[Expounded by Bodhisattva Aksayamati unless otherwise stated]
Further, Noble Śāriputra, Bodhisattvas accomplish five forms of exceptional siddhis which are also imperishable. What are the five? Divine Sight, Divine Hearing, Knowledge of other’s thoughts, Remembrance of former lives, and the Gnosis of magical means.
15th Imperishable: Divine Sight
What constitutes the Bodhisattvas’ Divine Sight?
[Distinguished both as worldly and as unworldly (lokalokottaravisista):] [As for the divine sight of all the gods, the divine sight of all nagas and all demons, the divine sight of all celestial musicians, giants, divine birds, man-horses, great serpents, men and not men, the divine sight of all disciples with their training completed or not, the divine sight of all the isolated buddhas, compared with all these the divine sight of the bodhisattvas perfecting omniscience and perfecting the exalted is better, higher, more eminent, more excellent, clearer, finer, stronger and exceptionally more brilliant.]
Through their divine vision, whatever forms manifest in materialized forms throughout limitless worlds in the ten directions, whether they be granular or delicate, superior or inferior, far or near, all those yet to be determined manifested realms are thoroughly penetrated through that penetrative ideation of their supernal sight.
All the beings of those infinite domains in the ten directions [excluding formless beings], whatever state of existence their birth manifests, the Bodhisattva clearly discerns as the birth and death (samsara) of them all; all determined by the causal reaction of their choices resulting in the fruits of those choices as shaped by the wide-diversity of their (or lack thereof) abilities.
The Bodhisattva also witnesses the splendid qualities in the Buddha-fields of the Awakened Shining Ones in limitless Dharma-realms throughout the ten directions. Now sharing in that supernal vision, his own accumulated merits over eons of time is then purified and transformed as Noble qualities bearing his own field of Buddha-gnosis. Quite an accomplishment won!
Through that wondrous sight illumined, he espies all the vast assemblies of Bodhisattvas bearing allegiance to those Dharma-Lords. In having so witnessed them, his own penetrating skillfulness born of fruitful insight, gnosis and expedient measures, all bracketed by Right Action and the Recollective Resolve of how to best conduct oneself in all circumstances, is mirrored by the Recollection of the eloquence of those good comrades in the Dharma.
That wondrous sight of theirs is untethered since it is void of all cupidity; it is freed from all habitual tendencies and soiled perspectives that devolve into malicious vices; that sight of theirs is purity itself since it is originally luminous; it is not dependent upon any aggravated fields of perception.
That sight is never dependent upon spurious moments of despoiled existence since their spirit of insight is beyond the range of normal consciousness. Their sight is never marred by impassionate pleas originating from any ignoble quarters. Their vision aids them into the penetration of the holy of holies. That superlative sight of the Bodhisattvas is not some biased knowledge, since it shines on all sentient beings in equal measure and compassion. Their sight is forever pure since it is devoid of all discursive thought patterns.
This sight of theirs is an impeccable one since it is devoid of any carnal impurities. Why? Because it emanates from the very perpetual light and sight of the Buddhas themselves since they never deviate from their sole resolve to reach omniscience. Hence, it is forever unattached and unborn since it is beyond aversion. Their sight can never be blinded since it is part and parcel of the Truth Realm (Dharmadhatu), forever bordering paths aligned with unadulterated Buddha-gnosis.
Why is all this so, Śāriputra? Because those Noble Bodhisattvas-Mahāsattvas own compassion itself. They are aware of all the amalgamated moments of existence, penetrating the very meaning of all things [namely their emptiness (sunyata)] (arthasupratividdhah), through their faultless scrutiny. They always preach the Dharma revolving around what they have [seen] and [heard]. They have forever turned-about from all evil by turning-towards that Palace of Awakening [the very heart-center of the Sugatagarbha].
