Supernatural Power, Buddhist and Hindu
(Chapter 17 of "Discriminations Between Buddhist and Hindu Tantras")
Yogi C. M. Chen
We Buddhists give most of our attention to the practice of concentration and meditation on voidness, through this, all the sorrows and the root of sorrow, which is the inner self, the eighth consciousness, may be overcome and transformed into Buddha's wisdom. We are not desirous of getting supernatural powers that will make the inner self strong enough to fight with others. When the farmer works diligently in the field and it is time for harvest, the chaff is gotten along with the rice; so we practice according to tantric instructions for full Enlightenment in this lifetime and when we become accomplished, supernatural powers are also attained simultaneously. But to the Western scholars or researchers, supernatural power is an interesting subject. They read books on Tantric Hinduism which describe many wonderful things and think that the Hindus certainly have no less power than the Tantric Buddhists. In order to correct this misunderstanding, I am writing this chapter.
The main difference in this regard is this--the Tantric Hindus and other non-Buddhists have five supernatural powers: divyacaksus (instantaneous view of anything anywhere), divyasrotra (ability to hear any sound anywhere), paracittajnana (ability to know the thoughts of all other minds), purvanivasanusmrtijnana (knowledge of all former existences of oneself and others), and rddhi-saksatkriya (the power to be anywhere or do anything at will). But only the Buddhist has the final one, Anasrava, which accompanies all the others. With Anasrava, the above mentioned powers become limitless and greater in power. The reason for the Buddhist superiority is this: the Buddhist Tantric practitioner spends much time and energy avoiding his own sorrows whether gross or subtle. The root of sorrow is ignorance and the root of ignorance is the inner self. The Tantric Hindu, holding tightly to the higher self, limits his wisdom and power while the Buddhist, being free of even this, attains unlimited wisdom and power.
Enough of theory. Let us look at some actual comparisons. We can begin with the scriptures.
A. In Hinduism, in the book Mysterious Kundalini by Vasant G. Rele, on page 68, eight Ashta siddhis are written of:
1) "Anima--A yogi concentrating, meditating and fixing his attention on this quality of the soul during forced exhalation, draws together his entire energy to a point which is then made to penetrate into all bodies so as to make them vibrate according to the will of the Yogi."
But he cannot again draw his energy from this little point into the voidness nature which is the final truth of Buddhism. He does not believe in that.
2) "Mahima--This is also a special quality of the soul. A yogi by mere inhalation of air makes his body assume a large size and comprehends the universe in himself as was done by Krishna."
This universe spoken of is the worldly one and does not include that of Buddhism, and he cannot enlarge and extend himself from his universe to the voidness nature because of the same reason given in the last Siddhi. It is said in the philosophy of mathematics that infinity and the unlimited decimals are equal to zero, so the voidness can be both infinity and unlimited decimals. The Hindus have no anasrava supernatural power and they cannot reach voidness.
3) "Laghima--He can make his body as light as a feather so that it can float in the air or in water. The yogi's power of traveling thousands of miles in a moment is attributed to this Siddhi."
Even traveling in a moment is limited by time. In Buddhism there are many good examples of this power, one of which was quoted in "Kundalini Yoga" (a Hindu work by Sivananda) as follows: "Once an outsider asked Milarepa for a contest to see which of them could arrive at the top of the snow hill first. This outsider is riding on a magic drum and begins to fly up the hill the next morning while Milarepa was still sleeping. When his disciple saw the outsider halfway up the hill, he called for Milarepa to get up but Milarepa continued to sleep. The outsider had almost arrived at the top of the hill. By only one thought Milarepa arrived at the top. The outsider lost all his supernatural power and fell down." Here Milarepa, though quoted by a Hindu worker, is well-known even to Westerners as the Great Tibetan Yogi. To a great yogi accomplished in the voidness meditation, there is no limitation in space and time, but to a Hindu there is the limitation of Brahma or the high self which I have mentioned in practically every chapter.
4) "Garima--A yogi increases specific gravity of the body thus making it as heavy as a mountain by swallowing large draughts of air and compressing them in the tissues of the body."
The quantities of air swallowed cannot compare with that of the Tantric Buddhist.
5) "Prapti--When in Samadhi the yogi acquires the power of predicting future events, of understanding unknown languages, of curing disease and of divining the unexpressed thoughts of others."
The time of the future is limited by the kapla of Brahma's creation and destruction, but a Buddhist is free from it.
