Developing the qualities of a buddha

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Part of a series of teachings on Essence of Refined Gold by the Third Dalai Lama, Gyalwa Sonam Gyatso. The text is a commentary on Songs of Experience by Lama Tsongkhapa.


  • Qualities of a buddha
  • Four fearlessnesses of a buddha
  • 10 powers of a buddha

Essence of Refined Gold 18 (download)

Questions and answers

  • Power of virtuous objects
  • How we receive blessings
  • How the mind opens to receive teachings from the Buddha

Essence of Refined Gold 18: Q&A (download)

We’ll go back and look at the four fearlessnesses that Chandrakirti talked about in his Supplement to the Middle Way and that we also find in “The Greater Discourse on the Lion’s Roar” sutra in the Pali canon. Somebody had written in and asked where it’s possible to receive a copy of that sutra. It’s found in the book Majjhima Nikaya or The Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha. It’s published by Wisdom Publications and translated by Bhikkhu Bodhi, then it’s sutra #12 in that volume, so you can read it there. It’s really quite a lovely sutra.

Review of the four fearlessnesses of the Buddha

Let’s just review the four kinds of intrepidity, or the four fearlessnesses of the Buddha. The first one was the fearlessness or the full confidence the Buddha has in proclaiming that he is enlightened with respect to all things. It’s not that he’s only enlightened with respect to a few things, and not with respect to others and so on and so forth. But he fully knows all phenomena that exist. That’s because of having purified the mind. This is because the mind has the natural ability to reflect and perceive and engage in objects; so when it’s fully purified, then there’s no hindrance to that.

The second quality, or the second fearlessness, is that the Buddha is fearless in stating that he has destroyed all the taints (or all the contaminations) from the mind. Again, it isn’t that he has just removed some and not others, but the mind is fully purified.

The third one is the Buddha is fearless in terms of discerning what the obstructions are to be eliminated. So he knows exactly what is to be cultivated on the path, what is to be abandoned, what are the obstructions that prevent us from attaining liberation, and what are the obstructions preventing us from attaining full enlightenment. He’s fearless in proclaiming those.

The fourth fearlessness of the Buddha is: He is fearless in knowing that if people practice the Dharma that he teaches, it will lead them to the end of all suffering. He has full confidence in what he’s teaching. If you happen to be looking for the four fearlessnesses in the text by the third Dalai Lama, they’re not in there. That’s because we’re going through the section on refuge, taking refuge, in the Essence of Refined Gold and I’m bringing in some other material from some other texts that aren’t listed there. That’s why you can’t find it.

Of these four fearlessnesses, the first two are related to what’s called one’s own purpose or one’s own welfare. In this case it means the Buddha’s purpose or his welfare. So in terms of the Buddha’s enlightenment, he knows that he has eliminated all taints and is fully enlightened with respect to all things. He’s confident in terms of his own realizations. Then the last two are related to the welfare of others. This is because those are two of the ways in which the Buddha benefits others. He does it by being able to state: what are the obstructions, what needs to be eliminated; and also by teaching the Dharma and knowing that if people practice what he teaches, they’ll be able to attain nirvana. Those two are related to the purpose to of others—how he benefits others. Remember we talked a little bit last time about the purpose of self and purpose of others.

Ten powers of the Tathagata

I also wanted to talk a little bit about then ten powers of the Tathagata. Tathagata is a Sanskrit word; it’s also a Pali word. It means ‟The One Thus Gone.” So it means that the Buddha has gone to the end of the path, he’s gone to the realization of the ultimate nature of all phenomena. These ten powers are found in ‟The Greater Discourse on the Lion’s Roar” sutra that’s in the Pali canon—but they are also spoken of in the Sanskrit tradition. These ten are what enabled the Buddha to roar his lion’s roar of full enlightenment, in other words, to have the qualities of a fully enlightened being. We’ll go through these ten. It’s very interesting to contemplate them. These were some of the suggestions I gave for your meditation after the last teaching, was to just think of what would it be like to have these qualities? Just in the process of imagining them, then you begin to see what kind of outstanding qualities a fully enlightened Buddha is and that gives us so much more trust and confidence in the Buddha as our spiritual guide. Trust, or confidence, is one of the causes of taking refuge. So the more we understand the qualities of the objects of refuge, the more faith and confidence we have, and the deeper our refuge becomes. Now let’s go to the ten powers of a Tathagata.

