Iddhis/Siddhis - What do you think?

An open and inclusive investigation into Buddhism and spiritual cultivation

Iddhis/Siddhis - What do you think?

Postby Kenshou » Sun Feb 07, 2010 7:27 am

(figure since this is only tangentially related to our practice in reality, it is better suited to this forum)

As I'm sure you're all familiar with, throughout the suttas there are instances of the Buddha or various bhikkhus, etc., making use of these seemingly superhuman abilities, ranging from the realization of certain knowledges, to even stranger things such as flying, teleportation, the "mind-made body", to name a few.

Do you give any credence to these stories? If so, why, and can you cite any bhikkhus/scholars who also do? Or, do you not give them a thought, and if so, what do you think of the fact of their mention in the suttas?

Or do you simply not bother wondering one way or the other, since it isn't a necessary facet of the path to awakening?
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Re: Iddhis/Siddhis - What do you think?

Postby Reductor » Sun Feb 07, 2010 8:20 am

Kenshou wrote:Do you give any credence to these stories? If so, why, and can you cite any bhikkhus/scholars who also do? Or, do you not give them a thought, and if so, what do you think of the fact of their mention in the suttas?


What is more wondrous? The destruction of all suffering, or flying?

To accept that it is possible to escape something as pervasive as suffering makes these other things, to me, not hard to accept, as they are less interesting or remarkable. When you read the suttas you regularly run across the list of mundane knowledge and abilities that might arise from the practicing of the path, and so it seems fairly unlikely that they are extraneous to the original cannon.

I don't know of any scholarly opinions, as that is not my forte.
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Re: Iddhis/Siddhis - What do you think?

Postby BlackBird » Sun Feb 07, 2010 8:29 am

I think it's possible, for one who wishes to spend a long time in solitude cultivating them. You'd have to ask yourself why you'd want to cultivate them though...

What's more important?

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Re: Iddhis/Siddhis - What do you think?

Postby Kare » Sun Feb 07, 2010 8:38 am

Kenshou wrote:(figure since this is only tangentially related to our practice in reality, it is better suited to this forum)

As I'm sure you're all familiar with, throughout the suttas there are instances of the Buddha or various bhikkhus, etc., making use of these seemingly superhuman abilities, ranging from the realization of certain knowledges, to even stranger things such as flying, teleportation, the "mind-made body", to name a few.

Do you give any credence to these stories? If so, why, and can you cite any bhikkhus/scholars who also do? Or, do you not give them a thought, and if so, what do you think of the fact of their mention in the suttas?

Or do you simply not bother wondering one way or the other, since it isn't a necessary facet of the path to awakening?


There is a story about a reporter who asked an old monk about levitation and flying. Is it really possible? he asked.

Sure, the monk answered - but these days almost noone can do it.

Why? - the reporter asked.

You know - the monk answered with a wink - it takes long and tedious hours to learn it. Much easier to buy a ticket for an aeroplane ... :mrgreen:
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Re: Iddhis/Siddhis - What do you think?

Postby Kare » Sun Feb 07, 2010 8:40 am

Or a more serious reply:

Whenever I meet someone who takes these description at face value, I like to remind him that the standard description also includes touching the sun with one's bare hands ...
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Re: Iddhis/Siddhis - What do you think?

Postby zavk » Sun Feb 07, 2010 8:56 am

There's also the one about a yogi proclaiming to the Buddha his ability to walk on water. I can't remember where I read it but it goes something like that:

The Buddha asked the yogi how much it would have cost for him to hire a boatman to take him across the water, to which the yogi answered 'Two cents'. The Buddha then said, 'All the time and effort you spent developing this power is worth only two cents. Your time and effort would have been better spent seeking release from suffering, which is of immeasurable value.'

I think that's how it goes.....
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Re: Iddhis/Siddhis - What do you think?

Postby Kare » Sun Feb 07, 2010 9:04 am

zavk wrote:There's also the one about a yogi proclaiming to the Buddha his ability to walk on water. I can't remember where I read it but it goes something like that:

The Buddha asked the yogi how much it would have cost for him to hire a boatman to take him across the water, to which the yogi answered 'Two cents'. The Buddha then said, 'All the time and effort you spent developing this power is worth only two cents. Your time and effort would have been better spent seeking release from suffering, which is of immeasurable value.'