6) "Prakamya--It is the containing of more than one's expectations and the power of casting off the old skin and maintaining a youthful appearance for an unusually long period of time. This is recorded as being true in the case of yogi King Yayati and Aleiluades who maintained unfading youth to the last day of their lives."
Here we read that he has a last day, but there are great Buddhist yogis such as the lotus-born Padmasambhava who are still alive. Not only he but many, many others such as Saraha, Harvarapa, Biwapa, and females Such as Nukuma, Yishitoga, Sukarsiddhi who have attained non-death Enlightenment.
7) "Vasitva--It is the power of taming living creatures and bringing them under control."
This occurs in Tantric Buddhism also. Even in Ch'an there are disciples who were tigers. In Christianity Saint Francis tamed a fox who had killed many people.
8) Ishitva--Obtaining universal dominion either in this life or in the next by means of yoga."
The dominion of their universe belongs to this world, and is only equal to the iron cakravartin of Buddhism. There are still higher ones such as copper, silver and gold. The last one conquers those before it.
B. In "Kundalini Yoga" there are also mentioned twenty-six minor siddhis which I have quoted below:
1. Freedom from hunger and thirst.
2. Freedom from the effects of heat and cold.
3. Freedom from raga-dwesha.
4. Doora Darshan, clairvoyance or doora-drishti.
5. Doorasravan clair-audience or doora-sruti and doora-pravachana.
6. Manojaya--control of the mind.
7. Kama-rupa--the yogi can take any form he likes.
8. Parakaya pravesha--he can enter into another body, can animate a dead body and enter into it by transferring his soul.
9. Iccha mrityu--death at his will.
10. Devanam Saha krida and darshana--playing with devas after seeing them.
11. Yatha sankalpa--he can get whatever he likes.
12. Trikala jnana--knowledge of the past, present and future.
13. Advandva--beyond the pairs of opposites.
14. Vak siddhi--whatever the yogi predicts will come to pass by practice of satya, prophecy.
15. The yogi can turn base metal into gold.
16. Kaya Vyuha--taking as many bodies as the yogi likes to exhaust all his karma in one life.
17. Darduri siddhi--having the jumping power of a frog.
18. Pat ala siddhi--the Yogi becomes lord of desires, destroys sorrows and diseases.
19. He gets knowledge of his past life.
20. He gets knowledge of the cluster of stars and planets.
21. He gets the power of perceiving the siddhis.
22. He gets mastery of the elements and mastery of prana.
23. Kamachari--he can move to any place he likes.
24. He gets omnipotence and omniscience.
25. Vayu siddhi--rise in the air and stay above the ground.
26. He can point out the place where hidden treasures lie.
The above twenty-six siddhis are very common to Buddhism in the exoteric and esoteric schools. All those siddhis, even though the twenty-sixth one bears the same name as it does in Tantric Buddhism, are limited by Brahma.
C. If we compare the supernatural power of the Tantras in both religions we will find that the power of the exoteric school is produced from meditation of Samadhi but that of the esoteric school is produced from both Samadhi and untying the lotuses (chakras). There is no mention of supernatural powers being produced from untying lotuses in "Kundalini Yoga", but in "The Serpent Power" by Sir John Woodroffe we find a few verses on this subject. Below I quote from a few Hindu works on this matter.
1. Shatchakra Nirupana, verse 13, states, "By meditating thus on Her who shines within Muladhara chakra, with the lustre of ten million suns, a man becomes Lord of speech and King among men and an Adept in all kinds of learning. He becomes ever free from all diseases, and his inmost spirit becomes full of great gladness. Pure of disposition by his deep and musical words, he serves the foremost of the Devas." But in Tantric Buddhism, the supernatural power derived is as stated above in addition to which the yogi gets the accomplishment of the excellent view of voidness corresponding to the stage of beholding the truth and gets all Supernatural powers of the first and second stages of a Bodhisattva called the greatly rejoicing (Pramudita). These powers as described in the Avatamsaka Sutra are:
a) Achievement in one hundred kinds of samadhis, which are more profound than the eight stages of heavenly dhyanas.
B) The ability to see one hundred Buddha worlds.
c) The ability to shake one hundred Buddha worlds.
d) The ability to know the secret power of one hundred Buddhas.
e) The ability to pass over one hundred Buddha worlds.
f) The ability to convert one hundred world's people.
g) The ability to live in one hundred Kalpas
h) The ability to know the beginning and the end of one hundred kalpas.
i) The ability to enter into one hundred victorious Dharmagates.
j) The ability to appear in one hundred incarnations, and
k) each incarnation is able to appear with one hundred families around him.