First power of the Tathagata

The Tathagata understands, as it actually is, the possible as possible and the impossible as impossible. This is a very useful skill. As it is explained according to one of the Pali commentaries, it means that the Buddha understands that it’s impossible for somebody who has right view to consider the conditioned phenomena of samsara as permanent and as pleasurable and as having a self, and it’s impossible for such a person with right view to think that way. It is also possible for somebody who lacks the right view to consider all the conditioned phenomena of samsara as permanent, as pleasurable, and as having some kind of self-nature. It’s also impossible, the Buddha knows that it’s impossible, for somebody who has right view to commit any of the five heinous actions such as killing one’s mother, one’s father, or an arhat, or shedding the blood of a buddha, or causing disharmony or schism in a sangha community. They know that that’s impossible.

The Buddha also knows that it’s impossible for suffering to be produced from good karma and for happiness to be produced from negative karma. In the Sanskrit tradition it really emphasizes this thing about karma: it says that the Buddha knows with direct unmistaken perception the appropriate and inappropriate relations between actions and their effects. So what kinds of things cause happiness? What kinds of things cause suffering? When you have happiness, what kinds of actions produce that? And when you have suffering, what kinds of actions produce that? The Buddha knows this due to direct perception, not through conceptual knowledge, not through something that he’s made up—but because he has the clairvoyant powers to see it. Then when the Buddha discusses karma and what are the results of different actions, we can trust that. We should kind of wake up when we listen to things, you know? Because lots of times you hear people say, ‟Well, the Buddha was talking about karma and he says that’s ‘bad karma’ and all the bad results that come from it because he’s just trying to scare all these people. You know? He’s talking to all these ignorant people who are nomads or farmers, so he’s just trying to scare them, but he doesn’t really mean it.” Well, I think you might be on a little shaky ground saying that. I say this because if the Buddha has these kinds of powers and abilities to see with direct perception, then I don’t think he would exaggerate or lie, you know? I mean, it doesn’t do him any good to exaggerate in any way. In fact, when he’s teaching about karma, he’s doing it for our benefit. We do have to realize that some of the statements about karma and their effects, sometimes they might seem like, “Whoa, you get a big result from a small cause.” But we should remember that if that’s the case for harmful actions, it’s also going to be the case for constructive actions too. Don’t think that you just get big results from a small action in the case of negative actions but for positive actions it doesn’t happen that way and you have to work really hard. No, it’s not the same. It’s a parallel thing—that karma is increasing.

Second power of the Tathagata

The second power of a Tathagata is that the enlightened beings understand, as it actually is, the results of actions undertaken past, future, and present, with possibilities and with causes. Only the Buddha knows fully and accurately the intricacies of karma and its results. If we were to ask, like say, ‟Why are those of us who are on this tele-teaching call today, May 8, 2007, how did we all create the karma to be here listening to this call?” Well, you really have to have some incredible clarity of mind and clairvoyant powers to be able to know that. But the Buddha, in the case of each one of us, would be able to look and know all the different past actions that led each one of us individually to be here listening to this teaching tonight. It wasn’t just one past action that enabled us to listen tonight: it was a whole multitude. First we had to get a precious human life, so that’s due to a whole bunch of different actions. Then all the actions that cause us to be living where we’re living and to have encountered each other and the Dharma and to have the time and ability and so on, to be listening to the teachings tonight. The Buddha would be able to know all of that.

Third power of the Tathagata

The third power of the Buddha is the Tathagata understands, as it actually is, the ways leading to all destinations. What this means is that the Buddha has full knowledge of all the six realms of rebirth in samsara and the path leading to that rebirth. So the path leading to that rebirth—that means the karma, the kinds of actions that we do that bring the result of those different kinds of rebirth. The Buddha also knows nirvana and the path leading to that. This really makes the Buddha a good guide because he’s able to describe very clearly what leads to rebirth in what kind of realm. So if we’re looking for rebirth in a particular realm, the Buddha can tell us exactly what kind of causes to create to receive that rebirth. He can also say what kind of causes we need to create if we aspire for nirvana or for full enlightenment.

The Buddha also knows all the incorrect paths that lead us to continual rebirth in samsara. He knows the correct paths leading to the enlightenment of the three vehicles. This is according to the Sanskrit tradition because in the Sanskrit tradition we talk about the three vehicles: the Hearer Vehicle, the Solitary Realizer Vehicle, and the Bodhisattva Vehicle. So both the hearers and the solitary realizers, they are aspiring for liberation from cyclic existence (or arhatship), whereas somebody on the Bodhisattva Vehicle wishes to attain full enlightenment. So a Buddha knows all the paths that lead to the nirvana of an arhat, the nirvana of a solitary realizer, the nirvana of a bodhisattva.

