MCTB The Power Models

On a rather different tangent, enlightened beings are often believed to have various kinds of powers, typically extraordinary ones, and thus we have the Power Models. The converse of this is the belief that people who have extraordinary powers might be or must be enlightened. However, the relationship between the powers and fundamental insight are slim, though not non-existent. Psychic powers come out of samatha or concentration practices, particularly the fourth samatha jhana, though they also may arise in the stages of the Arising and Passing Away, High Equanimity, and sometimes in other stages and states as well. Some people just seem to have them regardless of their concentration or insight abilities. If you didn’t read the section on the Psychic Powers in the chapter on the Samatha Jhanas, please do so now.

Note, nearly all of the states and stages where the powers arise can be attained by beings who have not yet reached the first stage of awakening, and so we can see that there is no clear connection between nearly all of the powers and awakening. The short-list of powers that are the exclusive domain of the enlightened are attaining to Fruitions, attaining Nirodha Samapatti (a deep state described in the Appendix), and being able to talk about the dharma from their own direct experience of it. There are some other things to be said about how the stages of realization make a few other things available, but this is a subtle, complex topic that I may take on at some later time.

It is true that along the way to awakening it is hard to avoid chancing into all sorts of experiences that are described in the standard lists of the powers, and it is also much easier to develop the samatha jhanas when you are in the Review phase of a path than it is if you are not enlightened. However, developing those into powers that can be attained again and again is a completely different matter and still unrelated to enlightenment except on this one front: there is something about the direct perception of the interconnection of things that does lend a certain something to utilization and development of the powers. Thus, we see some hint of why there are these models of awakening. However, as stated above, these are associations and nothing more. In summary, just because someone has powers doesn’t mean they are enlightened, and just because someone is enlightened doesn’t mean they will have any psychic powers that are not directly related to their clear perception of things.

MCTB The Tibetan Ten Bhumi Model