A Tantric Buddhist will never lose those powers. The second stage of power is one thousand fold more than this first stage.
2. Concerning the Svadhisthana chakra, verse 18 of the same book states: "He who meditates upon this stainless lotus, which is named Svadhisthana is freed immediately from all his enemies, such as the fault of egoism and so forth. He becomes a Lord among Yogis and is like the Sun illuminating the dense darkness of ignorance. The wealth of his nectar-like words flows in prose and verse in well-reasoned discourse." When the svadhisthana chakra of a Tantric Buddhist is open he obtains the supernatural powers of the third and fourth stages besides those mentioned above. The third and fourth stages of supernatural powers are one hundred thousand fold more than those of the first stage.
3. Verse 26 discusses the power of Manipura chakra as follows: "He who meditates on this Heart Lotus becomes the Lord of Speech and (like) Ishvara he is able to protect and destroy the worlds." We quote from verse 27, "Foremost among Yogis, he ever is dearer than the dearest to women. He is preeminently wise and full of noble deeds. His senses are completely under control. His mind with its intense concentration is engrossed in thoughts of Brahman. His inspired speech flows like a stream of water. He is like the Devata who is beloved of Lakshrni and he is able at will to enter another's body." Including the above powers, the Buddhist gets all the powers of the fifth and sixth stages which are more than one million times that of the first stage.
4. The Anahata chakra is discussed in verse 31, "He who has attained complete knowledge of the Atma, becomes by constantly concentrating his mind on this lotus, a great Sage, eloquent and wise and enjoys uninterrupted peace of mind. He sees the three periods and becomes the benefactor of all, free from diseases and sorrow and long-lived and, like Hamsa, the destroyer of endless dangers." The Tantric Buddhist gets the supernatural powers of the seventh and eighth stage of a Bodhisattva which are countless times more than the first stage and attains the wisdom of Sambhogakaya. He also gets four kinds of unlimited interpretations (Pratisamvid).
5. The discussion of the powers of the Ajna chakra is in verse 34 of this same Shatchakra Nirupana: "Meditation of this lotus enables one to quickly enter another's body at will and become the most excellent among Munis (sages) and all knowing and seeing. He becomes the benefactor of all and versed in all Shastras. He realizes his unity with Brahman and acquires excellent and unknown powers. Full of fame and long-lived, he ever becomes the Creator, Destroyer and Preserver, of the three worlds." In addition to these the Buddhist obtains the powers of the ninth and tenth stages of the Bodhisattva. There are no other powers that can be compared with them except Buddha.
6. Concerning the supernatural powers of the Sahasrara chakra, verse 45 states: "That most excellent of men who has controlled his mind and knows this place is never again born in the world, wandering as there is nothing in the three worlds which binds him. His mind being controlled and his aim achieved, he possesses complete power to do all he wishes and moves toward the Brahman. His speech, whether in prose or in verse, is ever pure and sweet." The Tantric Buddhist also gets full Enlightenment of Buddhahood in this lifetime. Not only the highest position in the exoteric school but also that in the esoteric school which is the great-pleasure-wisdom-body (Mahasukha-PrajnaKaya) in Vajrayana.
D. There are ten excellent secret powers of a Buddha which give complete knowledge of the following:
1. What is right or wrong in every condition.
2. What is the karma of every being, past, present and future .
3. All stages of Dhyana liberation and Samadhi.
4. The powers and faculties of all beings.
5. The desires or moral direction of every being.
6. The actual condition of every individual.
7. The direction and consequence of all Dharmas.
8. All causes of mortality and of good and evil in their reality.
9. The end of all beings and Nirvana.
10. The destruction of all illusions of every kind.
E. There are ten wonders or incomprehensibilities of Buddha. They are in two groups: the traceable or manifested, and the original. The traceable ones are:
1. The incomprehensible surrounding--the universe, sphere or whole embracing mind, Buddha and all things as a unity.
2. The incomprehensible wisdom--a Buddha's all-embracing knowledge arising from such a universe.
3. The incomprehensible deeds--his deeds expressive of his wisdom.
4. The incomprehensible stages--his attainment of all the various Buddha's stages such as the ten stages of a Bodhisattva.
