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In some sutras from the Pāli Canon the Buddha speaks about supernatural powers (Eg here, psychic powers, telepathy, clearaudience, etc).

Buddhist masters and teachers nowadays don’t talk about these powers and make me think that in fact is not relevant to talk about them. I also have the thought that maybe not even the Buddha have actually spoke about supernatural powers but were added later to make the teachings more interesting.

So my question is how reliable is that the Buddha actually spoke about supernatural powers?

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Monks (Bhilkhus) are not allowed to speak about their gained higher attainments (toward non-Bhikkhus), good householder, as well as not showing special skills, by the rules they are given by the Teacher. This may release from the certain reasonings for doubts her.

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I think that for a Buddhist, the fact that something is recorded in the Pali canon is usually evidence enough that the Buddha said that -- its being in the canon is some of the only evidence that the Buddha ever said anything.

I mean, the fact that it's in the canon is usually evidence enough to assume it's true -- that is unless there's some other evidence to the contrary.

This answer references and summarises one example of what some "evidence to the contrary" might be:

  • If something only appears in one sutta
  • If it's in a sutta but not in the corresponding Agama
  • If it doesn't seem to "fit" with other things (perhaps even other things in the same sutta)

So far as I know, none of this kind of reason or doubt is applicable to whether he talked about "psychic powers". This definition of iddhi cross-references dozens of suttas, from three of the Nikayas and from the Vinaya.

In summary I don't know any evidence that he didn't speak about it; it seems to me well-documented that he did.


For completeness, two other ways in which people sometimes dispute whether he said something are:

  • "Yes he said it but he contradicted or clarified that later" -- i.e. related to there being several turnings of the wheel, or the Buddha's using skilful means

    But I doubt that this is applicable to whether he talked about psychic powers, I think that psychic powers appear in later canonical texts as well.

  • "Yes he said something like that but translators misunderstand or mistranslate it"

    I think this is quite common, people may argue for example about what "rebirth" is and what the Buddha might really meant when he talked about that -- ditto other concepts like "world" and so on.

    And that may be applicable here -- I think it may be up to you, your conscience, your teacher, a specific school of Buddhism, to decide how (and even whether) to interpret something like that -- answers to What are "Supernatural mental abilities" in relation to Buddhism? vary:

    • There is a belief among some practitioners of certain sects...

    • In my opinion, supernatural abilities are metaphors for various mental/psychological skills.

    • Of course they are real and not metaphors or vain myths.

My personal (perhaps inaccurate) summary or take-away of what he said about them is that they are not important; not required in order to be enlightened; not a proof of enlightenment; and something which monks are forbidden to show off to laypeople; that the Buddha himself had those powers and used them wisely (e.g. knowing other people's state of mind so that he'd know how and when to teach them); but perhaps not relevant, maybe a distraction or conceit or a cause of doubt, to other people, and perhaps best put aside (along with many other kinds of question which aren't helpful to the goal).

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I figure it has to do with 2 things: one is that there are only very few people in the world who possess/ed those abilities and people who are on their way to develop psychic powers are vulnerable for attacks during this process which will inevitably disrupt it; which is not recommended. another reason is that the overall skepticism when it comes to it. most people doubt it exists and it might be easier to be quiet about it to protect oneself literally and spiritually. it is an unbelievable delicate matter and shouldn't be shared unwisely.

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