Sacred Books of the Buddhists
Dialogues of the Buddha
The Three Wonders, And The Gods
Translated from the Pali by T.W. Rhys Davids
Originally published under the patronage of
His Majesty King Chulālankarana,
King of Siam
by The Pali Text Society, Oxford
In this Sutta we have the position taken up by the early Buddhists, and no doubt by Gotama himself, as to the practice of the wonders or miracles, in which there was then universal belief.
They were not, however, miracles in our Western sense. There was no interference by an outside power with the laws of nature. It was supposed that certain people, by reason of special (but quite natural) powers, could accomplish certain special acts beyond the power of ordinary men. These acts are eight in number: and as set forth in detail (above, (DN I: pp. 88, 89) remind us of some (not of all) the powers now attributed to mediums. The belief is not Buddhist. It is pre-Buddhistic, and common to all schools of thought in India.
As usual the Buddha is represented as not taking the trouble to doubt or dispute the fact of the existence of such powers. He simply says that he loathes the practice of them and that a greater and better wonder than any or all of them; is education in the system of self-training which culminates in Arahatship. There is no evidence of a similarly reasonable view of this question of wonders having been put forward by any Indian teacher before the Buddha.
It is very strange that Childers should have stated (Dict, P. 157) that 'Iddhī is the peculiar attribute of the Arahats.' He gives no authority for the statement. Devadatta, who was the very reverse of an Arahat, was noted for his power of Iddhī. And of the many Arahats mentioned in the books, only one or two, notably Moggallāna, were famed for this acquirement. They could have it, of course; just as they could have any craft or skill of the unconverted. But the eight powers referred to above are called the pothujjanikā-or puthujjanikā-īddhī' or āmisā-iddhī; that is, pre-  cisely not an attribute of the Arahats, or even of men in the lower stages of the Path, but of the worldly, the unconverted, a practice carried out for worldly gain.
We have the Iddhī, the majestic movement, of animals the Iddhī, the glory and majesty and potency, of a king -the Iddhī, the prosperity and splendour, of a rich young man-the Iddhī, the craft and power, of a hunter the Iddhī, in the technical sense just explained, of the unconverted wonder-worker. The Iddhī of the Arahats, as such, was the majesty and potency of their victory, of their emancipation.
In illustration of his position Gotama is represented to have told a wonderful legend-how a Bhikshu, seeking the answer to a deep problem in religion and philosophy, goes up and up, by the power of his Iddhī, from world to world, appealing to the gods. In each heaven, as he mounts ever higher, the gods confess their ignorance, and send him on to the gods above, more potent and more glorious than they. And so he comes at last to the great god of gods, the Mahā Brahmā himself, only to be taken discreetly aside, and told in confidence, so that the gods may not hear it, that he too, the Mahā Brahmā, does not know the answer!
All the details of the story are worked out with persistent humour, characteristic of such legends in the Buddhist books, in order to bring out the two lessons-in the first place how, in all such matters, to trust to the gods is to lean on a broken reed; and secondly, how perfectly useless is the power of such Iddhī, which, even at its best, can give no better help than that to one in earnest about higher things.
The problem put is of great interest; and goes to the very core of the Buddhist Welt-anschauung, of Buddhist philosophy. The world, as we know it, is within each of us.
'Verily, I declare to you, my friend, that within this very body, mortal as it is and only a fathom high, but conscious and endowed with mind, is, the world, and the waxing thereof, and the waning thereof, and the way that leads to the passing away thereof!
On this Dr. Karl, Neumann, whose illustrations of Buddhist  texts from passages in Western literature, old and new, are so happy, appropriately compares Schopenhauer's saying (W. W. V. I, 538),'One can also say that Kant's teaching leads to the view that the beginning and end of the world are not to be sought without, but within, us.'
The problem, as put by the Bhikshu to the gods, is: 'Where do the elements pass away?' The Buddha, in giving his solution, first says that that is not the right way to put the question. It ought to be: 'Where do the elements find no foothold ; where does that union of qualities that make a person (nāma and rūpa) pass away?'