The hearer arhats, that first vehicle, they’re called ‟hearers” because they have heard the Buddha teach and they practice it. They don’t necessarily practice the bodhisattva teachings that they hear but they practice what is necessary to attain the arhatship of a hearer, and they also teach. They listen and they hear the teachings and they also give them. It could be sometimes that a hearer may give a bodhisattva teaching but they don’t necessarily practice it, so their emphasis is on hearing. So it’s called the Hearer Vehicle.

Then the Solitary Realizer Vehicle is so called because people who follow that vehicle, in the last lifetime (the lifetime in which they attained arhatship), then they are born at a historical period where a Buddha has not appeared on the earth. So they practice according to all the teachings that they learned in their previous life and attain arhatship. It’s also said that they teach sometimes by making gestures and things like that, so not always in really obvious ways.

The third vehicle, the Bodhisattva Vehicle, is so called because these beings aspire for the full enlightenment because their heart is really set on and determined to benefit all the sentient beings. They want to attain full enlightenment in order to have the full capability to be able to benefit everyone in the greatest and most effective way. So they’re called bodhisattvas and that’s the Bodhisattva Vehicle.

Now, I can just hear somebody saying, ‟Well, wait a minute, what about Vajrayana? Isn’t that a vehicle?” I mean, sometimes we hear Hinayana and Mahayana and Vajrayana. I mean, you hear this all the time in America. People say, ‟Oh yes, there are three vehicles—Hinayana, Mahayana, Vajrayana.” And then they say, ‟Oh well, these people practice Hinayana teachings; and then if you practice Pure Land or Zen you practice Mahayana teachings; and if you practice Tibetan Buddhism, you would practice Vajrayana teachings.” Actually, all of that is a very big misunderstanding. First of all, I think the term Hinayana is outdated. The term that His Holiness the Dalai Lama uses now is the Fundamental Vehicle. In other words, the teachings in the Pali tradition form the foundation for all future Buddhist practice and they are to be practiced by everybody. Then, the Mahayana is the vehicle leading to full enlightenment and it has different branches. Sometimes we can talk of two branches, the Paramitayana and the Vajrayana. Those are both subcategories of the Mahayana. The Paramitayana means the perfection vehicle and that means that you practice to attain full enlightenment by practicing the six perfections, or the six far-reaching attitudes. So that’s the regular practice of a bodhisattva. Then the Vajrayana is—you attain full enlightenment by doing the practices of the four stages of tantra.

Now here you see that the Hinayana (this should actually be called the Fundamental Vehicle) are all the foundation teachings which everybody must practice. You may not have the particular aspiration for nirvana for your own benefit—but the other teachings you practice. Even if you are practicing Mahayana, you also have to do the practices of the Fundamental Vehicle. So it isn’t like Mahayana is a whole different set of practices that are totally unrelated—no! If you look, and you know the Dharma well, you see that so many of what are called Mahayana teachings are very firmly rooted in the Theravada practice and in the practices as spoken of in the Pali canon. If you look in the Chinese canon and the Tibetan canon, which are both said to be Mahayana countries, they both have a lot of sutras within their canons that are from the Fundamental Vehicle. It’s not a whole different set. The Chinese and Tibetan canons have a lot of Mahayana sutras that you don’t find in the Pali canon, but they have a lot of the Pali sutras in the Chinese canon and the Tibetan canon.

To practice Vajrayana, first of all, Vajrayana is a sub-branch of Mahayana. It’s not a different tradition, it’s a sub-branch of Mahayana. One of the sub-branches is practicing the six perfections, and another sub-branch is practicing the tantric teachings. If you’re going to do the tantric teachings then you have to do the practices of (1) the Fundamental Vehicle and (2) you also have to do the practices of the six far-reaching attitudes that are part of the perfection vehicle. On that basis, then you take Vajrayana initiation and do that practice. I really emphasize this because, so often in Buddhism in America, people talk about Vajrayana as if it’s something totally unrelated, you know? It’s like, ‟Oh, they don’t do any Fundamental Vehicle. They don’t do any Mahayana practice. They just do tantra.” That’s totally wrong. If you practice in Tibetan Buddhism, you find the teachings in the Fundamental Vehicle, you find the teaching of the general Mahayana in the perfection vehicle, and you find the teachings of the Vajrayana. All three of those are practiced in Tibetan Buddhism. I think that’s really important for people to understand because there is so much rampant misunderstanding. Sometimes even when I go to conferences of Buddhist teachers and things, and people talk like that, it’s like, ‟Huh?” You know? We don’t talk like that. Okay. So, I got off on a tangent there but hopefully that’s useful for you to clear up some misunderstanding.

