still not certain, then keep practicing.
Michael

The thoughts I've expressed in the above post are carefully considered and offered in good faith.

And friendliness towards the world is happiness for him who is forbearing with living beings. -- Ud. 2:1
To his own ruin the fool gains knowledge, for it cleaves his head and destroys his innate goodness. -- Dhp 72


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Re: Arahants and iddhi

Postby retrofuturist » Sat Jul 17, 2010 1:13 am

Greetings kkrotu,

I guess the thrust of my argument was that since iddhis aren't restricted to practitioners of the Dhamma, and only those who practice in accord with the Dhamma can attain nobility, following someone and their teachings just because they can demonstrate iddhis, doesn't provide any guarantee of enlightenment potential.

Since the Buddha taught the Dhamma with a view to the cessation of suffering, rather than the development of super-powers (in and of themselves), we could easily be led along the wrong path if we're inappropriately impressed by such things.

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


Dharma Wheel (Mahayana / Vajrayana forum) -- Open flower ~ Open book (blog)

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Re: Arahants and iddhi

Postby kkrotu » Sat Jul 17, 2010 1:37 am

In the "Neglected" discourse (Viraddha Sutta, SN 51.2), it states:

"Bhikkhus, those who have neglected the four bases for spiritual power have neglected the noble path leading to the complete destruction of suffering. Those who have undertaken the four bases for spiritual power have undertaken the noble path leading to the destruction of suffering."[3]
The four bases of such power are concentration (samādhi) on:

Desire or purpose or zeal (chanda)
Energy or will (viriya)
Mind or consciousness or thoughts (citta)
Investigation or discrimination (vīmaṃsā)[4]


Let's say there are two practitioners of the Dhamma. One of them has iddhis and the other doesn't.
Wouldn't the one with iddhis be closer to enlightment?

Because as I undertand it you cannot be enlightened without the four bases, and after you properly achieve the four bases you consequently achieve iddhis.

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Re: Arahants and iddhi

Postby BubbaBuddhist » Sat Jul 17, 2010 2:04 am

Actually, here is what the Buddha himself said to this very question (which comes up quite often, and apparently came up quite often even during his day):

Kevatta (Kevaddha) Sutta: To Kevatta
translated from the Pali by
Thanissaro Bhikkhu
© 1997–2010

I have heard that on one occasion the Blessed One was staying at Nalanda in Pavarika's mango grove. Then Kevatta the householder approached the Blessed One and, on arrival, having bowed down, sat to one side. As he was sitting there he said to the Blessed One: "Lord, this Nalanda is powerful, both prosperous and populous, filled with people who have faith in the Blessed One. It would be good if the Blessed One were to direct a monk to display a miracle of psychic power from his superior human state so that Nalanda would to an even greater extent have faith in the Blessed One."

When this was said, the Blessed One said to Kevatta the householder, "Kevatta, I don't teach the monks in this way: 'Come, monks, display a miracle of psychic power to the lay people clad in white.'"

A second time... A third time, Kevatta the householder said to the Blessed One: "I won't argue with the Blessed One, but I tell you: Lord, this Nalanda is powerful, both prosperous and populous, filled with people who have faith in the Blessed One. It would be good if the Blessed One were to direct a monk to display a miracle of psychic power from his superior human state so that Nalanda would to an even greater extent have faith in the Blessed One."

A third time, the Blessed One said to Kevatta the householder, "Kevatta, I don't teach the monks in this way: 'Come, monks, display a miracle of psychic power to the lay people clad in white.'

"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.
The Miracle of Psychic Power

"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.

"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.

The Miracle of Telepathy

"And what is the miracle of telepathy? There is the case where a monk reads the minds, the mental events, the thoughts, the ponderings of other beings, other individuals, [saying,] 'Such is your thinking, here is where your thinking is, thus is your mind.'

"Then someone who has faith and conviction in him sees him reading the minds... of other beings... 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 reading the minds... of other beings...'

"Then the person without faith, without conviction, would say to the person with faith and with conviction: 'Sir, there is a charm called the Manika charm by which the monk read the minds... of other beings...' 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 telepathy, Kevatta, I feel horrified, humiliated, and disgusted with the miracle of telepathy.