The alteration is suggestive. The person should be introduced; a thinking being. We only know of the elements and their derivatives, as reflected in, constructed by, human intelligence. To the question, as thus altered, the answer is: 'They find no foothold in the mind of the Arahat, and when intellection (with special reference to the representative faculty) ceases, then they, and the person with them, cease.'
So in the Bāhiya story (Ud. I, 10) we are told:
'There, where earth, water, fire, and wind no footing find,
There are the nights not bright, nor suns resplendent,
No moon shines there, there is no darkness seen.
And then, when he, the Arahat hath, in his wisdom, seen;
From well and ill, from form and formless, is he freed!'
This is a striking, and in all probability intentional, contrast to the Upanishad passages where the same kind of language is used of the Great Soul, the corollary of the human soul. It is one of many instances (as has been pointed out by Father Dahlmann) where the same expressions, used in the Piṭakas of the Arahat, are used in the older or later priestly speculation of God.
We have another reference to the view that the Four Elements find no foothold in the Arahat at Saŋyutta I, 15 And we see what is meant by this from verse 1111 in the Sutta Nipāta: 'To him who harbours no delight in feelings that arise, either from within or without, cognition (Viññāṇa) tends to wane.' That is, of course, not that his mental activity grows less-the mental alertness of the Arahat is laid stress upon throughout the books. The picture drawn of the Arahat par excellence, the Buddha himself, is a standing example of what the early Buddhists considered a man to be in whom the Viññāṇa had waned. Whatever else it is, it is the very reverse of a man intellectually asleep, unconscious of what is said to him dull to ideas. But it is the picture of  a man to whom the Four Elements, and all that follows from them, material things, and the ways in which they affect him, have ceased to have the paramount importance they have to the thoughtless.
XI. Kevaddha Sutta
The Three Wonders, And The Gods
[bit][ati] THUS HAVE I HEARD. The Exalted One was once staying at Nālandā in the Pāvārika's mango grove. Now Kevaddha, a young householder, came where the Exalted One was, and bowed down in salutation to him, and took a seat on one side. And, so seated, he said to the Exalted One :
'This Nālandā, of ours, Sir, is influential and prosperous, full of folk, crowded with people devoted to the Exalted One. It were well if the Exalted One were to give command to some brother to perform, by power surpassing that of ordinary men, a mystic wonder. Thus would this Nālandā of ours become even so much the more devoted to the Exalted One.'
On his speaking thus the Exalted One said to him:
'But, Kevaddha, it is not thus that I am wont to give instruction to the brethren: " Come now, my brethren; perform ye a mystic wonder, by power surpassing that of ordinary men, for the lay folk clad in their garments of white!
2. And a second time Kevaddha made the same request to the Exalted One, and received a second time the same reply.
 3. And a third time Kevaddha, the young householder, addressed the Exalted One, and said:
'I would fain do no injury to the Exalted One. I only say that this Nālandā, of ours is influential and prosperous, full of folk, crowded with people devoted to the Exalted One. It were well if the Exalted One were to give command to some brother to perform, by power surpassing that of ordinary men, a mystic wonder. Thus would this Nālandā of ours become even so much the more devoted to the Exalted One.'
'There are three sorts of wonders, Kevaddha, which I, having myself understood and realised them, have made known to others. And what are the three? The mystic wonder, the wonder of manifestation, and the wonder of education
4. 'And what, Kevaddha, is the mystic wonder ?
'In this case, Kevaddha, suppose that a brother enjoys the possession, in various ways, of mystic power-from being one he becomes multiform, from being multiform he becomes one: from being visible he becomes invisible: he passes without hindrance to the further side of a wall or a battlement or a mountain, as if through air: he penetrates up and down through solid ground, as if through water: he walks on water without dividing it, as if on solid ground: he travels cross-legged through the sky, like the birds on wing: he touches and feels with the hand even the Moon and the Sun, beings of mystic power and potency though they be: he reaches, even in the body, up to the heaven of Brahmā. And some believer, of trusting heart, should behold him doing so.
5. 'Then that believer should announce the fact to an unbeliever, saying: " Wonderful, Sir, and marvellous is the mystic power and potency of that recluse. For verily I saw him indulging himself, in various ways, in mystic power: from being one becoming multiform (etc., as before, down to) reaching, even in the body, up to the heaven of Brahmā!."'
