The Great Chronicle of Buddhas

by Ven. Mingun Sayadaw | 1990 | 1,044,401 words

This page describes Ten kinds of iddhi (supernormal power) contained within the book called the Great Chronicle of Buddhas (maha-buddha-vamsa), a large compilation of stories revolving around the Buddhas and Buddhist disciples. This page is part of the series known as on Pāramitā. This great chronicle of Buddhas was compiled by Ven. Mingun Sayadaw who had a thorough understanding of the thousands and thousands of Buddhist teachings (suttas).

Ten kinds of iddhi (supernormal power)

The Iddhividha Niddesa of the Visuddhi-magga enumerates ten kinds of iddhi (supernormal power).

(1) Adhiṭṭhāna Iddhi,
(2) Vikubbana Iddhi,
(3) Manomaya Iddhi,
(4) Nāṇavipphāra Iddhi,
(5) Samādhivipphāra Iddhi,
(6) Ariya Iddhi,
(7) Kammavipākaja Iddhi,
(8) Puññavanta Iddhi,
(9) Vijjāmaya Iddhi, and
(10) Sammāpayoga Iddhi.

(‘Iddhi’, as a Pāli word, means ‘accomplishment gaining one’s wish’. In Myanmar it means supernormal power.)

(1) Adhiṭṭhāna Iddhi:

Power concerning resolution; when, for instance, one resolves: “Let there be a hundred or a thousand images of myself,” then the images appear miraculously and their number is exactly what one has determined. (It is the power to project one’s images without oneself disappearing. The images may or may not be in one’s original posture.)

(2) Vikubbana Iddhi:

Power concerning transformation of oneself into the form of a nāga or of a garula. (‘Vi’ means ‘various’ and ‘kubbana’, ‘making’. It is the power to make oneself assume various forms as one wishes.)

(3) Manomaya Iddhi:

Power concerning creation of mind-made image, i.e. to create a miniature image of oneself inside own body. ‘Manomaya’ means ‘mind-made’. (It is neither the projection of images as in the case of adhiṭṭhāna-iddhi nor the transformation of one’s form as in the case of vikubbana-iddhi. It is the power to create a miniature image of oneself inside own body.)

(4) Ñānavipphāra Iddhi:

Power concerning miraculous phenomena due to the influence of imminent supramundane wisdom. This power should be understood from the stories of the Venerable Bākula and others.

Venerable Bākula

The story of Bākula occurs in the commentary on the Etadagga Vagga, Ekaka Nipāta of the Aṅguttara Nikāya. The following is an extract in brief from the same story.

Bākula was son of a wealthy man of Kosambī. On the day his birth was celebrated, the infant was taken to the River Yamunā for ceremonial bath but he was swallowed by a fish. The fish, feeling very hot in the stomach, swam away. On its arrival at Bārāṇasī, a certain fisherman caught it and hawked it in the city. The wife of a wealthy man of Bārāṇasī bought the fish and when its stomach was cut open, a beautiful baby was found inside the fish. Since she had no child of her own and was longing for one, she was extremely delighted saying to herself: “This is my very own.”

When the strange news reached the natural parents of Kosambī, they hurried to Bārāṇasī to claim their son. But the lady of Bārāṇasī refused to give him back, saying: “The baby came to us because we deserve him. We cannot return him to you.” When they went to court to settle the dispute, the judges gave their verdict that the baby equally belonged to both pairs of parents. In this way, the baby had two mothers and two fathers, on account of which he was named Bākula. ( = two, kula = family; hence a boy of two families.) It was a miracle that the boy was not harm though he was swallowed up by a fish. The miracle was due to the power of the arahatta-magga ñāṇa and was certainly to be attained by Bākula in that very existence. (Or, may be it was due to the influence of the glorious pāramī ñāṇa that was inherent in the boy and that would enable him to attain without fail, the arahatta-magga ñāṇa in that very life.) Such power is said to be Ñānavipphāra-iddhi.

Saṅkicca Sāmaṇera

Saṅkicca Sāmaṇera was conceived by the daughter of a householder of Savatthi. The mother died when she was about to give birth to the baby. While her body was being cremated, it was pierced with iron spikes so that it might burn better. A spike hurt the baby’s eye and the baby cried. Knowing that the baby was still alive, people took the body down from the funeral pyre, cut open the stomach and took out the baby. The baby grew up in due course and at the age of seven became an arahat.

