It's said that Buddhist practice can cause the arising of certain psychic powers. This answer hints that one of those physic powers might be precognition. Have I understood that correctly? I've never read anything about this in any of the texts. I wonder if anyone else has and can provide a reference where precognition is written about.
Pa Auk Sayadaw treats this topic in Knowing and Seeing, P. 190-196.
According to the Sayadaw, follow the method given for discerning the past, making appropriate changes to see the future, including future lives. He says there are multiple methods and this is one of them.
How You Discern the Past
To discern the past, you begin by making an offering of either candles, flowers, or incense at a pagoda, or to a Buddha image. You should make a wish for the rebirth you desire, for example, to become a monk, nun, man, woman, or deva.
Afterwards, you should go and sit in meditation, develop concentration, and discern in turn internal and external mentality and materiality. This is neces- sary, because if you cannot discern external mentality and materiality, you will have great difficulty discern- ing past mentality and materiality. That is because the discernment of external mentality and materiality is similar to the discernment of past mentality and materiality.
Then you should discern the mentality and materiality that occurred at the time of making the offering at the pagoda or Buddha image, as if they were an external object. When doing this, an image of yourself at the time of offering appears. You should discern the four elements in that image.
When the image breaks into kalàpas, discern all 190 the types of materiality in the six doors, especially the fifty-four types in the heart-base. Then you will be able to discern the bhavaïga consciousnesses, and the mind- door thought-processes that that arise in-between. You should discern those mind-door thought-processes backwards and forwards, and find the defilement-round (kilesavañña) mind-door thought-process with twenty mental formations, and kamma-round (kammavañña) mind-door thought-process (manodvàra-vãthi) with thirty- four mental formations.
Let me illustrate with a practical example: the case of making an offering of candles, flowers, or incense to a Buddha image, and making a wish to be reborn to become a monk.
In this case, ignorance is to deludedly think that ‘a monk’ is an ultimate reality; craving is the desire and longing for life as a monk; and clinging is the attach- ment to life as a monk. These three, ignorance, craving, and clinging, are all found in the consciousness that makes up the round of defilements (kilesa-vañña).
If, instead of making a wish to be reborn to become a monk, you had made a wish to be reborn to become a woman, then the ignorance would be to deludedly think that ‘a woman’ is an ultimate reality; craving would be the desire and longing for life as a woman; and clinging the attachment to life as a woman.
In the examples, volitional formations (saïkhàra) are the wholesome intentions (kusala-cetanà) of the offering, and kamma is their force of kamma. Both are found in the consciousnesses that make up the kamma round of dependent-origination.
When you are thus able to discern the mentality and materiality of the defilement- and kamma-round of the recent past, you should go back to the more distant past time previous to the offering, and in the same way discern the mentality and materiality. Then go back a little further again, and repeat the process. In this way, you discern the mentality and materiality of one day ago, one week ago, one month ago, one year ago, two years ago, three years ago and so on. Eventually you will be able to discern right back to the mentality-materiality of the rebirth-linking consciousness (pañisandhi-citta) which arose at the conception of this life.
By looking for the causes of conception, you go back even further, and see either the mentality- materiality of the time near death in the previous life, or the object of the near-death impulsion-consciousness (maraõàsanna-javana-citta).
There are three possible objects for the near death impulsion:
1. Kamma; again having the thoughts that pro- duced a particular good or bad action in the past, for example, an offering.
2. Kamma sign (kamma-nimitta); for example, a pagoda, a monk, flowers, or an object offered.
3. Rebirth sign (gati-nimitta); the place where you will be reborn. For a human rebirth it is the future mother’s womb, and is usually red like a red carpet.
If you discern the mentality-materiality near death, you will also discern the object of the near death impulsion, be it kamma, kamma sign, or rebirth sign. This object appears because of the force of kamma which produced the rebirth-linking consciousness (pañisandhi-citta). When you discern this, you are able to discern also the volitional formations and kamma that produced the resultant aggre- gates of this life, and the preceding ignorance, craving, and clinging. After that, you should discern the other mental formations of that kamma- and defilement-round.
How You Discern the Future
Once the power of this insight-knowledge has been de- veloped by discerning the causes and effects through those past lives, you can, in the same way, discern the causes and effects in future lives. The future you will see, and which may still change, is the result of both past and present causes, one of which is the medita- tion you are doing. To discern the future, you begin by discerning the present materiality-mentality, and then look into the future until the time of death in this life. Then either the kamma, kamma sign, or rebirth sign will appear, because of the force of a particular kamma you performed in this life. You will then be able to discern the rebirth-linking mentality-materiality to be produced in the future life.