'Now what think you, Kevaddha? Might not the unbeliever so say?'
'Yes, Sir; he might.'
'Well, Kevaddha! It is because I perceive danger in the practice of mystic wonders, that I loathe, and abhor, and am ashamed thereof.
6. 'And what, Kevaddha, is the wonder of manifestation?
'Suppose, in this case, Kevaddha, that a brother can make manifest the heart and the feelings, the reasonings and the thoughts, of other beings, of other individuals, saying: " So and so is in your mind. You are thinking of such and such a matter. Thus and thus are your emotions." And some believer, of trusting heart, should see him doing so.
7. 'Then that believer should announce the fact to an unbeliever, saying: "Wonderful, Sir, and marvellous is the mystic power and potency of that recluse. For verily I saw him making manifest the heart and the feelings, the reasonings and the thoughts, of other beings, of other individuals, saying: " So and so is in your mind. You are thinking of such and such a matter. Thus and thus are your emotions."
'Then that unbeliever should say to him: "Well, Sir! there is a charm called the Jewel Charm . It is by the efficacy thereof that he performs all this."
 'Now what think you, Kevaddha? Might not the unbeliever so say?
'Yes, Sir; he might.'
'Well, Kevaddha! It is because I perceive danger in the practice' of the wonder of manifestation, that I loathe, and abhor, and am ashamed thereof.
8. 'And what, Kevaddha, is the wonder of education?
'Suppose, Kevaddha, that a brother teaches thus:
"Reason in this way, do not reason in that way. Consider thus, and not thus. Get rid of this disposition, train yourself, and remain, in that." This, Kevaddha, is what is called "The wonder of education."
'And further, Kevaddha, suppose that a Tathāgata is born into the world, etc.' [The text repeats the Sāmañña-phala Suttanta, § § 40 to 84, and § 97, that is to say:
1. The preaching of the Buddha.
2. The awakening of a hearer, and his renunciation of the world.
3. His self-training in act, word, and speech.
4. The minor details of mere morality (summarised above at P. 58) which he observes.
5. The absence of fear, confidence of heart thence arising.
6. The way in which he learns to guard the doors of his senses.
7. The constant self-possession he thus gains.
8. The power of being content with little, of simplicity of life.
9. The emancipation of the heart from the Five Hindrances-covetousness, ill-temper, sloth of body and mind, excitement and worry, and perplexity.
10. The resulting joy and peace that he gains.
11. The training in the Four Raptures.
 12. The insight arising from the knowledge of the nature of the body, and its impermanence, and of the fact that consciousness is bound up with it.
13, The realisation of the Four Truths, the destruction of the Intoxicants, and the final assurance of the emancipation of Arahatship.
The refrain throughout is: 'This, Kevaddha, is what is called the wonder of education.']
67. So these, Kevaddha, are the three wonders I have understood and realised myself, and made known to others.
 Once upon a time, Kevaddha, there occurred to a certain brother in this very company of the brethren, a doubt on the following point: " Where now do these four great elements earth, water, fire, and wind pass away, leaving no trace behind?" So that brother, Kevaddha, worked himself up into such a state of ecstasy that the way leading. to the world of the Gods became clear to his ecstatic vision.
68. Then that brother, Kevaddha, went up to the realm of the Four Great Kings; and said to the gods thereof: "Where, any friends, do the four great elements earth, water, fire, and wind cease, leaving no trace behind ?
'And when he had thus spoken the gods in the heaven of the Four Great Kings said to him: "We, brother, do not know that. But there are the Four Great Kings, more potent and more glorious than we. They will know it."
[216-219] 69-79. 'Then that brother, Kevaddha, went to the Four Great Kings, [and put the same question, and was sent on, by a similar reply, to the Thirty-three, who sent him on to their king, Sakka; who sent him on to the Yāma gods, who sent him on to their king, Suyāma; who sent him on to the Tusita gods, who sent him on to their king, Santusita; who sent him on to the Nimmāna-rati gods, who sent him on  to their king, Sunimmita; who sent him on to the Para-nimmita Vasavatti gods, who sent him on to their king, Vasavatti; who sent him on to the gods of the Brahmā world.]