The Miracle of Instruction

"And what is the miracle of instruction? There is the case where a monk gives instruction in this way: 'Direct your thought in this way, don't direct it in that. Attend to things in this way, don't attend to them in that. Let go of this, enter and remain in that.' This, Kevatta, is called the miracle of instruction.

"Furthermore, there is the case where a Tathagata appears in the world, worthy and rightly self-awakened. He teaches the Dhamma admirable in its beginning, admirable in its middle, admirable in its end. He proclaims the holy life both in its particulars and in its essence, entirely perfect, surpassingly pure.

"A householder or householder's son, hearing the Dhamma, gains conviction in the Tathagata and reflects: 'Household life is confining, a dusty path. The life gone forth is like the open air. It is not easy living at home to practice the holy life totally perfect, totally pure, like a polished shell. What if I were to shave off my hair and beard, put on the ochre robes, and go forth from the household life into homelessness?'

"So after some time he abandons his mass of wealth, large or small; leaves his circle of relatives, large or small; shaves off his hair and beard, puts on the ochre robes, and goes forth from the household life into homelessness.

"When he has thus gone forth, he lives restrained by the rules of the monastic code, seeing danger in the slightest faults. Consummate in his virtue, he guards the doors of his senses, is possessed of mindfulness and alertness, and is content.


More HERE:

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/dn/dn.11.0.than.html

J
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Re: Arahants and iddhi

Postby jcsuperstar » Sat Jul 17, 2010 5:25 am

I've seen weird things, I've heard weird stories. some just confuse me, others make me wonder, none have helped me along the path.

there are many out there, if you're looking, that claim such things, or claim to have experienced such things, some are charlatans, others maybe not. there are Indian gurus who have a million or more followers who have parlor tricks that have woo'd them but in a world where governments use propaganda to to put a spell on so many more people, is magic really that impressive?
สัพเพ สัตตา สุขีตา โหนตุ

the mountain may be heavy in and of itself, but if you're not trying to carry it it's not heavy to you- Ajaan Suwat

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Re: Arahants and iddhi

Postby jcsuperstar » Sat Jul 17, 2010 5:28 am

kkrotu wrote:In the "Neglected" discourse (Viraddha Sutta, SN 51.2), it states:

"Bhikkhus, those who have neglected the four bases for spiritual power have neglected the noble path leading to the complete destruction of suffering. Those who have undertaken the four bases for spiritual power have undertaken the noble path leading to the destruction of suffering."[3]
The four bases of such power are concentration (samādhi) on:

Desire or purpose or zeal (chanda)
Energy or will (viriya)
Mind or consciousness or thoughts (citta)
Investigation or discrimination (vīmaṃsā)[4]


Let's say there are two practitioners of the Dhamma. One of them has iddhis and the other doesn't.
Wouldn't the one with iddhis be closer to enlightment?

Because as I undertand it you cannot be enlightened without the four bases, and after you properly achieve the four bases you consequently achieve iddhis.

i think maybe youre talking about 2 different kinds of power.

also devadatta had great powers, died a less than noble person, while there were simple laymen who realized the noble path and i cant seem to recall them having any powers
สัพเพ สัตตา สุขีตา โหนตุ

the mountain may be heavy in and of itself, but if you're not trying to carry it it's not heavy to you- Ajaan Suwat

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Re: Arahants and iddhi

Postby BubbaBuddhist » Sat Jul 17, 2010 4:37 pm

It is with some reluctance I open this can of worms, but here goes, LOL:

The very interesting thing about my life is this: I am a professional magician, mentalist, and hypnotist with over forty years of professional experience. I have been on scientific panels and committees investigating "paranormal" events and phenomena due to my expertise in methods of replicating these phenomena. I helped establish testing protocol in many of these experiments and studies to forgo deception, both accidental and deliberate. My experience in this field is second to none, which is why I've been a consultant to such parties as David Blaine, Copperfield, Nu, and was asked to consult by Brown and Angel, but refused to work with ideological bigots.

Here is my point: During many of these studies, I saw and witnessed events and abilities that I can only attribute to a Psi ability. However, also on the panel were hardcore dis-believers such as Dr. Ray Hyman who refused to accept that what we saw was actual Psi, and believed it was accomplished though some sort of sensory leakage or other "deception," although he could not explain exactly what this was, or come up with a protocol to prevent this putative "leakage." I asked Ray what it would take to convince him there was a Psi ability at work. He told me "I don't know--I don't think I CAN believe in it." When I pressed him further, he told me he had no control over his beliefs, which startled me. I always thought a person DID have control over his or her beliefs. I do, usually. Of course Ray's entire reputation is founded on debunking, so if he slid from his position even an inch, he would lose credibility, so he's painted himself into a very narrow corner.