Okay, so that was the third one, that the Tathagata understands, as it actually is, the ways leading to all destinations—so leading to rebirth in the six realms and the paths leading to nirvana (the nirvana of a hearer, of a solitary realizer, and of a bodhisattva practitioner).

Fourth power of the Tathagata

The fourth one is the Tathagata understands, as it actually is, the world with its many and different elements. In the Pali canon there is a sutta called ‟The Sutta of the Many Kinds of Elements.” Here the Buddha talks about the 18 elements and then the six elements of earth, water, fire, air, space, and consciousness. Nagarjuna also talks about those. He talks about the external and internal sense bases and the twelve links of dependent origination and so on. In the Sanskrit tradition they talk about the 22 powers or faculties, and these contain all those different elements. I believe this list of 22 is also found in the Pali tradition.

These are different categories of phenomena. If you’re scratching your head and going, ‟What are the 18 elements and what are the six elements, and what are the external and internal sense bases and all of these things?” Well, meditating on them just happens to be one of the antidotes to pride. Why? Because there’s so much to understand, and these things are not simple at all, okay? So you meditate on them when you want to get rid of your pride, because they leave you scratching your head!

Fifth power of the Tathagata

Then the fifth power of the Tathagata is that a Tathagata understands, as it actually is, how beings have different inclinations or aspirations. If we look at all the various sentient beings, people have so many different inclinations and aspirations, don’t they? Yes? Just at a common level, some people like noodles and some people like rice. So there are different inclinations there. But on a spiritual level as well, some people feel more comfortable believing in a creator deity, other people do not. Some people aspire for liberation, others for enlightenment. Some people aspire to be born in heaven, some people aspire for a good rebirth. There are so many different kinds of inclinations.

Some people aspire or are inclined towards the Hearer Vehicle, some towards the Solitary Realizer Vehicle, some towards the Bodhisattva Vehicle. By knowing all these different inclinations and aspirations of sentient beings, then a Buddha is able to guide us better. He knows that sometimes we’re not so clear on what our own dispositions are, what our own interests are. But the Buddha is able to know that through his mental powers and therefore he uses that understanding in order to teach us what is most effective for our present state of mind. That’s why we see that the Buddha gave such a wide variety of teachings. He didn’t just give one teaching every time he spoke. There are so many different kinds of teachings and he did that according to the audience and the disposition of the people in the audience.

Sixth power of the Tathagata

The sixth power of the Buddha is the Tathagata understands, as it actually is, the dispositions of the faculties of other beings, of other persons. In the Pali tradition they say that this refers to the Buddha’s knowledge of either the development or the lack of development of various sentient beings’ faculties of faith, energy, mindfulness, concentration, and wisdom. Those five are in the 37 harmonies with enlightenment. They’re the five faculties; and they are also called the five powers. The Buddha is able to tell to what extent everybody has developed those five and therefore teach them accordingly—so not teach something that’s too difficult for somebody or too simple for somebody, whatever.

The Sanskrit tradition describes this one as the Buddha’s knowledge of the various kinds of dispositions of sentient beings. Here you might wonder, “Well, what’s the difference between an inclination and aspiration on the one hand and a disposition on the other.” Some people might have a certain inclination or aspiration but they may lack the disposition or the nature to be able to benefit from it or to attain it. Knowing these different faculties, these different dispositions—the Tibetan word for disposition is kham or rig, and that’s the same kind of Tibetan term that they use when they talk about the Buddha nature. Some traditions talk about some people have the nature to attain a hearer arhatship; or some people have the nature to have a solitary realizer arhatship or a bodhisattva enlightenment—something like that.

What we’re getting at here is that the Buddha understands us better than we understand ourselves, which is a really good thing because we don’t understand ourselves so well, do we? It’s because the Buddha understands us so well that he’s able to teach accordingly and to know what we need to hear at what particular time in order to guide us most effectively.

Seventh power of the Tathagata

Then the seventh faculty or the seventh of the ten powers of the Buddha is the Tathagata understands, as it actually is, the defilement, the cleansing, and the emergence in regard to the jhanas, liberations, concentrations, and meditative absorptions. Okay, so the Buddha understands the defilement, cleansing, and emergence of these different kinds of meditative states. The defilement means something that’s causing deterioration; the cleansing is what you do to attain excellence; and the emergence is talking about both attaining and rising out of these different meditative absorptions.

