Points of Controversy

11.5. Of the Force of Psychic Power (Iddhi)

Controverted Point: That one who has the gift of psychic power might live on for a aeon on earth.

Theravādin: But is his life-span, is his destiny, is his acquisition of individuality a thing of magic potency that he should be able to prolong one interval of it? For this, is what you are herein affirming.

And do you reckon the aeon as past or as future?

And why restrict yourself to one aeon? Why not say “might live on for two, three, four aeons”?

Again, do you mean that, given life, he could live on for the remainder of his life, or that he could live on for the remainder of his life if there were no organic life left?

Mahāsaṅghikas: He could live on for the remainder of his life, given life.

Theravādin: Then he could certainly not live on for a aeon.

Mahāsaṅghikas: Well then if there were no organic life left.

Theravādin: What! he could live on though dead, though deceased?…

Again, what could he effect by the magic gift in the duration of consciousness? Could he by it succeed in preventing any phase of consciousness that had arisen from ceasing, contact, for instance, or feeling, or perception, or volition, and so on?

Or could he by it make any one of the five aggregates (body-mind) permanent?

Or could he by it prevent (a) beings liable to re-birth from being born? Or (b) beings liable to grow old, from old age? Or (c) beings liable to disease, from disease, or (d) liable to die, from death?…

Mahāsaṅghikas: But was it not said by the Exalted One:

“Ānanda, whosoever has cultivated, developed, established, built up, and persistently practised the four Steps to Psychic Power, so as to be able to use them as a vehicle and as a basis, he, should he desire it, could remain in the same birth for a aeon, or for that portion of the aeon which had yet to run.”

Does not this support my proposition?

Theravādin: But was it not also said by the Exalted One:

“O bhikkhus! against four things there is none that can be surety, be he recluse or brahmin, be he deva, or Mära, or Brahma, or anyone whatever in the world. Against which four? Against the old age of those subject to decay. Against the infirmities of those liable to infirmities. Against the dying of those whose nature it is to die. Against the coming to pass of the consequences of the evil deeds done in the past—deeds that were corrupt, tending to re-becoming, vain, of evil effect, making for birth, decay, and death.”

Is the Suttanta thus?

Hence it is not right to say that one who has the gift of magic potency might live on for an aeon.