Their superlative thoughts are never hindered by anything (akvacitpratihatacittah); they show generosity to the miserly, take pity on those afflicted with an immoral spirit, refuse to become violent towards those who are violently-minded, bestow vigor to the slothful, revealing methods of one-pointed meditation to those who are not concentrated in mind, bestowing the eye of insight to those afflicted with narrow-mindedness, enlightening those with feeble capabilities to comprehend the exalted Dharma of the Awakened-Ones, empowering them to penetrate the veil of all limited thought-constructions by the omniscient light of Right Understanding, thus coming to possess the unhindered supernal gnosis of the Tathagatas.
This, Śāriputra, is known as the Bodhisattvas’ imperishable supernormal knowledge of divine sight.
16th Imperishable: Divine Hearing
What constitutes the Bodhisattvas’ Divine Hearing?
[As for the divine sight of all the gods, the divine hearing of all nagas and all demons, the divine hearing of all celestial musicians, giants, divine birds, man-horses, great serpents, men and not men, the divine hearing of all disciples with their training completed or not, the divine hearing of all the isolated buddhas, compared with all these the divine hearing of the bodhisattvas perfecting omniscience and perfecting the exalted is better, higher, more eminent, more excellent, clearer, finer, stronger and exceptionally more brilliant.]
[By that divine hearing, the sounds of words in endless, limitless worlds in the ten directions, the words of gods, naga-gods, demons, celestial musicians, giants, divine birds, man-horses, great serpents, men and not men, the words of saints, the words of disciples, isolated buddhas, bodhisattvas and Complete Buddhas, all are recognized by that sense-organ of divine hearing, even the words of the inhabitants of hell, animals, the inhabitants of Yama’s world, gadflies, flies, wasps and bees are heard.]
Imagine, even the minute whispering of insects are heard through the Bodhisattvas’ marvelous hearing faculty.
Through the preternatural gnosis of divine hearing, the Bodhisattvas listen to words spoken from both the holy and profane. Upon discerning their source, they are never overtly attached to words emanating from holy places, nor do they harbor any abhorrence towards words circulating amongst the profane; in entertaining the holy they grow in amicability, when encountering the profane they extend great and undivided compassion.
Through their supernal gnosis of divine hearing they hear and clearly discern the words of all Buddhas. In having heard and absorbed them, they preserve them in happy memory by their powers of Recollection and non-forgetfulness. Through their Right Retention they never forget and also empower sentient beings to cultivate remembrance in accord with their sundry abilities. They can also clearly distinguish between the essential and non-essential moments of existence for what they truly are.
In hearing the teaching of one particular Tathagata, they never conceal nor boast the teachings of a second Tathagata; thus they grasp the words of all the Buddhas simultaneously.
Whatever the nature of the words they hear at a given phase, good, bad, or neutral, they always proclaim them at appropriate junctions through the Right Recollection of their Bodhi-mind.
Even in circumstances involving a large gathering of disciples, if they discern that the time is not ripe or appropriate for teaching, they refrain from doing so; even if they are exceptional masters in the ways of the Buddhadharma, they will not teach.
When the circumstances arrive that are conducive for teaching the Dharma exclusively for one person, they refrain from teaching the rest of the congregation if it is not warranted to do so. Even if it’s painful for all the others, they never give an explanation for their actions. If it’s justifiable they will exercise skill-in-means in even expressing something that is not true when it will prove to be beneficial to others. When they want their words to be heard, they will be heard; and if they do not wish their words to be heard they will not be heard.
If they unequivocally discern the level of Buddha-gnosis in the hearing capacity of beings in a given assembly—ears that are accustomed to hearing and astutely comprehending the Dharma—then they will teach it according to the level of that capacity. Hence, those beings who are attuned with Right Listening will hear the teachings so proclaimed, while those who are not so attuned will never hear nor comprehend the Dharma.
Hence the hearing-sphere of a Bodhisattva is a purified one. That Noble sphere develops a spirit of omniscience and is forever purified from the unwholesome mind streams of the No-self.
That supernal hearing-sphere is purified of all animated beingness, of all self- limiting life-principles, and from the domain of personality.
That sphere of the Bodhisattvas is highly proficient in the discernment of sounds, syllables and explanations as they are heard in themselves.
