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7. Moggallana's Magical Powers

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In the discourse about the disciples who excelled in special capacities and qualities (A. I, 13), the Buddha said that Moggallana was foremost among the Bhikkhus who possessed magical faculties. One day when Moggallana with some of his disciples walked up and down, the Buddha told his monks that Moggallana possessed great supernormal powers, and so did his pupils; thus beings congregate according to their nature and disposition. (S. 14, 15) There were, of course, also other prominent disciples highly skilled in one or the other of the various magical powers. But they mastered only some of them: the monk Anuruddha and the nun Sakula, for instance, possessed the supernormal vision of the Divine Eye; the monk Sobhita and the nun Bhadda Kapilani could recollect far into the past; the monk Sagalo had masterly control of the fire element; Cula Panthaka was skilled in "astral travel"; and Pilinda excelled in communication with heavenly beings. Maha Moggallana, however, was perfect master of the magical faculties in a very comprehensive way. He mastered the various kinds of supernormal powers altogether, surpassing in them the other disciples. He also excelled by far the nun Uppallavanna who was foremost among the nuns in regard to magical faculties.

For appreciating the old reports on Moggallana's magical (parapsychological) faculties, one ought to know how such things can be possible at all. The world of so-called matter as perceived through our five senses — which to-day's physicists conceive as a manifestation of energy — is only a small section of that much wider reality which consists of other vibrational forms of energy. Inklings of it, under terms like "anti-matter," "Psi-power," the "Astral," or "Prana," have penetrated into our range of experience. As we perceive only the narrow sector of our human world, we are inclined to regard its limited laws as absolutes. But the universe as experienced by the wise, is much larger, and the laws in force in it have also an impact upon our own world. It is that impact of different laws which is called a miracle. But whenever a higher or wider world manifests itself, the true miracle is that people can be so imprisoned within their narrow outlook that they just ignore all what is beyond their limited faculties, in spite of the fact that the effects of those other forces and laws are undeniably present. But whosoever, as the Buddha and Moggallana, has highly developed his capacity to experience that wider reality with his higher sense faculties refined by cultivating the Four Ways of Power (iddhipada), will realize a sheer infinite widening of experience in space and time. His horizon and experiential knowledge will grow universal and immeasurable, transcending all boundaries and limitations.

When Sariputta asked (in M. 32) to which type of monk those assembled would give the highest praise, Moggallana replied that from his point of view such a monk would be truly brilliant who can engage best in dialogues and discussions on the Teaching. Later the Buddha confirmed that Moggallana was indeed a very capable speaker on Dhamma. In fact, talks on Dhamma gain in range and depth when they issue from an experience that transcends the realm of the senses. The more one had widened one's consciousness by such experiences, the more one had to say. One who has personal experience of those many avenues of liberating wisdom will best be able to conduct talks on Dhamma and make them lively and stimulating. Examples of such discourses given by Maha-Moggallana are M. 15 and 37, A, X. 84, S. 35, 202, S. 44, 7-8.

We shall now turn to what the Buddhist canonical texts relate about Moggallana's supernormal faculties, presenting the material grouped according to the types of faculties concerned.