You must discern as many lives into the future as it takes till ignorance ceases without remainder. This happens with the attainment of the arahant path(arahatta-magga), that is, your own attainment of ara- hantship. You should then continue discerning into the future, until you see that the five aggregates, mentality- materiality, cease without remainder, that is, at the end of the arahant life, at your own Parinibbàna. Thus you will have looked into the future, and seen the complete cessation of phenomena (dhamma).
Discerning the five aggregates of the past, present, and future, and also discerning their causal relation, is what I call the fifth method. Having completed the fifth method, you can now learn what is called the first method, the one taught by the Buddha.
The first method of discerning dependent- origination (pañiccasamuppàda) goes over three lives, and in forward order. It begins with the causes in the past life, that is, ignorance and volitional formations. They cause the results in the present life: the rebirth-linking consciousness, mentality-materiality, the six sense- bases, contact, and feeling. There are then the causes in this life, craving, clinging, and becoming, which cause the results of birth, ageing, death, and all forms of suffering in the future life.
You have to look for ignorance, craving and clinging in the defilement round, see how it causes the kamma round, and how the kammic force of the kamma round in turn causes the five aggregates of conception.
That concludes my brief explanation of how to discern dependent-origination according to the fifth and first methods. There are many more details which you can learn by practising with a proper teacher.
The Buddha makes predictions about the future in the suttas and, in one case, if I recall correctly, takes action to prevent a disciple from having a bad rebirth; it is a female disciple who is a weaver or something if I am correct. If anyone knows what I am referring to, please do leave a comment.
Can Buddhists see into the future?
Here are some prophecies made by Padmasambhava :
Many people are familiar with the prophecies of Nostradamus made more than seven hundred years ago, but few people are aware of the prophecies made by Padmasambhava (also known as Guru Rinpoche), the founder of Tibetan Buddhism, more than one thousand years ago.
When asked by his disciple when is the beginning of Dharma-ending age, Guru Rinpoche replied; “When the Iron Birds(1) are flying in the sky and the Iron Horses(1) are running on the roads, we know that dharma-ending age has arrived. At this time, Tibetan Buddhism shall flourish globally. When the iron bird flies and the horses run on wheels, the Tibetan people will be scattered like ants across the world, and the Dharma will come to the land of the red men (Western Countries).
In this Dharma-ending age, “Rulers do not act like Rulers, Subjects do not act like Subjects, Fathers do no act like Fathers, Sons do not act like Sons” (2), the relationships between Fathers and Sons are more like Playmates. Women do not honor and uphold chastity; men indulge in lust and unrestrained sexual misconducts.
Note: 1) Iron Birds and Iron Horses are known now as Airplanes, Cars and Trains. 2) This reminds me of Confucius’ Analects: “...ruler be a ruler, the subject a subject, the father a father, the son a son”, with regards to maintaining a world of order. What this means is that ruler shall uphold the duty as a ruler by serving the interests of the citizens. The citizens shall behave like citizens, by being law-abiding, respect the authorities and maintain law and order. Parents should act as parents by being providers, teachers and guardians to their children. Children shall be obedient and respect their parents.
Guru Rinpoche further prophesied that in that era (or rather now), carriages do not require horses to move, they self-propel (3). Youngsters in that era step on something that shaped like a bullhorn and there are wheels underneath that allow them to skate everywhere (4). It is even stranger that people in that era do not need to leave their houses to know things that happen around the world, just by sitting in front of a mirror (5）.
Note: 3, 4, 5) Car, Skateboard, Roller Blades, TV and LCD panels, i.e. computer with internet connections.
Guru Rinpoche further said that in that era, many ordained monks are greedy and pursue wealth and fame. They travel everywhere to cheat on their followers. They plan and think of ways to get offerings and donations from followers and possess their own private wealth and properties, yet they do not engage in any Buddhist practices or chanting on their own. They indulge in music, dance and entertainments. They break precepts and vows without any remorse (6).
Note: 6) This is happening now. Bogus monks are everywhere especially in the Eastern countries. This prophecy coincides with Buddha’s prediction that “There is no disappearing of the true Dhamma until a counterfeit Dhamma arises in the world. Once a counterfeit Dhamma arises then there is a disappearing of the true Dhamma.”
