How superpowers actually work

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths - what can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
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How superpowers actually work

Post by dxm_dxm » Fri Apr 01, 2016 12:00 pm

Anybody here ever thought about how the buddhist superpowers are supposed to work in a non new-agey, serious way ? Well there seems to be a link between superpowers and concentration meditation. That is the only thing that we know. So here is my idea about this:

As I wrote in my thread http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=41&t=26001" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false; astral projection is possible because of placebo. Studies suggest that the reality you see is indeed the actual reality, like you can read a number put somewhere by the researcher. Placebo can do a lot of things indeed. And here is another interesting thing: When a person is lucid dreaming, he can not wish that a sexy girl appear in his visual sight area, it does not work. He has to wish her to appear outside of his sigh, in his back for example, and no matter how unconfident the person might be (and usually it is very unconfident), everytime you turn the sexy girl is there. Visual is the only sense that exists in dreams so the only one that must be decieved. So if there is such a thing as superpowers, they have to work in the same way. There is no other way for them to work technically. So having in mind that this has to do with concentration meditation, here is something to think about too:

A person can do many things with his body/mind but not influence the outside world. This is what we understand from the description of buddhist superpowers and this is where one would expect the limitation to be giving what we know about placebo. I have never herd of a placebo effect that can influence the outside world. You can not cure another person by placebo. Take a look at the list of buddhist superpowers and notice there is not one of them that influences/modifies the outside world. Also all are technically possible through placebo.


So this finally brings us to my theory. As I said, the only thing we know is that this has to do with concentration meditation, not insight, metta etc. So why concentration and not insight or something else ? I believe this is because the person must decieve himself, he has to not observe reality. Like in the double slid experiment or lucid dreams. He has to temporarely not see the superpower effect for it to happen. Blinding yourself from percieving the reality is the only way to make this work. If you percieve it in any way, you will not be able to make it happen. Things like superpowers working in real life like in lucid dreams would require a lot of shuting down from sense perceptions that might ruin the artificially created pacebo. Only concentration meditation can do that.

Also, Buddha spoke many times about persons that might use these powers for fame and even made rules against that. So it appears that they do not require a person to be extremely noble and advanced on the path. This might simply be something technicall, a matter of voluntarely decieving your senses using a high degree of concentration to keep yourself from percieving them.

Was this talked about before ?

PS: I only had lucid dreaming for a couple of months at age 10 thanks to a OCD compulsion that happened to be one of the best 2 ways to lucid dream. I only did astral projection a little before finding out about buddhism 5 years ago and managed to astral project 4 times, a thing that clearly happened thanks to palcebo. So do not dare call me new agey :D
Last edited by dxm_dxm on Fri Apr 01, 2016 12:13 pm, edited 3 times in total.

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Re: How superpowers actually work

Post by dxm_dxm » Fri Apr 01, 2016 12:07 pm

The description of superpowers that can be acquired and most of the miracles Buddha did do not influence the external world. But there are a few miracles like pushing the water back in the sea after a flood. I think these were myths added up because everything suggests buddha could not influence the material world outside of himself.
Kisa Gotami was the wife of a wealthy man of Savatthi. Her story is one of the more famous ones in Buddhism. After losing her only child, Kisa Gotami became desperate and asked if anyone can help her. Her sorrow was so great that many thought she had already lost her mind. An old man told her to meet Buddha. Buddha told her that before he could bring the child back to life, she should find white mustard seeds from a family where no one had died. She desperately went from house to house, but to her disappointment, she could not find a house that had not suffered the death of a family member. Finally the realization struck her that there is no house free from mortality. She returned to the Buddha, who comforted her and preached to her the truth
This and the other things we know about buddha all suggest he could not do miracles that influence the outside world. Does anybody know witch miracles are credible and can be traced to the sutta and witch could have been added up ? Was there any miracles that influenced the outside world directly in the suttas ?
Last edited by dxm_dxm on Fri Apr 01, 2016 12:26 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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The Thinker
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Re: How superpowers actually work