The Buddha talked about knowing all this in relationship to the jhanas. The jhanas are the four states of concentration in the form realm. They’re just called first jhana, second jhana, third jhana, fourth jhana. Jhana is the Pali word, and the Sanskrit word is dhyāna. So when you hear about the five Dhyana Buddhas, that’s where that word comes from. In Chinese that word is translated as ch’an and in Japanese it is zen. It’s referring to states of concentration. Yes? So jhana, dhyana, ch’an, and zen are all referring to quite particularly these four states of concentration, but in general to other states of meditation as well. When we are gaining single-pointed concentration, then you practice, and there’s a whole description of levels that you go through. When you are in the first state of deep concentration, that’s called the first jhana; then you progress through the first, second, third, and fourth.

Next was the liberations. They’re called the eight liberations, and these are different states of meditative absorption. I won’t list them out because you might get a little bit confused but we’ll say that there are eight other states of liberation. If you are interested let me know and I can go through them.

The Buddha also knows all about the nine meditative absorptions. These are talking about the four jhanas and the four formless absorptions and then the cessation of discrimination and feeling, which is another kind of meditative absorption for the non-returners.

By knowing all of this the Buddha knows what are the causes and conditions for being able to attain all these various states of meditative absorption, and he also knows which states of meditative absorption are conducive for gaining what kind of realization. This is because some of these meditative absorptions are so blissful that you just get totally spaced out, and you never develop insight. Buddha also knows which ones you can get so blissed out on that you actually wind up staying in samsara longer than you need to. The Buddha has actualized all these different states of meditative absorption himself, so he can speak on how to develop them from his own experience. (It isn’t like somebody who made something up and is now marketing it in the local ‟New Age” newspaper.) So Buddha knows who gets attached to the bliss of meditative absorption and he can counsel them, so that he reduces their attachment and keeps them on the path to liberation. He urges them to continue practicing the path of wisdom and compassion. He also knows these various states of absorption and how to attain them and so he can teach all of us, whose minds are all over the place. I don’t know about yours but my mind is completely all over the place! But the Buddha knows all the methods to teach us how to develop some single-pointedness.

Eighth power of the Tathagata

Then the eighth power of the Buddha, this one I’ll read again from “The Greater Discourse on the Lion’s Roar.” It’s a little bit longer of a paragraph but it’s quite nice. It gives you some idea of how the original sutras speak. So the eighth one says,

The Tathagata recollects his manifold past lives; that is, one birth, two births, three births, four births, five births, ten births, 20 births, 30 births, 40 births, 50 births, 100 births, 1000 births, a hundred thousand births, many eons of world contraction, many eons of world expansion, many eons of world contraction and expansion.

In all of these rebirths and in all of these eons, then he knows,

There I was named so-and-so of such a clan, with such an appearance, such was my nutriment [what kind of food he ate], such was my experience of pleasure and pain, such my life-term [in other words, life span], my passing away from there. I reappeared elsewhere and there, too, I was so named of such a clan, with such an appearance, such was my nutriment, such my experience of pleasure and pain, such my life-term, and passing away from there, I reappeared here.

Thus with their aspects and particulars he recollects his manifold past lives.

So just think about that for a minute, yes? Knowing all of your past lives as clearly as we see something in the palm of our hand—and knowing what was your name, what kind of food you ate, what your life span was, what experiences of happiness you had, what experiences of suffering you had, what you looked like, what you did, everything. Knowing all of that from one’s own previous life, this is attained through very deep states of samadhi [concentration]. I think it must require a lot of courage, a very particular strength of mind to be able to remember our previous lives. Not just the strength of the samadhi to remember them, to perceive them, but a strength of mind to bear what we see we have been and done in a previous life.

I say this because we all like to think, ‟Oh, I was Cleopatra.” Like you go to these kinds of rebirthing things where people remember their previous rebirths and everybody remembers being Cleopatra, being waited on. Nobody remembers being the people that Cleopatra killed, or had killed, or anything like that. Nobody remembers being Cleopatra’s servant and emptying her latrine. But if you think about it, we’ve been everything, done everything in cyclic existence. If we remember our previous rebirths, we might remember ourselves doing really horrible, cruel, disgusting things. So I think it takes a certain amount of internal mental strength and probably compassion for ourselves and realization of emptiness so that we don’t grab onto some inherently existent ‟I” as the one who did all of those things, you know? If you really want to perceive your previous rebirths, you better be sure that you’re prepared to do that, because it’s not all Cleopatra!