When i read that The Buddha told his disciples the most important sutra of all, the Surangama Sutra, should be the first to be destroyed, i asked myself how could any teaching be destroyed at this digital age? I could print a thousands copies and bury them underground and someday someone would dig it up and revives the teachings again. Or i could upload copies of the sutra to all the available servers on the internet. How could it possibly be destroyed?
Then one day, while doing research and reading news regarding some Buddhist sect in Taiwan proclaiming that the Surangama Sutra is fake and that Buddha never taught that, do i realize what Buddha meant by "Destroy". This realization was brought to me by a renowned Buddhist master over a seminar that Sutras do not get destroyed physically, they are destroyed by being "discredited". In other words, by saying that Surangama Sutra is fake and that Buddha never taught that, nobody will ever read or bothered with that Sutra again and that is how it is "destroyed". This will eventually happen to the entire Buddhism as the predicted by The Buddha, as the Dharma ends when nobody has faith or believe in it anymore. I would also like to note that the credibility of Buddhism is in the hands of those who represent it, those who spread and teach in the name of Buddhism especially those in "high authority" and/or with many followers. That puts Buddhism at stake because its credibility is tied to these people. So The Buddha said, in the Dharma-ending age "follow only the Buddha-Dharma, and not the person who teaches it. In other words, The Buddha warned us against "Idolism". It is The Buddha's teaching and your own practices that liberate you, not any mundane person, not even any self-proclaimed or public-acknowledged certified born-again "Buddha". The original teachings of The Enlightened Ones could also be corrupted or altered by self-profiteering persons or by intellectuals. This was also the reason Guru Rinpoche concealed countless Terma teachings to prevent the destruction of the secret mantrayana. And for each of these terma treasure, the time, the identity of its revealer, the person who would receive and hold the teachings were also predicted.
With regards to mundane lives, Guru Rinpoche commented that in that era, husband and wife relationship shall be ruined and damaged by so-called “double-tongues” women, who instigate, provoke and create disharmony within families(7). Unfilial sons and daughters will chase their parents out from home. Brothers and sisters shall fight among themselves for inheritance, and violate the five precepts without remorse. Buddha’s teaching gradually faded and eventually lost. There shall be incest among the closest kin. Many people shall be addicted to gambling, drugs and alcohol. Buddhas’ statues and paintings, Buddhist ritual instruments are sold in flea markets on the streets (8). Vintage valuables passed down from generations to generations shall be sold and auctioned in international markets. Deforestation and over exploitation of nature causes ecological imbalances thereby resulting in frequent natural disasters. Thieves and robberies shall infest the entire city and paupers and beggars are seen everywhere.
Note: Can anyone tell me what is not happening now?
7) The word “double-tongues” mentioned is what is known to us now as “double-headed”. He specified women that include friends, relatives and kin. This means gossipy friends and kins deliberately giving bad advises and information to create disharmony between husbands and wives and eventually breaking up families. 8) It was mentioned that the karma for such phenomenon is the widespread of infectious diseases.
In the year of metal dragon (9), demons entered the water (10). In the year of Metal Snake(11）, demons entered the wind and thunder frost hail, wreaking havoc and creating disasters for many (12). In the year of Water Goat (13), here shall be widespread of infectious diseases (14).
Note: 9) Year 2000 is the year of Metal Dragon based on the Tibetan Calendar. 10) On August 12, 2000, the Russian Oscar II class submarine Kursk sank in the Barents Sea and exploded. 11) Year 2001 is the year of Metal Snake based on the Tibetan Calendar. 12) i) Tropical Storm Allison that devastated southeast Texas happened in June 2001. ii) The 2001 Gujarat earthquake occurred in India, killing 20,000 people and causing injuries to 166,000 others. 13) Year 2003 is the year of Water Goat based on the Tibetan Calendar. 14) The outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) happened in 2003.
These incidents might not "appear" to be catastrophic or on global scale. Similar to Chinese Calendar, the Tibetan Calender Year has a 60 years cycle. For instance, in year 2000 it was year of Metal Dragon and in the year of 2060 it should be another year of Metal Dragon. Should He could be referred to any year with that specific Element-Animal.
