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Gautama Buddha was said to possess many superhuman powers and abilities, from his own goodness; however, due to an understanding of the workings of the skeptical mind, he reportedly responded to a request for miracles:
...I dislike, reject and despise them,
and refused to comply. He is said to have attained these through deep meditation during the time when he had renounced the world and lived as ascetic. He supposedly performed such miracles to bring the most benefit to sentient beings and he himself warned that miraculous powers should not be the reason for practising his path.
It is said that immediately after the birth of Siddhartha Gautama, who later became known as The Buddha, he stood up, took seven steps north, and fearlessly uttered:
"Supreme am I in the world
Greatest am I in the world.
Noblest am I in the world.
This is my last birth,
Never shall I be reborn"
The Golden Bridge
It is said that, during the 3rd week after The Buddha's Enlightenment, the devas were unsure about whether Siddhartha Gautama had truly attained enlightenment or not. As proof of his enlightenment, The Buddha, using only his mind, created a golden bridge in the air, and walked up and down the bridge for an entire week.
After The Buddha returned to his father's kingdom, some people were still unsure about whether Gautama Buddha was really enlightened or not. Some perceived him as the same Gautama that had abandoned his family to become an ascetic. In response, in order to clear the obscurations to their pure perception, it is said that The Buddha displayed the Yamaka-pātihāriya or the "Twin Miracle", called so because of its simultaneous production of apparently contradictory phenomena; in this case, fire and water. Upon seeing this, great devotion arose in the hearts of the King and the people.
There are different accounts of this Miracle, some being far more detailed than others. The twin miracle is a miracle wherein Gautama Buddha produced flames from the upper part of his body and streams of water from the lower part of his body, alternates this, and does so similarly between the left and right sides of his body. Six colored rays spring from every pore of his body, reaching up to the highest realms and down the lowest realms. He is said to have performed this miracle on numerous occasions to ripen the minds of those in attendance.
It is said that after this display, the Buddha took three giant steps, arriving in Tavatimsa, the abode of Thirty-three. There he preached the Abhidharma to his Mother who had been reborn there as a Deva named Santussita.
This miracle is also said to have been displayed by the Buddha's relics.
On one occasion, it is said that The Buddha flew into a Brahma's world, and skillfully explained to the Brahma that all things are transient and temporary and devoid of independent existence. After hearing The Buddha's words, the Brahma felt intense faith and decided to follow The Buddha's Dharma.
The Brahma then requested a competition of powers between the two of them. The Brahma hid himself in many places but The Buddha easily pointed out where he was located. Then The Buddha hid himself in voidness and meditation but the Brahma could not spot him. The Brahma's faith in The Buddha was increased.
Taming the Elephant
A cousin of The Buddha, the son of the Buddha's maternal Uncle, was named Devadatta. Devadatta was tormented from early in his life by jealousy against his superior cousin. After trying quite a number of dastardly schemes to no avail, one day Devadatta set loose a fierce elephant, known as Nalagiri or Dhanapala, to destroy The Buddha. One account is that as this elephant, who had been intoxicated into a crazed state by his keepers, ran through the town towards The Buddha, a frightened woman accidentally dropped her baby at the Buddha's feet. Just as the elephant, who was headed for The Buddha, was about to trample the child, The Buddha calmly reached up and touched the elephant on the forehead. The elephant became calm and quiet, then knelt down before The Buddha. Some accounts indicate that The Buddha then gave a personal Dharma sermon to this elephant.
The Clean Water
One day Gautama Buddha asked his disciple Ananda to go get him some drinking water from a well. Ananda however repeatedly told The Buddha that the well was filled with grass and chaff, and thus not drinkable. However The Buddha continuously asked Ananda, so Ananda went to the well. As Ananda walked to the well, it is said that The Buddha with his power alone expelled all the grass and chaff from the well, so the water was radiant and clean.
Walking on Water
Power over nature
R.C. Amore recounts a miracle from the first chapter of Mahavagga(Book of the Discipline, IV) where Buddha himself displayed his power over nature. When an area was inundated by a flood, he commanded the waters to stand back so that he could walk between them on dry ground.
The Day of Miracles
The first full moon of the year is celebrated in the Vajrayana tradition as the Day of Miracles, or Chotrul Duchen in Tibetan, to commemorate the final day of miraculous display by the Buddha which lasted 15 days. He performed these numerous miracles to overpower the six heretical teachers who challenged the Buddha. When the Buddha first received the challenge, he moved to another kingdom of India and he continued to avoid the teachers until he had visited all the kingdoms. Finally, he had the kings of these lands and their retinues accompany him to the final kingdom. There, at an arranged field, he displayed his miraculous powers for 15 days, it is said, to increase the devotion and merit of future disciples. Through these acts of this 15 day period, which are every year observed by the great prayer festival of the Gelugpa Monlam Chenmo, The Buddha defeated the heretical teachers and introduced all in the audience to the path of Dharma.
Types of Miracles
There are many different types of miracles and powers that Gautama Buddha is said to have possessed and exercised on many occasions. These are described in the Mahasihanada Sutta and many other suttas in the pali canon .
- Insight Knowledge
- Mind-Made Body
- Divine Seeing
- Seeing Past Lives
- Ending of Mental Fermentations
- The Long Discourses of the Buddha, A Translation of the Dīgha Níkāya by Maurice Walshe
- Schulberg, Lucille Historic India (Great Ages of Man: A History of the World's Cultures) 1968:New York Time Inc. Page 69--Stone bas relief depicting the levitation of Buddha
- Jesus' walking on the sea: an investigation of the origin of the narrative
- Maha-sihanada Sutta