They teach the Dharma according to the language of beings born in the five states of existence who have different words, syllables and explanations.
That sphere of divine hearing of theirs is transformed into the divine hearing of the Tathagatas since it does not attend to any other way [such as that of the disciples or isolated buddhas].
This, Śāriputra, is known as the Bodhisattvas’ imperishable supernormal knowledge of divine hearing.
17th Imperishable: Knowledge of Others’ Thoughts
What constitutes the Bodhisattvas’ imperishable supernal knowledge of other’s thoughts? 1 Knowing the thoughts of all beings in the past; 2 Knowing their future thoughts; 3 Knowing their present thoughts.
Concerning the knowledge of past thoughts, the Bodhisattva enters into the thought-stream of sentient beings having their origins in past life cycles. This being’s past thought-stream is determined by the power of particular root causes, but though he may be connected with the stream of these causes which are roots of being good, this being may also be born in a family of low standards because of his ill-constructed practice.
This being may have pure intentions but is distinguished by an impure practice; this being may have a pure practice but exhibits traits of impure intentions, this being has pure intentions and pure practice, or has impure intentions followed by impure practices.
Thus when the Bodhisattva discerns the kinds of knowledge stemming from the behavior of all beings along with the abilities (or lack thereof) which have arisen from direct-causes in the past, he then teaches the Dharma accordingly to each one’s capabilites; this therefore is called knowing the past thoughts of others.
What then is knowing the future thoughts of others?
The cause which presently exhibits the generosity of this being will be the direct-cause of his moral standards in the future. The cause which is the present moral-conduct of this being will be the direct link with his tolerance in the future. The cause which depicts the present tolerance of this being will also be the direct cause of his vigour in the future. The cause which is the present vigour of this being will be reflected in his meditation in the future. The cause which is the present meditation of this being will be the basis of his insight in the future.
The catalyst which is the present worldly knowledge of this being will be the cause of the unworldly in the future.
In effect, this reflects the maxim, ‘As above, so Below’. What form of knowledge base one cultivates in this life will prove to be the direct-fruit (or diseased fruit) of the next life.
The cause which reflects the present limited abilities of this being will be the [Good Stimulus] of the great way for him in the future.
Thus the Bodhisattva discerns and knows the root causes of beings; he never tires of maturing sentient beings thus cultivating Right Thought which makes them worthy of receiving the Dharma.
This is called knowing the future thoughts of others.
What then constitutes knowing the present thoughts of others?
The Bodhisattva knows and is keenly aware of the true nature of thoughts that arise in the present. He discerns the nature of impassioned-thought streams, as being directly the result of impassioned thought-patterns. In so doing he calls-out impassioned thought streams from those which are without passion.
Thus naming the enraged from those without rage; the deluded from the non-deluded; the vicious from the non-violent; the attentive from the non-attentive; the focused from the non-concentrated; the one reflecting inertia from the active; the regretful and non-regretful; the peaceful from the non-peaceful.
Thus the Bodhisattva knows whatever vices are constricting the thought-stream, and having clearly discerned them all, he teaches the Dharma as a means of escape and transcendence from all vices.
And to whatever congregation he visits, first he sees the general mindstream of that congregation, and having seen it, he teaches the Dharma according to individual needs. Thus he perceives the superior or inferior abilities of those beings, and hence knows all of them as they truly are.
When one’s own thought is not obscured, another one’s thought-patterns may also follow suit. Why? [Because the Thought-Stream of that Bodhisattva knows by knowledge, knows by recollection, knows by intelligence, knows by understanding, knows by insight, knows by awakening.]
A Bodhisattva’s Thought-Stream is free from all vices and is undividedly pure since completely cutting off the vices and fetters which are impressions of past deeds; immaculate, shining, unblamable, not harsh, beyond vices, without impurities, it knows through the light of all moments of existence, and entering the mental behavior of all beings it [the bodhisattva’s stream of thought] knows the [Whole] stream of thought completely.
Since being as one with the great and Enlightened Mind Stream of the Tathagatas
Such is called the Bodhisattvas’ imperishable supernormal knowledge of knowing others’ thoughts.
