The Buddhist Catechism, by Henry S. Olcott , at sacred-texts.com
325. Q. Has Buddhism any right to be considered a scientific religion, or may it be classified as a "revealed" one?
A. Most emphatically it is not a revealed religion. The Buddha did not so preach, nor is it so understood. On the contrary, he gave it out as the statement of eternal truths, which his predecessors had taught like himself.
326. Q. Repeat again the name of the Sutta, in which the Buddha tells us not to believe in an alleged revelation without testing it by one's reason and experience?
A. The Kâlâma Sutta, of the Anguthara Nikâya.
327. Q. Do Buddhists accept the theory that everything has been formed out of nothing by a Creator?
A. The Buddha taught that two things are causeless, viz., 'Akâsha' and 'Nirvâṇa': everything has come out of Akâsha, in obedience to a law of motion inherent in it, and, after a certain existence, passes away.
[paragraph continues] Nothing ever came out of nothing. We do not believe in miracles; hence we deny creation, and cannot conceive of a creation of something out of nothing. Nothing organic is eternal. Everything is in a state of constant flux, and undergoing change and reformation, keeping up the continuity according to the law of evolution.
328. Q. Is Buddhism opposed to education, and to the study of science?
A. Quite the contrary: in the Sigâlowâda Sutta, in a discourse preached by the Buddha, He specified as one of the duties of a teacher that he should give his pupils "instruction in science and lore." The Buddha's higher teachings are for the enlightened, the wise, and the thoughtful.
329. Q. Can you show any further endorsement of Buddhism by science?
A. The Buddha's doctrine teaches that there were many progenitors of the human race; also that there is a principle of differentiation among men; certain individuals have a greater capacity for the rapid attainment of Wisdom and arrival at Nirvâṇa than others.
330. Q. Any other?
A. Buddhism supports the teaching of the indestructibility of force.
331. Q. Should Buddhism be called a chart of science or a code of morals?
A. Properly speaking, a pure moral philosophy, a system of ethics and transcendental metaphysics. It is so eminently practical that the Buddha kept silent when Malunka asked about the origin of things.
332. Q. Why did he do that?
A. Because he thought that our chief aim should be to see things as they exist around us and try to make them better, not to waste time in intellectual speculations.
333. Q. What do Buddhists say is the reason for the occasional birth of very good and wise children of bad parents, and that of very bad ones of good parents?
A. It is because of the respective Karmas of children and parents; each may have deserved that such unusual relationships should be formed in the present birth.
334. Q. Is anything said about the body of the Buddha giving out a bright light?
A. Yes, this was a divine radiance sent forth from within by the power of his holiness.
335. Q. What is it called in Pâlî?
A. Buddharansi, the Buddha rays.
336. Q. How many colors could be seen in it?
A. Six, linked in pairs.
337. Q. Their names?
A. Nila, Pita, Lohita, Avadata, Mangasta, Prabhasvara.
335, Q. Did other persons emit such shining light?
A. Yes, all Arhats did, and in fact the light shines stronger and brighter in proportion to the spiritual development of the person.
339. Q. Where do we see these colors represented?
A. In all vihâras where there are painted images of the Buddha. They are also seen in the stripes of the Buddhist Flag, first made in Ceylon but now widely adopted throughout Buddhist countries.
340. Q. In which discourse does the Buddha himself speak of this shining about him?
A. In the Mahâ-Parinibbana Sutta. Ānanda, his
favorite disciple, noticing the great splendor which came from his Master's body, the Buddha said that on two occasions this extraordinary shining occurs, (a) just after a Tathâgatâ gains the supreme insight, and (b) on the night when he passes finally away.
341. Q. Where do we read of this great brightness being emitted front the body of another Buddha?
A. In the story of Sumedha and Dipânkara Buddha, found in the Nidânakathâ of the Jâtaka book, or story of the reincarnations of the Bodhisattva Siddhârtha Gautama.
342. Q. How is it described?
A. As a halo of a fathom's depth.
343. Q. What do the Hindus call it?
A. Tejas; its extended radiance they call Prâkâsha.
344. Q. What do Europeans call it now?
A. The Human Aura.
345. Q. What great scientist has proved the existence of this aura by carefully conducted experiments?
A. The Baron Von Reichenbach. His experiments are fully described in his Researches—published
in 1844-5. Dr. Baraduc, of Paris, has, quite recently, photographed this light.