The fact that the Buddha knows this gives him the ability to know who he has what kind of relationships with from a previous life. We always talk about ‟karmic connections.” In Chinese culture there’s a special word for ‟connection,” when you have a connection with somebody. We have different kinds of connections with different kinds of people and these are not something that are permanent and fast and solid. They are conditioned phenomena, and they’re conditioned by the kinds of actions that we did in the past. So we have who our family members are, what kind of Dharma teachers we feel attracted to, what kind of groups we belong to, and what our friendships are. These kinds of karmic connections are conditioned phenomena. We can see even in this life that we’re doing things that are conditioning what our future relationships are to be. And our present relationships are conditioned by actions and relationships in a previous life. So by knowing that, the Buddha knows, or any particular Buddha may know, in what way to relate to different sentient beings—and what way they can relate to them, in what kind of manifestation they can appear to any particular sentient being to best benefit that being. This ability to recollect one’s previous rebirths for such a long time, this is one of the five supernormal powers that they often talk about. When they talk about the three higher knowledges that the Buddha developed on the night of his enlightenment (this is in the Pali canon—they speak of the three higher knowledges), this is the first one. So when Buddha sat down under the Bodhi tree, as the story goes, this is the first realization that he had, was of all of his previous lives.

Ninth power of the Tathagata

Then the ninth power is also one of the five supernormal powers, and this is the second higher knowledge that the Buddha gained while he was meditating the evening before he attained enlightenment. So this is the power of the divine eye. I should say, ‟divine eye” doesn’t mean like a physical eye at all, it means mental clairvoyance. I’ll read the whole passage here from the sutra, how they describe this power of the Buddha. It says,

With the divine eye, which is purified and surpasses the human, the Tathagata sees beings passing away and reappearing, inferior and superior, fair and ugly, fortunate and unfortunate. He understands how beings pass on according to their actions thus: these worthy beings who were ill-conducted in body, speech, and mind, revilers of noble ones, wrong in their views, giving effect to wrong view in their actions, on the dissolution of the body, after death, they have appeared in a state of depravation in a bad destination, in perdition, even in hell; but these worthy beings who were well-conducted in body, speech, and mind, not revilers of noble ones, right in their views, giving effect to right view in their actions, on the dissolution of the body after death, they have appeared in a good destination, even in the heavenly world. Thus, with the divine eye which is purified and surpasses the human, he saw beings passing away and reappearing, inferior and superior, fair and ugly, fortunate and unfortunate, and he understands how beings pass on according to their actions or karma.

Here, what this means is that through the purity of his mind, the Buddha is able to see accurately—through mental consciousness, not through eye consciousness—how the different beings, how we die, how we are reborn according to our karma. This full knowledge of karma, how beings die, how they are reborn. You know? So being able to look at any one of us and know what we were in a previous life, what causes we created, how we died, how we were reborn as who we are now, how we are going to die and be reborn. Knowing all of this gives the Buddha the ability to manifest in whatever form best suits us because he knows what our karma is, how we die, how we’re reborn, and so having all of these abilities to manifest many bodies, then the Buddha can manifest in whatever form is most suitable for us. Due to this divine eye ability he knows what to manifest as.

Tenth power of the Tathagata

The tenth power of the Buddha—again reading from the sutra, it says,

By realizing for himself with direct knowledge, the Tathagata here and now enters upon and abides in the deliverance of mind and deliverance by wisdom that are taintless with the destruction of taints.

It’s said that for beings who are not buddhas, like the higher-level bodhisattvas or those on the hearer and solitary realizer path, or even people who have developed different levels of meditative absorption, that they can only know clairvoyantly the level of realization on somebody who is of their same level or of a lower level. They can’t psychically know the level of realization of somebody who has a greater level of realization. Only a fully enlightened Buddha is capable of knowing the levels and attainments of each and every sentient being. So he’s not fooled by all of our pretentiousness, and how we like to pretend that we’re further along the path than we are. He’s not fooled when we get into a low self-esteem, self-degradation trip, either. But he knows exactly where we’re at, what we’ve understood, what we haven’t understood. This too gives the Buddha a special ability to know how to guide us on the path.

Those are the ten powers of the Tathagata. Again, when you reflect on them, just think about what it would be like to have these abilities; and what it must be like to be a Buddha with this clarified mind and be able to extend such incredible benefit to others, principally by leading us along the path to enlightenment. That’s for your meditation after the teaching.

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