Post by The Thinker » Fri Apr 01, 2016 12:09 pm

Cheesus, will this help our suffering :rofl:
"Watch your heart, observe. Be the observer, be the knower, not the condition" Ajahn Sumedho volume5 - The Wheel Of Truth

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Re: How superpowers actually work

Post by The Thinker » Fri Apr 01, 2016 12:18 pm

People, without a doubt, have visions etc, I myself have had these premonitions, but they are not permanent, they pass quickly like our memories, we can't investigate these phenomena, we can only experience it.
"Watch your heart, observe. Be the observer, be the knower, not the condition" Ajahn Sumedho volume5 - The Wheel Of Truth

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Re: How superpowers actually work

Post by The Thinker » Fri Apr 01, 2016 12:40 pm

Just reviewing my first post, it was poor and I meant no insult, it was inner humour, and I regret that post.
"Watch your heart, observe. Be the observer, be the knower, not the condition" Ajahn Sumedho volume5 - The Wheel Of Truth

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Re: How superpowers actually work

Post by Zom » Fri Apr 01, 2016 12:49 pm

This and the other things we know about buddha all suggest he could not do miracles that influence the outside world. Does anybody know witch miracles are credible and can be traced to the sutta and witch could have been added up
Before making conclusions one should know what is the mind and what it is capable of. Ordinary people know nothing niether about the first nor about the second.

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Re: How superpowers actually work

Post by dxm_dxm » Fri Apr 01, 2016 2:05 pm

Even if miracles that modify the external world are possible, they would work in the same way that I described above. My topic is about how this things work from a technical point of view. Why do you think concentration meditation and not other types of meditation is required for supermundane powers ?

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Re: How superpowers actually work

Post by pilgrim » Fri Apr 01, 2016 2:27 pm

Quantum mechanics... :anjali:

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Re: How superpowers actually work

Post by The Thinker » Fri Apr 01, 2016 3:17 pm

http://www.livescience.com/33816-quantu ... ation.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
"Watch your heart, observe. Be the observer, be the knower, not the condition" Ajahn Sumedho volume5 - The Wheel Of Truth

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Re: How superpowers actually work

Post by santa100 » Fri Apr 01, 2016 10:06 pm

dxm_dxm wrote:This and the other things we know about buddha all suggest he could not do miracles that influence the outside world. Does anybody know witch miracles are credible and can be traced to the sutta and witch could have been added up ? Was there any miracles that influenced the outside world directly in the suttas ?
A common paragraph about psychic power mentioned in many suttas:
And what is the miracle of psychic power? There is the case where a monk wields manifold psychic powers. Having been one he becomes many; having been many he becomes one. He appears. He vanishes. He goes unimpeded through walls, ramparts, and mountains as if through space. He dives in and out of the earth as if it were water. He walks on water without sinking as if it were dry land. Sitting cross-legged he flies through the air like a winged bird. With his hand he touches and strokes even the sun and moon, so mighty and powerful. He exercises influence with his body even as far as the Brahma worlds.
The Buddha certainly didn't approve of monks who perform supernormal powers just to show off. But it could be used as a skillful mean to help someone practice the Dhamma better. This is the case of Ven. Moggallana upon seeing Sakka indulging in sensual pleasures and slacking off on his cultivation, performed a feat of supernormal power to create a quake that shook Sakka's entire palace. Obviously after the incident, Sakka was able to recite in full the brief lecture the Buddha taught him earlier on! (ref: MN37)
Another famous case was in MN 86 where the Buddha used His supernatural power such that Angulimala, though runnning with all his might, could not catch up with the Blessed One walking at normal pace.
About why the Buddha didn't use supernormal power in the case of Kisa Gotami, He actually did use one, and it's called the supernormal power of Instruction. Afterall, the Buddha has that special ability to see other people's capability and potential so that He could apply the most appropriate skillful mean to help them attain awakening.