346. Q. Is this bright aura a miracle or a natural phenomenon?
A. Natural. It has been proved that not only all human beings, but animals, trees, plants and even stones, have it.
347. Q. What peculiarity has it in the case of a Buddha or an Arhat?
A. It is immensely brighter and more extended than in cases of other beings and objects. It is the evidence of their superior development in the power of Iddhî. The light has been seen coming from dâgobas in Ceylon where relics of the Buddha are said to be enshrined.
348. Q. Do people of other religions besides Buddhism and Hindûism also believe in this light?
A. Yes, in all pictures of Christian artists this light is represented as shining about the bodies of their holy personages. The same belief is found to have existed in other religions.
349. Q. What historical incident supports the modern theory of hypnotic suggestion?
A. That of Chullapanthaka, as told in the Pâlî Commentary on the Dhammapada, etc.
350. Q. Give me the facts.
A. He was a bhikkhu who became an Arhat. On that very day the Buddha sent a messenger to call him. When the man reached the Vihara, he saw 300 bhikkhus in one group, each exactly like the others in every respect. On his asking which was Chullapanthaka, every one of the 300 figures replied: "I am Chullapanthaka."
351. Q. What did the messenger do?
A. In his confusion he returned and reported to the Buddha.
352. Q. What did the Buddha then tell him?
A. To return to the vihâra and, if the same thing happened, to catch by the arm the first figure who said he was Chullapanthaka and lead him to him. The Buddha knew that the new Arhat would make this display of his acquired power to impress illusionary pictures of himself upon the messenger.
353. Q. What is this power of illusion called in Pâlî?
A. Manomaya Iddhî.
354. Q. Were the illusionary copies of the Arhat's person material? Were they composed of substance and could they have been felt and handled by the messenger?
A. No; they were pictures impressed by his thought and trained will power upon the messenger's mind.
355. Q. To what would you compare them?
A. To a man's reflection in a mirror, being exactly like him yet without solidity.
356. Q. To make such an illusion on the messenger's mind, what was necessary?
A. That Chullapanthaka should clearly conceive in his own mind his exact appearance, and then impress that, with as many duplicates or repetitions as he chose, upon the sensitive brain of the messenger.
357. Q. What is this process now called?
A. Hypnotic suggestion.
358. Q. Could any third party have also seen these illusionary figures?
A. That would depend on the will of the Arhat, or hypnotiser.
359. Q. What do you mean?
A. Supposing that fifty or five hundred persons
were there, instead of one, the Arhat could will that the illusion should be seen by all alike; or, if he chose, he could will that the messenger should be the only one to see them.
360. Q. Is this branch of science well known in our day?
A. Very well known; it is familiar to all students of mesmerism and hypnotism.
361. Q. In what does our modern scientific belief support the theory of Karma, as taught in Buddhism?
A. Modern scientists teach that every generation of men is the heir to the consequences of the virtues and vices of the preceding generation, not in the mass, as such, but in every individual case. Every one of us, according to Buddhism, gets a birth which represents the causes generated by him in an antecedent birth. This is the idea of Karma.
362. Q. What says the Vâsettha Sutta about the causation in Nature?
A. It says: "The world exists by cause; all things exist by cause; all beings are bound by cause."
363. Q. Does Buddhism teach the unchangeableness of the visible universe; our earth, the sun, the moon,
the stars, the mineral, vegetable, animal and, human kingdoms?
A. No. It teaches that all are constantly changing, and all must disappear in course of time.
364. Q. Never to reappear?
A. Not so: the principle of evolution, guided by Karma, individual and collective, will evolve another universe with its contents, as our universe was evolved out of the Âkâsha.
365. Q. Does Buddhism admit that man has in his nature any latent powers for the production of phenomena commonly called 'miracles'?
A. Yes; but they are natural, not supernatural. They may be developed by a certain system which is laid down in our sacred books; the Visuddhi Mârga for instance.
866. Q. What is this branch of science called?
A. The Pâlî name is Iddhi-vidhanânâ.
367. Q. How many kinds are there?
A. Two: "Bahira," i.e., one in which the phenomena-working power may be temporarily obtained by ascetic practices and also by resort to drugs, the recitation of mantras (charms), or other
extraneous aids; and "Sasaniks," that in which the power in question is acquired by interior self-development, and covers all and more than the phenomena of Laukika Iddhî.
