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Iddhipada Vibhanga Sutta

Analysis of the Bases of Power

Translated from the Pali by Thanissaro Bhikkhu
For free distribution only

"These four bases of power, when developed and pursued, are of great fruit and great benefit. And how are the four bases of power developed and pursued so as to be of great fruit and great benefit?

"There is the case where a monk develops the base of power endowed with concentration founded on desire and the fabrications of exertion, thinking, 'This desire of mine will be neither overly sluggish nor overly active, neither inwardly restricted nor outwardly scattered.' He keeps perceiving what is in front and behind so that what is in front is the same as what is behind, what is behind is the same as what is in front. What is below is the same as what is above, what is above is the same as what is below. Night is the same as day, day is the same as night. By means of an awareness thus open and unhampered, he develops a brightened mind.

"He develops the base of power endowed with concentration founded on persistence...

"He develops the base of power endowed with concentration founded on intent...

"He develops the base of power endowed with concentration founded on discrimination and the fabrications of exertion, thinking, 'This discrimination of mine will be neither overly sluggish nor overly active, neither inwardly restricted nor outwardly scattered.' He keeps perceiving what is in front and behind so that what is in front is the same as what is behind, what is behind is the same as what is in front. What is below is the same as what is above, what is above is the same as what is below. [He dwells] by night as by day, and by day as by night. By means of an awareness thus open and unhampered, he develops a brightened mind.

"And how is desire overly sluggish? Whatever desire is accompanied by laziness, conjoined with laziness that is called overly sluggish desire.

"And how is desire overly active? Whatever desire is accompanied by restlessness, conjoined with restlessness that is called overly active desire.

"And how is desire inwardly restricted? Whatever desire is accompanied by sloth and drowsiness, conjoined with sloth and drowsiness that is called inwardly restricted desire.

"And how is desire outwardly scattered? Whatever desire is stirred up by the five strings of sensuality, outwardly dispersed and dissipated that is called outwardly scattered desire.

"And how does a monk dwell perceiving what is in front and behind so that what is in front is the same as what is behind, and what is behind is the same as what is in front? There is the case where a monk's perception of what is in front and behind is well in hand, well-attended to, well-considered, well-tuned ('penetrated') by means of discernment. This is how a monk keeps perceiving what is in front and behind so that what is in front is the same as what is behind, and what is behind is the same as what is in front.

"And how does a monk dwell so that what is below is the same as what is above, and what is above is the same as what is below? There is the case where a monk reflects on this very body, from the soles of the feet on up, from the crown of the head on down, surrounded by skin, and full of various kinds of unclean things: 'In this body there are head hairs, body hairs, nails, teeth, skin, flesh, tendons, bones, bone marrow, kidneys, heart, liver, pleura, spleen, lungs, large intestines, small intestines, gorge, feces, bile, phlegm, pus, blood, sweat, fat, tears, skin-oil, saliva, mucus, fluid in the joints, urine.' This is how a monk dwells so that what is below is the same as what is above, and what is above is the same as what is below.

"And how does a monk dwell by night as by day, and by day as by night? There is the case where a monk at night develops the base of power endowed with concentration founded on desire and the fabrications of exertion by means of the same modes (permutations) and signs and themes that he uses by day, and by day he develops the base of power endowed with concentration founded on desire and the fabrications of exertion by means of the same modes and signs and themes that he uses by night. This is how a monk dwells by night as by day, and by day as by night.

"And how does a monk -- by means of an awareness open and unhampered -- develop a brightened mind? There is the case where a monk has the perception of light, the perception of daytime [at any hour of the day] well in hand and well-established. This is how a monk -- by means of an awareness open and unhampered -- develops a brightened mind.

(The above discussion is then repeated for persistence, intent, and discrimination.)

"When a monk has thus developed and pursued the four bases of power, he experiences manifold supra-normal powers. Having been one he becomes many; having been many he becomes one. He appears. He vanishes. He goes unimpeded through walls, ramparts, and mountains as if through space. He dives in and out of the earth as if it were water. He walks on water without sinking as if it were dry land. Sitting cross-legged he flies through the air like a winged bird. With his hand he touches and strokes even the sun and moon, so mighty and powerful. He exercises influence with his body even as far as the Brahma worlds.

"He hears -- by means of the divine ear-element, purified and surpassing the human -- both kinds of sounds: divine and human, whether near or far.

"He knows the awareness of other beings, other individuals, having encompassed it with his own awareness. He discerns a mind with passion as a mind with passion, and a mind without passion as a mind without passion. He discerns a mind with aversion as a mind with aversion, and a mind without aversion as a mind without aversion. He discerns a mind with delusion as a mind with delusion, and a mind without delusion as a mind without delusion. He discerns a restricted mind as a restricted mind, and a scattered mind as a scattered mind. He discerns an enlarged mind as an enlarged mind, and an un-enlarged mind as an un-enlarged mind. He discerns an excelled mind [one that is not at the most excellent level] as an excelled mind, and an unexcelled mind as an unexcelled mind. He discerns a concentrated mind as a concentrated mind, and an un-concentrated mind as an un-concentrated mind. He discerns a released mind as a released mind, and an unreleased mind as an unreleased mind.

"He recollects his manifold past lives (lit: previous homes), i.e., one birth, two births, three births, four, five, ten, twenty, thirty, forty, fifty, one hundred, one thousand, one hundred thousand, many aeons of cosmic contraction, many aeons of cosmic expansion, many aeons of cosmic contraction and expansion, [recollecting], 'There I had such a name, belonged to such a clan, had such an appearance. Such was my food, such my experience of pleasure and pain, such the end of my life. Passing away from that state, I re-arose there. There too I had such a name, belonged to such a clan, had such an appearance. Such was my food, such my experience of pleasure and pain, such the end of my life. Passing away from that state, I re-arose here.' Thus he remembers his manifold past lives in their modes and details.

"He sees -- by means of the divine eye, purified and surpassing the human -- beings passing away and re-appearing, and he discerns how they are inferior and superior, beautiful and ugly, fortunate and unfortunate in accordance with their kamma: 'These beings -- who were endowed with bad conduct of body, speech, and mind, who reviled the noble ones, held wrong views and undertook actions under the influence of wrong views -- with the break-up of the body, after death, have re-appeared in the plane of deprivation, the bad destination, the lower realms, in hell. But these beings -- who were endowed with good conduct of body, speech, and mind, who did not revile the noble ones, who held right views and undertook actions under the influence of right views -- with the break-up of the body, after death, have re-appeared in the good destinations, in the heavenly world.' Thus -- by means of the divine eye, purified and surpassing the human -- he sees beings passing away and re-appearing, and he discerns how they are inferior and superior, beautiful and ugly, fortunate and unfortunate in accordance with their kamma.

"Through the ending of the mental effluents, he remains in the effluent-free release of awareness and release of discernment, having known and made them manifest for himself right in the here and now.

"This is how these four bases of power, when developed and pursued, are of great fruit and great benefit."

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