The boy’s miraculous escape from death was also attributed to the power of the arahattamagga ñāṇa. (Or it was attributed to the influence of the power of the boy’s inherent pāramī-ñāṇa that helped him attain the arahatta-magga ñāṇa:)

(5) Samādhivipphāra Iddhi:

Power by the influence of concentration. The miraculous phenomenon that occurs when one is about to enter upon or is entering upon or has

just entered upon jhāna is due to the influence of samādhi. The power that causes such a miracle is called Samādhivipphāra Iddhi. With reference to this power, the Visuddhimagga narrates a number of stories beginning with the story of Sāriputta, which alone will be reproduced here.

Venerable Sāriputta

One day while the Venerable Sāriputta was staying with the Venerable Moggallāna at a gorge called Kapota, he had his head newly shaven and engaged himself in jhāna in an open space during a moonlit night. When a mischievous ogre came with a friend of his and seeing the Venerable’s cleanly-shaven, shining head, became desirous of striking it with his hand. His friend advised him not to do so; yet he struck the Venerable’s head with all his might. The blow was so hard that the sound of it roared violently like thunder. But the Venerable felt no pain as the power of samādhi pervaded throughout his body.

(6) Ariya Iddhi:

When ariyas (Noble Ones) desire to contemplate on loathsome objects as though they were unloathsome or on unloathsome objects as though they were loathsome, they can do so. Such power of ariya to contemplate on any object in whatever way they wish is called ‘Ariya Iddhi (Power of Noble Ones.)

(7) Kammavipākaja Iddhi:

Creatures like birds fly in the sky. To possess that ability to fly they do not have to make any special effort in the present life. It is a result of what they did in past existences. Devas, Brahmās, the first inhabitants of the world and Vinipatika asuras have also the ability to move about in space. The power to perform such feats is Kammavipākaja Iddhi.

(8) Puññavanta Iddhi:

Cakkavattis (Universal Monarchs) and the like can travel in space. They can do so because they have accumulated merits for themselves. Those who accompany the Universal Monarch in his aerial travels can do so because they are associated with the monarch who is the real possessor of merits. The riches and luxuries that belonged to such wealthy persons as Jotika, Jatila. Ghosaka, Mendaka and others are also Puññavanta Iddhi.

(The difference between Kammavipākaja Iddhi and Puññavanta Iddhi is this: Kammavipākaja Iddhi is the power not due to one’s deeds done in the present life but due to one’s deeds done in the past;it accompanies one’s birth. Puññavanta Iddhi is due not only to one’s past deeds but also due to one’s present efforts made in support of those deeds. It does not accompany one’s birth; it becomes full and operative only when supported by one’s deeds of the present life. To illustrate: To Cakkavatti, the Treasure of Wheel does not arise at his birth. It arises only when he has observed certain precepts and fulfilled special duties of a Universal Monarch. So this particular power is due not entirely to one’s past deeds but also due to one’s present supporting efforts.)

(9) Vijjāmaya Iddhi:

Aerial travels and such feats by Vijjadharas (Bearers of magical knowledge). (The power acquired by means of the art of specially contrived mantras, medicine, etc.)

(10) Sammāpayoga Iddhi:

the power that accrues from various accomplishments. (The scope covered by this iddhi is vast. The Path and Fruition that are attained as a result of proper endeavours is the highest form of Sammapayoga Iddhi. In short, all accomplishments that result from learning arts and crafts, the three Vedas, the three Piṭakas or (to say the least,) from agricultural activities, such as ploughing, sowing, etc. are all Sammapayoga Iddhi.)

Epilogue: Of these ten iddhis, the first, Adhitthāna Iddhi, is the power of resolution to project images of oneself by the hundred or by the thousand, such as the power possessed by the Venerable Cūla Pathaka and others. Ordinary people who are not possessors of such power make similar resolutions; but because they lack the basic factor of jhāna or samādhi, they do not realize what they have resolved; on the other hand, possessors of such power have their resolution fulfilled because their jhāna or samādhi is strong enough to help them.

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