 80. 'Then that brother, Kevaddha, became so absorbed by self-concentration that the way to the Brahmā-world became clear to his mind thus pacified. And he drew near to the gods of the retinue of Brahmā, and said: "Where, my friends, do the four great elements earth, water, fire, and wind cease, leaving no trace behind?"
'And when he had thus spoken the gods of the retinue of Brahmā replied: "We, brother, do not know that. But there is Brahmā, the Great Brahmā, the Supreme One, the Mighty One, the All-seeing One, the Ruler, the Lord of all, the Controller, the Creator, the Chief of all, appointing to each his place, the Ancient of days, the Father of all that are and are to be He is more potent and more glorious than we. He will know it."
Where then is that Great Brahmā now?
We, brother, know not where Brahmā is, nor why Brahmā is, nor whence. But, brother, when the signs of his coming appear, when the light ariseth, and the glory shineth, then will He be manifest. For that is the portent of the manifestation of Brahmā when the light ariseth, and the glory shineth."
 81. 'And it was not long, Kevaddha, before that Great Brahmā became manifest. And that brother drew near to him, and said: "Where, my friend, do the four great elements --earth, water, fire, and wind cease, leaving no trace behind?"'
And when he had thus spoken that Great Brahmā said to him:
"I, brother, am 'the Great Brahmā, the Supreme, the Mighty, the All-seeing, the Ruler, the  Lord of all, the Controller, the Creator, the Chief of all, appointing to each his place, the Ancient of days, the Father of all that are and are to be!"
82. 'Then that brother answered Brahmā, and said: I did not ask you, friend, as to whether you were indeed all that you now say. But I ask you where the four great elements-earth, water, fire, and wind cease, leaving no trace behind?"
83. 'Then again, Kevaddha, Brahmā gave the same reply. And that brother, yet a third time, put to Brahmā his question as before.
'Then, Kevaddha, the Great Brahmā took that brother by the arm and led him aside, and said:
"'These gods, the retinue of Brahmā, hold me, brother, to be such that there is nothing I cannot see, nothing I have not understood, nothing I have not realised. Therefore I gave no answer in their presence. I do not know, brother, where those four great elements earth, water, fire, and wind cease, leaving no trace behind. Therefore you, brother, have done wrong, have acted ill, in that, ignoring the Exalted One, you have undertaken this long search, among others, for an answer to this question. Go you now, return to the Exalted One, ask him the question, and accept the answer according as he shall make reply."
84. 'Then, Kevaddha, that Bhikkhu, as quickly as one could stretch forth his bended arm, or draw it in when stretched forth, vanished from the Brahmā world, and appeared before me. And he bowed in salutation to me, and took his seat on one side; and, so seated, he said to me: "Where is it, Sir, that these four great elements earth, water, fire, and wind cease, leaving no trace behind?"
85. 'And when he had thus spoken, Kevaddha, I answered him thus Long, long ago, brother,  sea-faring traders were wont, when they were setting sail on an ocean voyage, to take with them a land-sighting bird. And when the ship got out of sight of the shore they would let the land-sighting bird free. Such a bird would fly to the East, and to the South and to the West, and to the North, to the zenith, and to the intermediate points of the compass. And if anywhere on the horizon it caught sight of land, thither would it fly. But if no land, all around about, were visible, it would come back even to the ship. Just so, brother, do you, having sought an answer to this question, and sought it in vain, even up to the Brahmā-world, come back therefore to me.  Now the question, brother, should not be put as you have put it. Instead of asking where the four great elements, cease, leaving no trace behind, you should have asked:
Where do earth, water, fire, and wind,
And long and short, and fine and coarse,
Pure and impure, no footing find?
Where is it that both name and form
Die out, leaving no trace behind?"
'On that the answer is:
'The intellect of Arahatship, the invisible, the endless, accessible from every side
 'Where is it that earth, water, fire, and wind,
And long and short, and fine and coarse,
Pure and impure, no footing find.
Where is it that both name and form
Die out, leaving, no trace behind.
When intellection ceases they all also cease.'
Thus spake the Exalted One. And Kevaddha, the young householder, pleased at heart, rejoiced at the spoken word.
HERE ENDS THE KEVADDHA SUTTANTA.