368. Q. What class of men enjoy these powers?
A. They gradually develop in one who pursues a certain course of ascetic practice called Dhyâna.
369. Q. Can this Iddhî power be lost? *
A. The Bahira can be lost, but the Sasanika never, when once acquired. Lokottara knowledge once obtained is never lost, and it is by this knowledge only that the absolute condition of Nirvâṇa is known by the Arhat. And this knowledge can be got by following the noble life of the Eightfold Path.
370. Q. Had Buddha the Lokottara Iddhî?
A. Yes, in perfection.
371. Q. And his disciples also had it?
A. Yes, some, but not all equally; the capacity for acquiring these occult powers varies with the individual.
372. Q. Give examples.
A. Of all the disciples of the Buddha, Mogallâna was possessed of the most extraordinary powers for-making phenomena, while Ânanda could develop none during the twenty-five years in which he was the personal and intimate disciple of the Buddha himself. later he did, as the Buddha had foretold he would.
373. Q. Does a man acquire these powers suddenly or gradually?
A. Normally, they gradually develop themselves. as the disciple progressively gains control over his lower nature in a series of girths. *
374. Q. Does Buddhism pretend that the miracle of raising those who are dead is possible?
A. No. The Buddha teaches the contrary, in that beautiful story of Kisâ Gotamî and the mustard seed. But when a person only seems to be dead but is not actually so, resuscitation is possible.
375. Q. Give me an idea of the successive stages, of the Lokottara development in Iddhî.
A. There are six degrees attainable by Arhats;
what is higher than them is to be reached only by a Buddha.
376. Q. Describe the six stages or degrees.
A. We may divide them into two groups, of three each. The first to include (1) Progressive retrospection, viz., a gradually acquired power to look backward in time towards the origin of things;.
(2) Progressive foresight, or power of prophecy;.
(3) Gradual extinction of desires and attachments to material things.
377. Q. What would the second group include?
A. The same faculties, but illimitably developed. Thus, the full Arhat possesses perfect retrospection, perfect foresight, and has absolutely extinguished the last trace of desire and selfish attractions.
378. Q. What are the four means for obtaining Iddhî?
A. The will, its exertion, mental development, and discrimination between right and wrong.
379. Q. Our scriptures relate hundreds of instances of phenomena produced by Arhats: what did. you say was the name of this faculty or power?
A. Iddhî vidha. One possessing this can, by
manipulating the forces of Nature, produce any wonderful phenomenon, i.e., make any scientific experiment he chooses.
380. Q. Did the Buddha encourage displays of phenomena?
A. No; he expressly discouraged them as tending to create confusion in the minds of those who were not acquainted with the principles involved. They also tempt their possessors to show them merely to gratify idle curiosity and their own vanity. Moreover, similar phenomena can be shown by magicians and sorcerers learned in the Laukika, or the baser form of Iddhî science. All false pretensions to supernatural attainment by monks are among the unpardonable sins (Tevijga Sutta).
381. Q. You spoke of a 'deva' having appeared to the Prince Siddhârtha under a variety of forms; what do Buddhists believe respecting races of elemental invisible beings having relations with mankind?
A. They believe that there are such beings who inhabit worlds or spheres of their own. The Buddhist doctrine is, that by interior self-development and conquest over his baser nature the Arhat becomes
superior to even the most formidable of the devas, and may subject and control the lower orders.
382. Q. How many kinds of devas are there?
A. Three: Kâmâvâcharâ (those who are still under the dominion of the passions); Rûpâvâchara (a higher class, which still retain an individual form); Arûpâvâchara (the highest in degree of purification, who are devoid of material forms).
383. Q. Should we fear any of them?
A. He who is pure and compassionate in heart and of a courageous mind need fear nothing: no man, god, brahmarakkhas, demon or deva, can injure him, but some have power to torment the impure, as well as those who invite their approach.
105:* Sumangala Sthavira explains to me that those transcendent powers are permanently possessed only by one who has subdued all the passions (Klesa), in other words, an Arhat. The powers may be developed by a bad man and used for doing evil things, but their activity is but brief, the rebellious passions again dominate the sorcerer, and he becomes at last their victim.
106:* When the powers suddenly show themselves, the inference is that the individual had developed himself in the next anterior-birth. We do not believe in eccentric breaks in natural law.