The 6 'higher powers', or supernormal
knowledge's, consist of 5 mundane (lokiya) powers attainable
through the utmost perfection in mental concentration (samādhi, q.v.)
and one supermundane (lokuttara) power attainable through
penetrating insight (vipassanā), i.e. extinction of all fermentations (āsavakkhaya;
s. Āsava), in other words, realization of Arahatship or Holiness.
(1) magical powers (iddhi-vidha),
(2) divine ear (dibba-sota),
(3) penetration of the minds of others (ceto-pariya-ñāna),
remembrance of former existences (pubbe-nivāsānussati),
(5) divine eye
(6) extinction of all fermentations (āsavakkhaya).
stereotype text met with in all the 4 Sutta-collections (e.g. D.34; M.4, M.6, M.77; A.III.99;
A.V.23; S.15.9 and Pug.271, Pug.239) is as follows:
(1) "Now, O Bhikkhus, the monk enjoys the various
magical powers (iddhi-vidha), such as being one he becomes manifold, and
having become manifold he again becomes one. He appears and disappears. Without
being obstructed he passes through walls and mountains, just as if through the
air. In the earth he dives and rises up again, just as if in the water. He walks
on water without sinking, just as if on the earth. Cross-legged he floats
through the air, just like a winged bird. With his hand he touches the sun and
moon, these so mighty ones, so powerful ones. Even up to the Brahma-world he has
mastery over his body.
(2) "With the divine ear (dibba-sota) he hears
sounds both heavenly and human, far and near.
(3) "He knows the minds of other beings (parassa
ceto-pariya-ñāna), of other persons, by penetrating them with his own
mind. He knows the greedy mind as greedy and the not-greedy one as not greedy;
knows the hating mind as hating and the not-hating one as not hating; knows the
deluded mind as deluded and the not-deluded one as not deluded; knows the
shrunken mind and the distracted one, the developed mind and the undeveloped
one, the surpassable mind and the unsurpassable one, the concentrated mind and
the unconcentrated one, the freed mind and the unfreed one.
(4) "He remembers manifold former existences (pubbe-nivāsānussati),
such as one birth, two, three, four and five births .... hundred thousand
births; remembers many constructions and dissolutions of worlds: 'There I was, such
name I had .... and vanishing from there I entered into existence somewhere else
.... and vanishing from there I again reappeared here.' Thus he remembers,
always together with the marks and peculiarities, many a former existence .
(5) ''With the divine eye (dibba-cakkhu = yathā-kammūpaga-ñāna
or cutūpapāta-ñāna), the pure one, he sees beings vanishing and
reappearing, low and noble ones, beautiful and ugly ones, sees how beings are
reappearing according to their deeds (s. karma): 'These beings, indeed, followed
evil ways in bodily actions, words and thoughts, insulted the noble ones, held
evil views, and according to their evil views they acted. At the dissolution of
their body, after death, they have appeared in lower worlds, in painful states
of existence, in the world of suffering, in hell. Those other beings, however,
are endowed with good action .... have appeared in happy state of existence, in
a heavenly world.
(6) "Through the extinction of all fermentations (āsavakkhaya)
even in this very life he enters into the possession of deliverance of mind,
deliverance through wisdom, after having himself understood and realized it.''
4-6 appear frequently under the name of the 'threefold
(higher) knowledge' (te-vijjā). They are, however, not a necessary
condition for the attainment of sainthood (arahatta), i.e. of the sixth abhiññā.
Vis.M. XI-XIII gives a detailed explanation of the 5 mundane
higher powers, together with the method of attaining them.
In connection with the 4 kinds of progress (s.
abhiññā means the 'comprehension' achieved on attainment of the paths