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The following touches on the ability to know other people's thoughts at a much grosser level than developed through meditation: How we read each other's minds.

What are the research based or scientific explanation on the working of Abhiññā / Iddhi? What kind of cues do Jhāna help pick up?

  • This is two questions, and your second question doesn't make any sense to me... – yuttadhammo Feb 20 '15 at 7:54
  • Re scientific studies, I hope this could help a bit as a starting point. And this could help you to understand vast of abilities and psychic powers. – kenorb Oct 14 '15 at 17:30
  • I've always liked this PDF for understanding and cross-referential (mostly ancient, some modern) guidance and proof on "gong-fu"/iddhi. Enjoy. – Ahmed Oct 16 '15 at 0:51
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Gathering of knowledge for attaining supernatural powers?

There has been a lot of research on this. During the '60's many universities in the US did various forms of paranormal research. Test subjects were collected and some filled with various kinds of experimental drugs to get results of different kinds. Some of these studies has been published for public viewing and some not. Also the Russians did research on this, but it is not known how far they got and nothing has ever been published. There are some rumors saying that they are still very active in this field.

There is an article on the subject here http://www.oxfordbibliographies.com/view/document/obo-9780195393521/obo-9780195393521-0112.xml

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If "based on science" means 'possible to do/follow/reproduce in real life', the answer appeared in Abhidhamma (as follows).

A person's mind arises and immediately vanishes more than trillions of times per second. And one person per one mind per time.

There are 2 types of mind by job:

  1. mind which arises for life saving (sleeping mind; know only rebirth-kamma's object) and
  2. mind which arises for knowing new object from a sense of 6 senses.

This 2 types arise switch each other whole life, from the rebirth to death. For example, while you reading this answer, these 2 types, included sleeping mind, still arise and vanish uncountable. And this sleeping mind drops human abilities, such as abhiññā.

There are 2 types of mind which knowing new object by job, too:

  1. wholesome mind (kusala)
  2. unwholesome mind (akusala)

Only unwholesome mind drops human abilities, such as abhiññā.

The trick of Abhiññā / Iddhi

The trick of jhāna is very simple and powerful: it is "how to pause sleeping mind and unwholesome mind", then "how to rising up wholesome mind continuously, development" (as much as sleeping mind/unwholesome mind can't arise, between the long period of wholesome minds arising).

Then the trick of abhiññā is very simple and powerful as well: it is "how to be professional of jhāna enough to get abhiññā which can adapting jhāna affects daily life more than the pure jhāna without abhiññā".

It's something like the professors of science/history/business/etc. They can see the future of their expertise and control it like what they want it be. But someone who never practice like them can't understand many of their speech. Similarly, the Abhiñño people can control their expert minds to do what they want, such as seeing the other minds, seeing the future, etc.

See citta-visuddhi-niddesa in path of purification.

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Please don't try to read another person's mind,( Wrong conclusions derived can lead to serious misunderstanding of, even good intentions)

Okay, I'll tell you something based on my personal research over the years (still incomplete).

manomaya iddhi

'Penetration of others' minds'

I think it is possible to read a persons mind, but i doubt if you can read it like a book. it is possible to grasp other persons intentions to a great extent.

Who can do it ..?, a person who has achieved above normal consciousness.

How ..?, We humans have certain patterns of thinking & people with higher consciousness have certain special abilities (e.g.: high observation skills, insight, etc.) and they are able to cultivate their mind,(Yeah really like cultivating an agriculture field, their mind is constantly growing at above normal rate).

It is also possible to connect with a person standing a few feet away mentally (especially teenage lovers:) , Some people have experience of suddenly turning their head in one direction (as if somebody forcibly pushed their head to the left or right),and seeing the special somebody staring at them from a distance).

some other super normal powers possible (may be :)).

the power of transformation

  • Invisibility

    I think this invisibility is not vanishing into thin air, it is more like camouflage without military clothing. It is like distracting a person's senses using the power of mind (along with or without any body movement). The experience of entering into a room and not noticing somebody who has been standing still (intentionally to scare you) may be closer to this). I think even the shadow of another person could be used effectively for distraction.

  • Prediction of future (ESP)

    I also believe it is also possible to predict future to some extent, just like the financial analysts predicting about economy.

  • Walking on water (Not on top of water)

    May be somebody with light weight body ( may be possible for somebody capable of starving or controlling their diet and intentionally reduce their body weight) having perfect control over body muscles (to avoid swaying back or forth, left or right ,Possible for somebody who achieved control over mind and body)

    If the surface of an object touching water is greater in area than the portion above,the object on top of water may not sink and combined with thrusting motion of the foot like a piston (just like walking in the swamp) it may be possible.

  • From my experience, prediction of future is based on ability to read Akashic records. Invisibility is possible (either injecting images into other mind) or increasing your vibratory field, so your body can be less dense. Walking on water is possible by producing Chi energy underneath to walk on, or based on levitation. For some studies around these topics, check this post. – kenorb Oct 14 '15 at 16:48
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I'm a secular Buddhist, I accept science as an sufficiently accurate, evolving model of reality. I see the Siddhi's as interesting tricks you can do you shape your experience, but don't shape or interact with the world as flat out magic.

So, on to mind reading. Yes, there is a scientific basis for mind reading in the sense of mirror neurons. They create a simulation of other animals and people in your own brain. It has been evolutionarily useful to know when a predator is going to try to eat you, when prey is about to run, when your primate troop is about to kick you out of the group.

These mirror neurons fire when you see someone move their arm, the same as if you had moved your own arm. I don't think we have the data to explain how it works, my arm chair explanation is that the brain just creates models for as much of the other person as seems useful.

I think that mirror neurons are also the foundation of karuna/compassion in the sense of the ability to feel other people's pain.

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There are researches and explanation on psychic abilities (ESP) and how the mind works, but they're not yet accepted by the West mainstream science.

The main contradictions between religion and science are how our reality is perceived by our senses.

The main assumptions by science about our universe are thatNatural News:

  • The universe is mechanical

    So there is no consciousness, spirit, mind and nothing other than mechanical and chemical components.

  • All matter is unconscious

    Despite some recent researches by theoretical physicist Max Tegmark which says that consciousness might be a state of matter, which he calls perceptronium (life force).

  • The total amount of matter and energy is always a constant

  • The laws of nature are fixed
  • Nature is purposeless, with no goal or direction
  • All biological inheritance is material, carried in DNA
  • There is no such thing as a "mind" other than an artifact of brain function
  • Memories are stored chemically in the brain and disappear at death
  • Unexplained phenomena such as telepathy are illusory
  • Mechanistic medicine is the only kind that really works

etc.

Based on above you really can't expect any scientific explanation on such supernormal/psychic powers, because they contradict science, despite many occurrences (Pyrokinesis on AGT, Qi Gong, Psi).

The reason for that is that a scientific theory must make testable or refutable predictions of what should happen or be seen under a given set of new, independent, observing or analysis circumstances from the particular problem or observation the theory was originally designed to explain. And you can't do that with paranormal experiences, because it's occurrence of an event or perception beyond the scope of normal scientific understanding.

Secondly the current scientific model consist only five major companies which control more than half of academic publishing, therefore to defy above assumption it's to defy the science it-self.

See also:

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