Further points: In light of a lack of a physical, scientific model of how Psi--anomalous information transfer-- works, even though numerous replicable documented studies have been performed and recorded in reputable journals (I won't debate this; any scoffers are free to do the work to look them up; any dogs I had in this fight died of old age over 25 years ago), the hardcore, rationalist dis-believer will not accept evidence even when he or she witnesses it. As long as there is a loophole, they will dive into it. Statistical evidence is explained away as an "anomaly," direct communication is a "lucky guess," or long runs of positive data are "researcher bias." I long ago gave up trying to make any sense of it, but decided it were far better to stay with the entertainment end of it, and my last experience with scientific research was in 1996.

I hope this helps and isn't too much of a digression.

J
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Re: Arahants and iddhi

Postby Anicca » Sat Jul 17, 2010 5:47 pm

Howdy Bubbabuddhist!
Bubbabuddhist wrote:Here is my point: During many of these studies, I saw and witnessed events and abilities that I can only attribute to a Psi ability.
Brave of you to post.

Bubbabuddhist wrote:Further points: In light of a lack of a physical, scientific model of how Psi--anomalous information transfer-- works, even though numerous replicable documented studies have been performed and recorded in reputable journals ..., the hardcore, rationalist dis-believer will not accept evidence even when he or she witnesses it.
Is it just the western mindset today that finds the abhiññas so unacceptable? Isn't it true that the vast overwhelming majority of Buddhists throughout the ages have had no problems with this stuff? How is it that these ancient men and women that so capably brought us the Pali canon are so easily dismissed today? I am not talking about magic amulets or divining winning lotto numbers - i mean the teachings of the canon.

Why do so many western minds find it so discomforting?

Thank you J!

Metta

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Re: Arahants and iddhi

Postby effort » Sat Jul 17, 2010 7:36 pm

my experience:

This idea came to my mind that if i have a OBE then i believe in god, soon after i had my most vivid lucid dream that was awesome and enough to convince me about OBE but i didnt gain the predicted result of my experiment.

believing, faith and personality is a quite complicated thing.

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Re: Arahants and iddhi

Postby Popo » Sat Jul 17, 2010 9:06 pm

Hi, I'm Stephen and I'm an atheistic materialist.. [/AA mode}

"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?"


Nope. At least, not these man without faith. I'd say... Well, I don't want to repeat what I'd say because it's rude. :smile:


I don't find that answer plausible. If people can be led astray by supernatural feats, why give false systems a monopoly on them?
Charlatans might find out the Gandhari charm and convince people of all sorts of systems...Buddhists could display their powers with a disclaimer that supernatural powers are only a mundane skill.

But the issue being raised in the OP is that there are quite a few of us who don't believe in the existence of any supernatural powers. If I saw a monk reach up and touch the Moon*, I'd at the very least have good reason to ditch materialism. And if these powers are so mundane, why don't more charlatans manifest them? Especially if they can do things as amazing as what's being said?

*Not sure how to picture that miracle. I'm guessing stretching the arm out.


No offense intended. I accept I might be wrong...
Theoretical approaches have their place and are, I suppose, essential but a theory must be tempered with reality.
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Re: Arahants and iddhi

Postby BubbaBuddhist » Sun Jul 18, 2010 12:38 am

Nope , you miss the point: The person without faith and conviction wouldn't attribute the manifestation to Attainments: He would find an alternative explanation. Like Ray Hyman. To wit: Charlatanry. You see, I could show you a "miracle" I guarantee you could never figure out. I n my callow youth I did this in fact to groups of scientists and dared them to come up with explanations other than I was performing a supernatural event. Their conclusion: by their most rigorous tests, I was performing a miracle. At the final stage, I did this in the nude, by the way. I explained to them it was a deception, but did not explain my methods. I have ancient video from the 1980s of this somewhere; including me in all my nekkid splendor. :tongue: Purpose was part of a unified effort of people like me to demonstrate that we were needed in Psi research.