5. The incomprehensible Dharmas--the three Dharmas of truth, wisdom and vision.
6. The incomprehensible response--his response to appeals because "All beings are my children."
7. The incomprehensible supernatural power--we have already mentioned these.
8. The incomprehensible preaching.
9. The incomprehensible supernatural retinue.
10. The incomprehensible blessings--for a universal elevation to Buddhahood.
The original group of incomprehensibilities are:
1. The incomprehensible initial impulse or causative drive of Buddhahood.
2. The incomprehensible result or fruit in eternity, joy and purity.
3. The incomprehensible realm.
4. The incomprehensible response.
5. The incomprehensible supernatural powers.
6. The incomprehensible preaching.
7. The incomprehensible retinue.
8. The incomprehensible Nirvana.
9. The incomprehensible life.
10. The incomprehensible blessings.
G. There are eighteen special characteristics of a Buddha which are different from Bodhisattvas. They are:
His perfection of 1. the body, 2. mouth or speech, 3. memory, 4. impartiality to all, 5. serenity, 6. self-sacrifice, 7. unceasing wisdom in it, desire to save all, 8. unflaggin zeal therein, 9. unfailing thought thereto, 10. wisdom in it, 11. power of deliverance, 12. the principles of it, 13. revealing perfection and wisdom in deed, 14. in words, 15. in thought, 16. perfect knowledge of the past, 17. present, 18. future.
H. In brief the Tantric Buddhist can have the same powers as the Tantric Hindu and infinitely more. You may ask why it is that at the same chakra the powers of the yogi may be different. It is because the wisdom-energy and the median nerve and the wisdom drops are different from one another. Those powers of the Tantric Hindu are like heavenly ones, but those of the Buddhist is of Buddhahood which is beyond heaven without the limitation of Brahma. Please review Chapters 3 and 6 of "Discrimination between Buddhist and Hindu Tantras." Furthermore, in our method of the holy flame rising up and the wisdom drops descending, the Buddhist yogi gets the four holy pleasures, which accompany the truth of voidness such as: The first pleasure accompanies the equilibrium voidness, the second pleasure accompanies wide or vast voidness, the third accompanies the great voidness and the fourth accompanies the all voidness. These four kinds of voidness are the source of unlimited supernatural power which is not in agreement with the high self of Hinduism.
I. All of the statements concerning supernatural powers are true in a very real and concrete sense, but to the Western scholar who has no experience in practice, they seem like abstractions. Therefore, let me introduce an historical story which shows the comparison of the power of Buddha and the gurus of the six schools of non-Buddhism.
Once Sudatta put all of his gold on the land of the garden of the benefactor of orphans (who owned the land) in order to exchange his gold for a temple for Buddha Gautama. The envious and selfish gurus of the six non-Buddhist schools then asked Sudatta for a contest in which the powers of the disciples of the Buddha would be compared with those of their schools. If the Buddhists won, they could build the temple, but if they lost they could not build the temple. Sudatta was very grieved. Sariputra, the disciple of Buddha Gautama heard this and consoled him saying, "Suppose they had enough gurus to fill the world, they could not move a hair of mine." Sudatta asked his father, King of Sravasti, to strike the golden drum to call together all the great people of Sravasti who were eighteen million in number. Among these, three million belonged to the six non-Buddhist schools.
Sariputra sat in Samadhi and thought, "If in my past lives I was very grateful to my parents and very faithful to the Buddhist monks and Brahmans, then today they should pay me respect when they meet me at the assembly." As a result of his good karma, all of the gurus and their disciples who were three million in number, bowed down to him without their willfully wanting to do so just as the grass bows down to the wind. This welcome actually occurred.
Among the disciples of the six schools, there was a well known one named Loututza who was very skilled in supernatural powers. First, he performed some magic on the ground and immediately a tree grew up with different flowers and fruits on it. The audience said, "It is made by Loututza." Then Sariputra made an elephant appear which had six tusks. On each of these there were seven lotuses, and on each lotus there were seven female angels sitting. The elephant went to a pool and drank all the water leaving the pool dry. The audience then said, "The victor is the sage Sariputra. How can Loututza be compared with him?" Then with shame, Loututza made a magic mountain which was adorned with seven kinds of gems. On the mountain were many trees with flowers and fruits. From his samadhi, Sariputra sent out a vajra. He held it in his hand and pointed it toward the distant magic mountain. It became dust at once. The audience was surprised and asked again, "How can Loututza be compared with the sage?" Loututza made a flying dragon and caused gems to rain from the sky and brought on a clap of loud thunder. Sariputra sent a kind of Garuda to eat the dragon. The audience said, "To compare powers with a Buddhist sage is only to harm oneself." Loututza made an unusually large magic bull with a large body, big feet and big horns. Sariputra sent a lion who instantaneously ate the bull leaving no remains. Angrily, Loututza transformed himself into a powerful Yaksha body with flaming hair, red eyes, four long incisors and emiting fire from his body toward the sage. Suddenly, Sariputra transformed his body into that of Vaisravana, King of Yakshas. Loututza feared his king and backed away to escape punishment, but the fire permeated all four directions. There was no escape. All he could do was to bow down before Sariputra and take refuge from him. After Loututza embraced Sariputra as his guru and many disciples from the six schools of non-Buddhists were converted, the Buddhist sage manifested many supernatural powers. I do not have the time to write them here because now I want to introduce the supernatural powers of Buddha Gautama.
