One’s supernormal powers are only
as super in positive effect
as one is super in compassion and wisdom.
Some people are fascinated by supernatural powers and seek them as the goal of spiritual practice. However, the aim of practicing the Dharma isn’t to attain clairvoyance; it’s to receive [realise] enlightenment for the benefit of others. Ordinary clairvoyance can come from a variety of causes. It may be due to karma – previous lives’ actions and prayers. This clairvoyance isn’t always reliable and is lost at death. True and reliable clairvoyance is attained through meditative concentration. Here, clairvoyance comes as a by-product of meditation, just a when one buys rice, the bag comes along with it. One needn’t cultivate clairvoyance separately.
A person’s motivation determines whether or not their psychic powers are beneficial. Those who seek reputation and material offerings as a result of having psychic powers have worldly motivations. Those who are proud and boast about their clairvoyance risk using it to enhance their egos rather than subdue them. They may misuse their powers, causing suffering for themselves and others. For these reasons, an impartial loving and compassionate attitude toward all beings is essential in order to use psychic powers wisely. The Buddha forbade his disciples to brag about their attainments or to use their supernatural abilities flamboyantly. True spiritual practitioners are humble. They prefer to quietly serve others rather than to draw attention and admiration to themselves.
Having clairvoyance isn’t special. All of us had it in previous lives. But it hasn’t done us much good, for we’re still taking rebirth in cyclic existence due to the force of our afflictions and karma. Practicing the path to enlightenment, however, brings lasting benefit for others and ourselves. Therefore, let’s use the great opportunity we have in this lifetime to study and practice the Dharma. The best ‘magical power’ is a kind heart and a sense of universal responsibility caring for the welfare of all beings. These qualities are more rare and valuable than clairvoyant powers.
Taming the Mind
by Thubten Chodron
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