So you see, to a person untrained in the art of deception, someone who really knows his stuff is indistinguishable from a Mahasiddhi. So when confronted with a miracle, even a true siddhi, a diehard skeptic can always say, "He's just a really good magician." Performing "miracles" will not prove anything. The proof of a system like Buddhism is in the practice. This is why the Miracle of Instruction is the utmost test. If ordinary people can attain liberation from suffering, then it must work. And it does.

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Re: Arahants and iddhi

Postby Modus.Ponens » Sun Jul 18, 2010 3:18 am

To further ilustrate Bubba's point, I sugest you read the wikipedia article on the ganzfeld experiments (which prove the existence of telepathy) together with the skeptical pint of view in the folowing links:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ganzfeld_experiment

http://skepdic.com/ganzfeld.html

The conclusion in the skeptic article is pathetic. They are clearly biased: a great deal of the conclusion is a text by Susan Blackmore who criticises what was already criticized in the early experiments, but does not adress the more recent results on the ganzfeld experiments

Hyman says:

Acceptable evidence for the presence of anomalous cognition must be based on a positive theory that tells us when psi should and should not be present. Until we have such a theory, the claim that anomalous cognition has been demonstrated is empty.

This is the same as saying that the Michelson-Morley experiment was meaningless at the time because there was no theory of relativity. In fact, this experiment taken seriously is what inspires the theory of relativity. What would be of Einstein if he thought like Hyman? :toilet:
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Re: Arahants and iddhi

Postby Ben » Sun Jul 18, 2010 3:49 am

Well said, Jon!
Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.

Taṃ nadīhi vijānātha:
sobbhesu padaresu ca,
saṇantā yanti kusobbhā,
tuṇhīyanti mahodadhī.

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Re: Arahants and iddhi

Postby Terasi » Sun Jul 18, 2010 12:27 pm

I am not really sure displaying magical abilities will attract more people to Buddhism. It will make Buddhism no more than just "an exotic Asian cult", in straight word: looks cheap. If we're talking about marketing strategy, the teaching is the truth, and it invites people to prove things, that's the unique point to sell. No other religion has something like that. If we are "selling" a genuine article, unnecessary adornment is not needed.

It will also attract people who just want to be magical. Because attaining supernatural power is not as easy as boiling egg, they will get dispirited soon, disappointed, and there will be mouths flapping.

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Re: Arahants and iddhi

Postby salmon » Mon Jul 19, 2010 4:47 am

Hi kkrotu,
kkrotu wrote:I've been searching the internet for an answer to a simple question : Why is there no one in the world (present time) that has achieved iddhi (supernormal powers) ?


you have kindda answered your question here

I predict that someone will try to tell me that maybe there are such people but they do not want to show it off to the world because Buddha said he finds these powers to be repulsive and that they may slow down the path to enlightment because they are wordly illusions etc.


...except, I don't think the Buddha finds it repulsive. He just doesn't want simple folks to be duped into a Buddhist way of life. Others have already provided references so I need not. In layman's terms, "proper practitioners" who have attained some form of iddhi have also gained along with it, the wisdom as to why these powers should not be shown off to the world. They know why it will not work in raising faith and prove the path. They know. We don't because we don't have that wisdom.


But these powers could be used to help raise the faith of the people and show them that there really is a path to enlightment that works.


Go to Thailand (or Burma) and you can see for yourself if a show of such powers has raised the faith of the people there and/or prove enlightenment. My hint: Most develop a wrong concept of what Enlightenment really is.

This is the only way someone could prove once and for all that The Noble Eightfolded Path works.

Short of sounding righteous...this is NOT the only way to prove the 8fold path works. One of the best ways to prove it works is to practise the path yourself and compare how your own life, and your own mind has changed from before you start practising, and a couple of months after you start practising.
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Re: Arahants and iddhi

Postby jcsuperstar » Mon Jul 19, 2010 5:23 am

salmon wrote:
This is the only way someone could prove once and for all that The Noble Eightfolded Path works.

Short of sounding righteous...this is NOT the only way to prove the 8fold path works. One of the best ways to prove it works is to practise the path yourself and compare how your own life, and your own mind has changed from before you start practising, and a couple of months after you start practising.


exactly the 8fp is a not a path to magical powers, but to the end of suffering
สัพเพ สัตตา สุขีตา โหนตุ

the mountain may be heavy in and of itself, but if you're not trying to carry it it's not heavy to you- Ajaan Suwat


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