 See for other instances above, p. 206.
 Vin. II, 183; Jāt. I, 360
 A. I, 93.
 Dhp. 175
 Above, p. 88, and Jāt. III, 454.
 A. I, 145.
 M. I, 152.
 That is, in the Piṭakas. In some passages of the fifth century A. D. it seems to be implied that, in certain cases, Iddhī was then considered to be a consequence of the Arahatta
 Samanake, perhaps 'with the representative faculty.' Compare saviññāṇake kāye (A. I, 132). Morris here has, wrongly, samaṇaka.
 Aŋguttara II, 48 - Saŋyutta I, 62.
 On Viññāṇssa nirodho, see further Ud. VIII, 9; S. III, 54-58; A. II, 45; and compare Asl. 350; A. IV, 39 and above, P. 87.
 Afterwards the site of the famous Buddhist University.
 The MSS. differ as to the spelling of this name. It is improbable that a wealthy and distinguished man, of high social position, should have been called Kevaṭṭa, 'fisherman.' However, Dr. Neumann, who has translated this Suttanta in his 'Buddhist is the Anthropologie,' pp. 62-100, has adopted this form; and it may turn out to be the better of the two.
 These are explained at length in the Saŋgārava Sutta, A. I, 168-173.
 The Gandhāra Charm is mentioned at Jāt. IV, 498, 499, as a well-known charm for the single purpose only of making oneself invisible.
 The Saŋgārava Sutta (loc. cit.) tells us how either by omens, or by interpreting exterior sounds, or by hearing the actual sound of the man's mental operations, or by knowing, in his own heart, the heart of the other.
 Identified here, by Buddhaghosa, with the Cintāmaṇī Vijjā, which, according to Jāt. III, 504, is only for following up trails. Compare Sum. 265, 267, 271. It is most probable that the Jātaka is right in both cases as to the
 From here to the end has been translated by the late Henry C.
Warren in his 'Buddhism in Translations,' pp. 3o8 foll.
 The question and answer in § 68 is repeated, in the text, in each case.
 So also above, P.31.
 Atisitvā. The Siamese edition has abhisiŋsitvā. On atisitvā see Morris in the J.P.T.S., 1886, and Fausböll at S. N. II, 366
 Nāmā ca rūpā ca; that is, the mental and the physical. Dr. Neumann puts this into nineteenth-century language by translation- 'subject and object.' And however un-Buddhistic the phrase may be-for no Buddhist would use an expression apparently implying a unity in the subject it really, if by subject be understood an ever-changing group of impermanent faculties or qualities, comes very near to the Buddhist meaning.
 Pahaŋ. Buddhaghosa takes this in the sense of tittha; that is, ghat, flight of steps or shelving beach from which to step down into water. James d'Alwis, who usually gives the view of Baṭuwan Tuḍawa, took it as = pabhaŋ, shining-which Buddhaghosa, who gives it as an alternative explanation, had rejected ('Buddhist Nirvāṇa,' P. 39). Dr. Neumann, the only European writer who has discussed the point, thinks it is put by the poet, metri causā for pajahaŋ, ' rejecting.' But an English poet, if he wanted to save a syllable, would scarcely write 'recting for rejecting.' And the Pāli poet, had he wished to give that meaning, could easily have found other means. He need have gone no further afield than adopting simply jahaŋ. That viññāṇa, when qualified by such adjectives as those here used, can be meant for the viññāna of a man who has attained to Nirvāṇa, could be supported by other passages from the Piṭakas.
[Contents ] [Preface ] [#1. Brahma-gāla Suttanta: ] [#2. Sāmañña-phala Suttanta: ] [#3. The Ambaṭṭha Suttanta: ] [#4. The Soṇadaṇḍa Suttanta: ] [#5. The Kūṭadanta Suttanta: ] [#6. The Mahāli Suttanta: ] [#7. Gāliva Suttanta: ] [#8. Kassapa-Sīhanāda Suttanta: ] [#9. The Poṭṭhapāda Suttanta: ] [#10. Subha Suttanta: ] [#11. Kevaddha Suttanta: ] [#12. Lohikka Suttanta: ] [#13. Tevigga Suttanta: ]