18th Imperishable: Remembrance of Former Lives
What then, Śāriputra, is the Bodhisattvas’ supernormal knowledge consisting in the realization of former lives?
He remembers his former lives with the recollection that remembrance is always sustained by, or has the same essence as, the framework of all moments of existence—not through agitation—but through gnosis that is beyond all harm since it is established in peaceful meditation.
Out of that refined gnosis, he remembers his former lives consisting of [one birth, two, three, four, five, ten, twenty, thirty, forty, fifty, he remembers even a hundred births, a thousand births, a hundred thousand births, several hundred births, several thousand births, several hundred thousand births, a world-age of manifestation, a world-age of destruction, several world-ages of manifestation, several world-ages of destruction, he remembers even several world-ages of manifestation and destruction, a hundred world-ages, a thousand world-ages, a hundred thousand world-ages, several hundred world-ages, several thousand world-ages, he remembers even several hundred thousand world-ages.]
*This is a veritable catalog of births consisting of kalpa after kalpa after kalpa—quite extraordinary.
He recollects different former lives with all their forms, characteristics and locations. He remembers his own as well as other beings’ former lives from the beginning.
He recollects his own roots of goodness and the roots bearing good seeds of other beings with their foundations in the past; and having remembered his own roots of goodness he transforms them into awakening, likewise having remembered the roots of goodness of other beings he then inspires them to also produce the thought of awakening.
Recollecting the past nature of impermanence, suffering, emptiness and selflessness he feels ashamed of his former impure actions, and so he rejects and despises them. Presently, he does not do anything which ought not to be done even for the sake of his life, and so he transforms and expands the former roots of goodness for the sake of awakening. He transforms the roots of goodness in the present for the sake of all beings as a collective enterprise, he gives up transformation contrary to this [namely to be born as a disciple, an isolated buddha, a god or a man] and transforms them for the sake of the continuity of the lineage of the Buddhas, the lineage of the Dharma and the lineage of the community, and for the sake of omniscience.
As we can see, for a Bodhisattva it is the “collective” that matters, not the “individual”.
This is called the Bodhisattvas’ supernormal knowledge consisting in realizing the knowledge of the remembrance of former lives.
19th Imperishable: Magic
What then is the bodhisattvas’ supernormal knowledge consisting in the gnosis of the ways to magical powers?
It is through his cultivated attainment, use and mastery over the entire spectrum field of existence that have been won through [concentration (samadhi) consisting in] eagerness, vigour, astute thinking and compassionate consideration; then, by cultivating these foundational bases of magical power, he consciously, attains unconditioned magical power and experiences—through very little actual effort—in sundry miracles effected by magical power.
Those miracles of his realized by magical power actually mature beings extensively, having regard for all living beings. Whatever miracles of magical power which beings are to be disciplined by, he reveals them to the beings, through either form, power or magical transformation.
He displays to living beings just through that appearance of beauty and texture by which living beings are to be disciplined: the appearance of beauty and texture of a Buddha, the appearance of beauty and texture of a Bodhisattva, the appearance of beauty and texture of an isolated buddha, the appearance of beauty and texture of a disciple; the appearance of beauty and texture of a king of gods, the appearance of beauty and texture of a world-protector, the appearance of beauty and texture of a universal king, in the same way, the appearance of beauty and texture of Visnu, Skanda, the Great Lord, Brahma or Prajapati; the appearance of beauty and texture of those not being any one of these, he displays to living beings just that appearance of beauty and texture, even that of animals, and he teaches the Dharma to living beings according to their faith.
Prajapati: “lord of creatures”, or “lord of all born beings”.
He displays with full force just that power by which beings with very arrogant, aggressive, conceited, haughty and furious powers are to be disciplined, be it the power of the king of gods, the power of the lord of the world, the power of a world-protector, the power of a universal king, the power of a great athlete, a quarter of Narayana’s power, half the power of Narayana, or the [full] power of Narayana.
Narayana: referring to Lord Maha Vishnu.