J. Even though King Bimbisara was converted to Buddhism, his brother still believed in the six non-Buddhist gurus. In vain the king had many times advised his brother to become a Buddhist. It was the habit of this brother to give alms to all monks regardless of religion. The following story relates what happened on one occasion when the supernatural powers of Gautama Buddha and those of the six non-Buddhist gurus were compared.
The six gurus and their disciples had gathered to receive alms. The Buddha with his disciples purposely arrived late and the only seats left were those that were in the low section. Because of the Buddha's noble virtue and Supernatural power, all six gurus and disciples unwillfully moved to the lower part, and although they tried to return to the high section, the seats remained those of the low section. The patron began to give water for washing from the higher section to the lower but Buddha humbly said, "Please give it to your guru first." Those six gurus became dumb. They could only raise their arms to point to Gautama who sat in the seat of the higher section, far in the distance from them. The Buddha's prayer was as music. When the food was finally served, Buddha repeated that the patron's guru should be served first, but the food flew to the top of the gurus heads where they could not reach it. Upon Buddha's receiving the food, each of the others also received their food.
After the meal, the patron asked Buddha to preach but he declined suggesting that the six gurus be asked first. They became dumb and could not preach. Then Buddha preached and the patron, his officials and family were all converted. With a grieved countenance and an envious mind each guru went back to his own church and learned some methods of magic. A demon transformed himself into a human body and taught them how to obtain more powers than they had before. Then these gurus asked the king whether they might have another opportunity to compare their powers with those of the Buddha. After receiving the Buddha's permission, the king made all preparations, but Buddha wanted all the people of five Indian lands to witness his victory, so when all the peoples of one province had gathered, he moved on to Vaisali, then to Kausambi or Vatsa-pattna in central India, and finally to a place called Sravasti which was controlled by the well-known king Prasenajit. Gautama manifested many kinds of supernatural powers in the Dharma assembly where India's peoples gathered. The six gurus, however, were unable to do anything. It is a rule that outsiders can do no magic in the presence of a Buddha.
For many, many days the Buddha preached to his audience. While Indra stood on the left side and Brahma himself stood on the right. Both were the protectors of Buddha. Indra offered Buddha a lion seat. At the moment he sat there was a sacred sound which emitted from the five vajras and struck down all six gurus. They threw themselves into the water. Although in different tongues the peoples of India gave praise to Buddha Gautama as the victor and final Lord. This story can be found in the "Good and Evil Sutra". It is a trustworthy record.
K. Now you will say that the above story was with regard to Buddha and the six gurus but I have said nothing about Buddha and Brahma, the highest of all higher selves. I will quote from the Madhyamagama Sutra.
Once Buddha knew by his parocitta-jnana (ability to know the thoughts of all other minds) that the perverse view (Mithya) had arisen in Brahma's mind that all is permanent. Buddha flew to Brahma's heaven and after explaining that everything is impermanent, converted Brahma. Brahma then requested competition of their powers which Buddha agreed to. First Brahma magically hid his body but wherever he went Buddha could see him and said, "You are here, you are there." Brahma could not elude such magic. Then Buddha said, "I will try to hide myself, please try to point out where I am." Buddha then hid his body in voidness meditation. On purpose he let Brahma hear his voice, but Brahma could not point him out. Thereby Brahma's faith was increased.
I don't know what Tantric Hindus of today think of this story. Would they have more power than Brahma? Your Lord Brahma has already been converted, so what are you waiting for now?
My good readers, I must beg your pardon. It is not that I really wanted to write such a long chapter on supernatural powers, but only that I know you are so interested. Buddha's powers were so many that even those magic verses of his "Retractable Penis Sutra" are greater than those found in the Rig-Veda. Since I cannot introduce this sutra here in its entirety, I cannot help but stop here.
As the village beauty is charming not only in her ornaments but in her nature, so is the Buddha's excellent virtues not only in his Supernatural powers but in his samadhi of voidness, in his Bodhi-heart and his wisdom.