63. Definitions of the Powers

62. Those Damn Fairies …   |  64. Ethics and the Powers

Speaking of textbooks, and now that I have gotten both the standard and nonstandard warnings and disclaimers out of the way, we might as well get down to defining what we are talking about regarding the powers. We can start with the standard lists in some of the earliest extant texts of the Pali canon (such as that found in sutta DN 2, Samaññaphala or “Fruits of the Contemplative Life”). They include:

• bi-location and poly-location

• appearing and disappearing

• walking through objects

• flying

• delving into the earth

• walking on water

• touching the sun and moon

• traveling to other realms

• producing various objects

• hearing sounds both near and far (aka the “divine ear”)

• seeing things both near and far (aka the “divine eye”, which is broad and involves things like perceiving other classes of beings, knowing things about faraway places, which we might also call “remote viewing”, etc.)

• knowing the mind states and mental qualities of others

• recalling past lives

• seeing beings pass away and being reborn according to their karma

• the clear perception that cuts off delusion and brings wisdom.

It is an oddly short list, given the wide range of what people may experience and cultivate, and given the vast range of powers described in the early canonical material. The Visuddhimagga (V, 28–39 or so) adds:

• sitting on empty space

• manipulating weather and causing earthquakes

• causing smoke, fires, and sparks

• creating lights to see by

• burning up the body at the death of an arahant

• causing darkness

• altering our appearance

• turning objects into gold

• creating objects in various specific colors

• dispelling darkness

• banishing stiffness and torpor

• revealing hidden things

This also is a pretty short list. I will add to these the following very abbreviated list of some of the more common things that people can get into:

• knowing things about other people (such as their past, motivations, and thoughts)

• knowing things about the future

• having various helpful intuitions

• seeing, feeling, and manipulating energy, chakras, energy channels, and auras in ourselves and others

• healing various things in ourselves and others

• sending and receiving messages in various ways

• influencing the course of various events

Those of you with strong concentration and more experiences with the siddhis will be laughing at how short this list is. Interestingly, these lists don’t even cover all the powers that the Buddha and some of his followers exhibit in the old texts, and if you read the stories of the Buddha and his followers and wrote down all the magickal actions they perform, the list would be much longer.

Then there is the dark side to the powers, which brings us to the question of ethics.

62. Those Damn Fairies …   |  64. Ethics and the Powers