Even though Meru, the king of mountains, is sixty-eight thousand yojanas high and eighty-four thousand yojanas in breadth, one with the power of a mighty Bodhisattva can toss it up with three fingers; the power of that Bodhisattva is totally unimpeded, so that he could even throw it to another world-sphere as if it were a fruit of the Amalaka.
[Having placed upon the palm of his hand this world-system of threefold thousand great thousand worlds, so great, so wide, from the element of water to beyond the border of Avici, he remains thus for a world-age or more while displaying all the right ways of behavior.]
These Bodhisattvas, having such power, teach the Dharma to beings that have very arrogant, aggressive, conceited, haughty and furious powers in order to discipline these negative furies.
[If he brings about a magical occurrence thinking: “Let the world-conflagration be a mass of water,” it remains a mass of water, if he brings about a magical occurrence thinking: “Let the mass of water be a mass of fire,” it remains a mass of fire, if he brings about a magical occurrence thinking: “Let the mass of fire be a mass of wind,” it remains a mass of wind, if he brings about a magical occurrence thinking: “Let the mass of wind be a mass of fire,” it remains a mass of fire, if he brings about a magical occurrence thinking: “Let the mass of fire be a mass of earth,” it remains a mass of earth, if he brings about a magical occurrence thinking: “Let the mass of earth be a mass of fire,” it remains a mass of fire, thus, whatever moments of existence, insignificant, average or great he brings about through magical presence, precisely these occurrences take place.]
[No one at all, except the Awakened Lord Buddha himself, is able to disturb, agitate or make disappear that magical presence of his, be it the king of gods, the creator of the world, the Evil One, the followers of the Evil One, not anyone in the world, even though in accordance with religion; no being whatsoever is able to disturb, agitate or make disappear that magical presence of the Bodhisattva.]
Consider the immense gravity of this assertion. It would be like even the God Yahweh of the Hebrews, or the malignant presence of Satan himself would be unable to deter the mystical powers of the Bodhisattvas-Mahāsattvas.
By producing power through the gnosis of the Bodhisattva’s magical presence, he teaches the Dharma to beings with the languages they are pleased and content with, doing so most importantly, by way of entering into their words.
His bases of magical power are elevated far above [those of the seers (rsi) and disciples, etc.], beyond the range of all the Evil Ones and terrible vices. Yea, they are entrances into the region of the Buddhas themselves. As Such, they never have any intention of harming any being, and their total accumulation of good merit can never be superseded by the Evil One or his nefarious accomplices.
Such then, Noble Śāriputra, is the Bodhisattvas’ imperishable supernormal knowledge consisting in special gnosis of the ways to magical power.
Furthermore, all of these are known as the Bodhisattvas’ five imperishable kinds of supernormal knowledge.
It’s interesting to have a comparative study of other mystical disciplines that share similar siddhic marvels, such as the Nātha Siddhas.
Eight supernatural faculties, viz., Animā (the power of becoming as small as an atom), Mahimā (the power of becoming big), Laghimā (the power of assuming excessive lightness at will), Garimā (the power of becoming as heavy as one likes), Prāpti (the power of obtaining everything at will), Prakāmya (the power of obtaining all objects of pleasure at will), Īstva (the power of obtaining supremacy over everything) and Vaśitva (the power of subduing, fascinating or bewitching) are well known in the school of yoga. The Nāthās seldom walked on earth, they moved in the air and would traverse hundreds of miles within the twinkle of an eye.
This active state of the Siddha, which helps the religious aspirers of the world on the one hand and evolves its own final state of parā-mukti on the other, may very well be compared to the Bodhisattvahood of the Buddhists, where there is the principle of activity in the form of universal compassion, which uplifts the suffering beings on the one hand, and, on the other hand, makes the Bodhisattva march forward through the ten stages of Bodhisattva-bhūmi towards the final goal of Buddhahood. (Obscure Religious Cults, Shashibhusan Das Gupta)
I am now awaiting a Leather Bound edition of the above source from India, snail-mail—but truly a treasure to relish for years to come.