I think that's how it goes.....


And in the Kevaddhasutta (DN 11), the Buddha said that he disliked, rejected and despised that kind of things.
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Re: Iddhis/Siddhis - What do you think?

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Sun Feb 07, 2010 9:13 am

zavk wrote:There's also the one about a yogi proclaiming to the Buddha his ability to walk on water. I can't remember where I read it but it goes something like that:

If you don't know the source, don't claim that the Buddha said it. There are lots of such "stories" invented to make a point, which may not be a valid point at all. For a start, bhikkhus in the Buddha's time did not use money, so how would they hire a boatman for 2 cents?
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Re: Iddhis/Siddhis - What do you think?

Postby zavk » Sun Feb 07, 2010 9:37 am

Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:
zavk wrote:There's also the one about a yogi proclaiming to the Buddha his ability to walk on water. I can't remember where I read it but it goes something like that:

If you don't know the source, don't claim that the Buddha said it. There are lots of such "stories" invented to make a point, which may not be a valid point at all. For a start, bhikkhus in the Buddha's time did not use money, so how would they hire a boatman for 2 cents?


Yes of course Bhante, I understand.

I thought it was clear in my post that I was merely recounting a story I read/heard, using what I thought is a common rhetorical device, 'There's the one about...' to pick up on Kare's previous story. Perhaps I should've been more explicit. My apologies. It is certainly not my intention to associate this story with the Pali Canon or anything like that.

But taking the story as it is..... from what I can remember, the person speaking to the Buddha wasn't a member of the sangha--more likely someone from outside the sangha trying to challenge the Buddha. And that person did not actually hire a boatman. He was merely replying to the Buddha's hypothetical question. Nor do I think that the Buddha was expecting him to actually hire a boat.
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Re: Iddhis/Siddhis - What do you think?

Postby Moggalana » Sun Feb 07, 2010 12:07 pm

I have come to believe that they might be possible. Ajahn Brahm sometimes tells a mind reading story about Ajahn Chah. Ajahn Jayasaro as well. See the video below:

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Re: Iddhis/Siddhis - What do you think?

Postby Cittasanto » Sun Feb 07, 2010 12:31 pm

zavk wrote:There's also the one about a yogi proclaiming to the Buddha his ability to walk on water. I can't remember where I read it but it goes something like that:

The Buddha asked the yogi how much it would have cost for him to hire a boatman to take him across the water, to which the yogi answered 'Two cents'. The Buddha then said, 'All the time and effort you spent developing this power is worth only two cents. Your time and effort would have been better spent seeking release from suffering, which is of immeasurable value.'

I think that's how it goes.....


I think it is a zen story.
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Re: Iddhis/Siddhis - What do you think?

Postby Paññāsikhara » Sun Feb 07, 2010 1:40 pm

Moggalana wrote:I have come to believe that they might be possible. Ajahn Brahm sometimes tells a mind reading story about Ajahn Chah. Ajahn Jayasaro as well.


I think that many people who have spent a fair bit of time with yogin bhikkhu/nis have a story or two about mind reading. A lot of people get a bit freaked out the first time(s) it happens. Especially if they don't believe it is possible - despite the evidence in their face (or rather, in their mind). Ajahn Chah is certainly one example. Elsewhere, about Master Hsuan Hua, the Chinese monk who has established quite a few monasteries in North America, there are also more than a few examples. Actually, quite a few people have experienced similar things on a short term basis after some serious samatha meditation in particular.
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Re: Iddhis/Siddhis - What do you think?

Postby jcsuperstar » Sun Feb 07, 2010 5:36 pm

from my memory and not really from any in depth study of the canon i can only recall that the monks who did the super stuff like flying etc (including the Buddha) were the monks who had spent lots of time as ascetics, yogis etc prior to joining the sangha, yes they had powers but these aren't what they had spent their time developing once they set out on the Buddha's path.
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