I think it is significant that “real” psychic abilities are always enabled by 4th jhana, which is characterized by deep equanimity. It seems to me that such abilities are uniquely tempting and so easy to get attached to or conceited about. The deep equanimity emerging from 4th jhana allows you to see such things without distortion.
You’re most welcome.
Bhante, I’m reminded here of the difference made in the suttas (?) betweens spiritual “faculties” and spiritual “powers”. Perhaps the latter is what is empowered by 4th jhana and the former is what we all possess and must develop?
I know the 5 don’t directly mention “psychic” prowess as such. Nevertheless, the development in stillness, wisdom, mindfulness and energy and even faith (as the thing that gives direction?) are perhaps key in developing any mental powers.
It’s interesting that virtue is left out of the list. It reminds me of people who are good and kind, but not overly concerned with the odd ‘white lie’, or the odd glass of wine, who nevertheless, seem to demonstrate some sort of psychic ability. And also, at the other end of the virtue (or lack of it) spectrum…those who attempt practices that are not very nice at all and may try to harm others. Here, with regard to the suttas, I’m reminded of the story of Devadatta…though perhaps in his case, he had really good virtue to begin with.
I suspect, that virtue is essential if one wants to access states that are akin to divine/higher realm existences, rather than lower realm/nasty mind states.
With metta and thanks.
Hi Sujato thanks! Yes I knew a bit about his work, including that which he did on dogs who seem to know in advance when their master is coming home. And although I do not know enough of this work to form a clear opinion of it, I did feel sorry that the Editor of Nature (which is one of the two top scientific journals) was so strongly against Sheldrake. After all people I know at Nature are quite open minded and I myself published a few articles there on science and art, saying amongst other things how contemplation of great art enhances one’s awareness (this was before I knew about meditation, which does that even more), which is not a standard scientific theme…
Anyway, on the theme of the effect on mind over matter I briefly watched part of a recent video of Ajahn Brahm in California, in which he says how by sending kindness to an ATM machine a disciple of his apparently got a 20 euro note. And of how a Thai monk apparently fixed the computers at Nasa by meditation. …
many thanks for the note of caution! I will try not to get lost in these entertaining experiments.
With much mettaa,
The suttas make no distinction between the five faculties and the five powers. It seems these are just alternative names for the same set of five. And only the stream-enterer is said to posses the five faculties/powers, whereas for everyone else it is a bit hit and miss, that is, sometimes you have them to some extent, at other times not at all.
Yes, these five are clearly important for the development of the mind, and they do include, or culminate in, the four jhānas. Anything that develops the mind along path will eventually lead psychic abilities.
And it is interesting, as you say, that virtue is not mentioned in this set. I think one of the purposes of the suttas is to present the Dhamma from many different angles. This is why, I believe, we have a total of 7 sets of mental factors that together make up the 37 bodhipakkhiya dhammas, the most comprehensive set of mental qualities that lead to awakening. It would have been enough to give the noble eightfold path, but the Buddha chose instead to illuminate the path much more broadly.
As I 've mentioned already, with the five faculties we are really in the province of the ariyas, the noble ones who have already seen the Dhamma. The reason the faculties start with confidence/faith, then, is that this is firmly planted for the ariyas, and it is really a bedrock for their practice, a bedrock that gives rise to the joy that is required for meditation to work properly. Virtue is not mentioned, I would guess, since it is automatic and already perfected by the ariyas. That is, it is included, but just not mentioned.
Thank you so much for this beautiful clarification Bhante! I didn’t realise those two terms - faculties and powers - were used synonymously.
Thanks and Metta
The NASA story is quite a trip. It is discussed—with an entirely appropriate level of scepticism—here: