Sampled by ‘superior’ aliens, Neil is lent the power to wish absolutely anything to reality. It was a test to see if humans know good from evil, to deserve life as usual, or to be destroyed —– if deemed too stupid and dangerous to the rest of the universe! Here is the subtle existential truth that the future of all might depend on what an individual does or not. It also pivots upon us, who form the collective. Though there are no cosmic judges, there are still interconnected karmic implications for our deeds.
The difference between this and genie stories is that there is no limit of wishes, though it was uncertain how long the power would last. Sounds like the shakiness of devas’ (gods) limited good karma, that can go misspent! Yes, the moral element of ‘be careful what you wish for, you might get it’ rings loud throughout. Hilarity ensues with not so articulate phrasing of wishes, but the wished could just as quickly be unwished. As karma cannot be uncreated in reality, we need to constantly guard our minds!
With unenlightened habitual forces, Neil first wishes for the mundane, based upon the five desires of wealth, lust, fame (status, power), food (and sleep), but where is the satisfaction of getting unnatural ‘rewards’? He later realised the harms of running on impulsive thoughts powered by the three poisons of greed, hatred and delusion, instead of furthering their antidotes of generosity, compassion and wisdom. Being caught with the power also led to havoc enabled through him.
As Neil asked himself in the mirror, ‘I can do ANYTHING! Okay… but… what do I REALLY want?’ Such an ‘ultimate’ power is ultimately good only if one is ultimately good! If not, it is surely not so good! This is why we should not pine for psychic powers and such while not working to purge our poisons. Otherwise, they will be abused for personal amusement instead of selfless altruism, to solve world hunger, climate crisis, end war… Yes, the greater the power, the greater the responsibility.
Although no such power above exists, the Dharma is a wish-fulfilling jewel, as the Buddha’s teachings practised well fulfils all wishes through accumulation and expression of merits and wisdom. The catch is that these wishes have to be aligned with the Dharma! As powerfully helpful as they are, even all Buddhas in the universe cannot simply wish away all suffering, as we have the burden of negative karma created with the three poisons to deal with, that requires Dharma practice to resolve.
However, there is the Pure Land path as the most efficient way to overcome suffering. With practice of wholehearted mindfulness of him, Amituofo (Amitabha Buddha) can share his bountiful blessings to enable reach of his Pure Land. Its environment is so blissfully pure, that negative tendencies will have no conditions to arise, while our potential for purity grows till it bears fruit. There, he also empowers us with true supernormal powers to facilitate accumulation of merits and wisdom!