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Re: How superpowers actually work

Post by samseva » Sat Apr 02, 2016 4:40 am

dxm_dxm wrote:This and the other things we know about buddha all suggest he could not do miracles that influence the outside world. Does anybody know witch miracles are credible and can be traced to the sutta and witch could have been added up ? Was there any miracles that influenced the outside world directly in the suttas ?
The Buddha did use superpowers which affected the external world many times. He had the divine ear (dibba-sota), penetration of the minds of others (ceto-pariya-ñāṇa), remembrance of former existences (pubbe-nivāsānussati) the divine eye (dibba-cakkhu) and various other magical powers (iddhi-vidhā). He was also omniscient.

The Suttas are many. There is the Aṅgulimāla Sutta:
Then the Blessed One willed a feat of psychic power such that Angulimala, though running with all his might, could not catch up with the Blessed One walking at normal pace. Then the thought occurred to Angulimala: "Isn't it amazing! Isn't it astounding! In the past I've chased & seized even a swift-running elephant, a swift-running horse, a swift-running chariot, a swift-running deer. But now, even though I'm running with all my might, I can't catch up with this contemplative walking at normal pace." So he stopped and called out to the Blessed One, "Stop, contemplative! Stop!"
Then there are many other occurrences of being invisible, going from one world system to the next, becoming manifold while he was teaching the Abhidhamma to devas, controlling water, the twin miracle where he shot flames and water simultaneously and so on and so on.

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Re: How superpowers actually work

Post by dxm_dxm » Sat Apr 02, 2016 11:55 am

And all these you guys posted do not modify the external world. This is what I was reffering to. They modify other people perception, the same way a person still alive thanks to placebo will modify others perception by been alive. But what I mean by modifying the external wold is modifying matter.

What you posted are reliable miracles that only prove my point. They are all technically possible using placebo type of miracles. I was asking if there is any reliable miracle where he did modify matter.

Also remember my main idea of this topic. The fact that concentration meditation is needed for these miracles not other type of meditation.

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Re: How superpowers actually work

Post by daverupa » Sat Apr 02, 2016 12:16 pm

dxm_dxm wrote:The fact that concentration meditation is needed for these miracles not other type of meditation.
Well, this could be a case of mythologizing past ascetics; seeing the earlier ideas about paccekabuddhas and the later ones about future bodhisattas builds on this basis.

So, I think such things are mutual feedback between ascetics having strong experiences that feel true & cultural expectations about the way the cosmos works. Notice how any culture's/religion's jhana experts seem to have such confirmatory experiences, as well as telling similar stories of great power about past jhana experts.
  • "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.

- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]

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Re: How superpowers actually work

Post by dxm_dxm » Sat Apr 02, 2016 12:26 pm

Well maybe because that is how superpowers work. As I said, there is a technical way for this to work using concentration meditation: by creating a form of artificial placebo. This could not be done with other types of meditation.

And it is mentioned many times that jhana is required for this to work. If Buddha wanted to do what you said, he would have used the more general term "meditation" not the specific one jhana. This would have achieved the same purpose without lying in any way. Be he said many times that jhana is what is needed for this to happen. Also, he made rules against using this for fame witch suggest that persons not very noble might get to have them. This also suggest jhana not insight is needed for them to happen.

And what do you have to say about miracles and idihi powers that seem to be in line with my technical explanation for miracles ? Is there any miracle from a reliable source where he modified the external world, in the sense of modifying matter ? Is that one with pushing the water back into the sea from a reliable source ?

Edit: There might be a point in saying jhana instead of meditation. There were probably many rumours at the time about people doing miracles. And saying this can be possible through jhana would make that not look too impressive and suggest the idea that such things could be done by not-so-noble persons. Therefore, lowering the value people put on such things.

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Re: How superpowers actually work

Post by samseva » Sat Apr 02, 2016 1:36 pm

dxm_dxm wrote:And all these you guys posted do not modify the external world. This is what I was reffering to. They modify other people perception, the same way a person still alive thanks to placebo will modify others perception by been alive. But what I mean by modifying the external wold is modifying matter.

What you posted are reliable miracles that only prove my point. They are all technically possible using placebo type of miracles. I was asking if there is any reliable miracle where he did modify matter.
How is stopping someone from being able to move not affecting matter? Or controlling water, which was directly seen by the fire ascetics? Flesh and water aren't considered matter?

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