Alcoholics shall die of cerebrovascular diseases; gamblers shall die of stomach disorder; slander shall die of throat-related diseases; heavy smokers shall die of lungs diseases; over consumption of eggs, garlic and onion causes frequent nightmares resulting in mental disturbances and eventually related death; hunters and slaughter of animals shall die of liver and intestines related diseases, sinners and those with heavy bad karma shall die of many types of diseases that are painful and sufferings.
The year of Wood Rooster is when the strength of Buddhism is the weakest. Evil spirits and demons shall take opportunity at this time to wrench more havocs and creating more damages. In the year of Earth Ox15, there shall be wars among countries and many people shall perish.
Note: 15) 2009 is the Year of Earth Ox based on the Tibetan Calendar. However it might not necessary be this year. It could be another cycle of Earth Ox which is 60 years from now. But for sure in 2009 we have encountered frequent natural disasters of different scale.
The origin of this translated text is in Chinese. Any mistake in the translation is solely my responsibility. I am not sure if there is other more complete translation out there in English, if there is, please inform me. Anyone is free to use the content of this translation, responsibly.
Homage to Guru Rinpoche, if not because of Him i weren’t be alive today doing this translation.
Om Ah Hum Vajra Guru Padma Siddhi Hum.
On the main topic of the question "Can Buddhas see into future"
Yes,here are some incidents given in Buddhist teachings...
- One morning when lord Buddha was scanning the universe he saw that a boy is about to be murdered by a bunch of thieves but had the potential to reach dharma.So Lord Buddha left the temple early in the morning and entered the jungle in which this would happen,and waited under a tree until the boy shows up.Finally he came and saw this beautiful sage sitting down nest to a tree and talked to him without knowing that he was Lord Buddha.Lord Buddha did not said a word about his death,instead he asked the boy are you in the refuge of triple gems?.The boy said no,So lord Buddha taught the boy about triple gems and the safety that it could provide.The boy was a wise one and became a follower.Lord Buddha taught him some rhymes to remember,so he learned them and went on his way.In the moment the thieves attacked him he was still chanting it.He was killed and had a birth in the deva realm.These "Gatha" (rhymes) are still famous to this day,they are called "Chatta manavaka gatha"
- There was an infamous murderer called "Angulimaala".He killed people to take a finger as trophy (an order given by his cunning teacher to take revenge from him after being deceived by jealous students).Lord Buddha saw that unless Lord Buddha intervene he will kill his mother today(Angulimaala had the potential to be an arahant).So lord Buddha stopped him and he went on to became the very famous "Arahant Angulimaala.
So the conclusion is not only Lord Buddhas can see into the future that is a part of the daily routing.Unlike in Hollywood movies Lord Buddhas do not disturb the events of future,instead they turn the events into more positive ones.
Actually it depends on the approach.You can practise the buddhism to attain nirvana without any such psychic power.There are two ways of mediation that is 1) Vipassana Meditation 2) Samatha Meditation first one is what Lord Buddha specifically discovered and preached to attain the Nirvana (Practising this method alone will not gain such psychic powers it only helps to realized the nature of the world). The second method which is also preached by Lord Buddha with some different ways even though the similar techniques were there even before Lord Buddha started preaching(e.g: in Hidunism).Actually this second way of meditation leads to different psychic powers.
I guess that the Ṛddhi (or iddhi) article is an overview of such powers.
I suppose that "seeing the future" is what's called "Divine eye".
A quick search for "Divine eye" on accesstoinsight suggests it's used in the context of being able to see beings' kammic destination, for example,
Gradually there unfolded before his inner vision his experiences in many past births, even during many cosmic aeons; in the middle watch of the night he developed the "divine eye" by which he could see beings passing away and taking rebirth in accordance with their karma, their deeds; and in the last watch of the night he penetrated the deepest truths of existence, the most basic laws of reality, and thereby removed from his mind the subtlest veils of ignorance.
A passage like this one suggests it's not exactly about being able to see the future,
Dibba-cakkhu: clairvoyance. You gain eyes on two levels. The outer level is called the mansa-cakkhu, the eye of the flesh, which enables you to look at human beings in the world, devas in the world. The eye of discernment allows you to examine the defilements of human beings: those with coarse defilements, those with thick defilements, those with faith in the Buddha's teachings, those with none, those who have the potential to be taught, those with no potential at all. You can consider them with your internal discernment. This is called pañña-cakkhu, the eye of discernment. In this way you have eyes on two levels.
This topic might be related too: Predetermined future vs. Free will in Buddhism