Chapter 13. The Pyramid of Power & Conduct

The Eight Power & The Fifteen Conduct

Among the Eight Topmost Supernormal Power (vijja) in Buddhism, the capability to eradicate mental impurity or defilement is the most crucial as it enables one to become an enlightened Buddhist Saint who is eligible to enter the Nirvana which is the goal of Buddhist practice. 

However, one who achieves the capability to permanently eradicate mental impurity may also permanently achieve any or all of other supernormal powers altogether as follows:

(1)  Capability to permanently eradicate mental defilement

(2)  Capability to recollect past lifetimes

(3)  Divine eye

(4)  Divine ear

(5)  Mental power

(6)  Mind reading

(7)  Supernormal power

(8)  Gaining vipassana insight

Meditation practitioners who do not attain the Buddhist Sainthood may also achieve the supernormal power (vijja) from number (2) to (8), meaning that they can have supernormal power with their mental defilement temporarily suppressed, not permanently eradicated.  However, this also means that their supernormal powers are also temporary and occur as long as the required physical and mental conducts are sustained.

According to the Buddhist teaching, the aforesaid Eight Supernormal Powers (vijja) rely on the Fifteen Physical and Mental Conduct (carana) as follows:

(1)  Having good moral discipline

(2)  Being contented over the bodily sensual perceptions

(3)  Consume meals moderately

(4)  Being wakeful, not drowsy

(5)  Having faith

(6)  Shame of sin

(7)  Afraid of sin

(8)  Well learned

(9)  Having perseverance in meditation or Dhamma practice

(10)  Cherishing mindfulness

(11)  Having wisdom

(12)  Attain the 1st meditative absorption (1st jhana)

(13)  Attain the 2nd meditative absorption (2nd jhana)

(14)  Attain the 3rd meditative absorption (3rd jhana)

(15)  Attain the 4th meditative absorption (4th jhana)

From our Pyramid of the Eight Supernormal Power & the Fifteen Physical & Mental Conduct in Dhammonomics, we can see the layers of conducts which are like the foundations that build up on each other to give rise to the Supernormal Power or vijja.

The very first level of our pyramid comprises of (1) to (4). These are the ‘physical conducts’ that one has to keep up.

The second level from bottom up comprises of (5) to (8) which are one’s thoughts that need to be developed.

The third level is (9) or perseverance which is an important cofactor in meditation practice that supports meditative development further in the fourth level.  As, a result, one can sustain (10) or mindfulness and (11) or wisdom which further one’s meditation practice until gaining results as meditative experiences.  

The fifth to the eight level are respective meditative experiences ranging from (12) or the first meditative absorption to (15) or the fourth meditative absorption, these are the mental state in meditation or mental conduct (15 carana) which directly give rise to the Eight Supernormal Power (8 vijja). The higher level of meditative absorption means the deeper and more powerful meditative state.

From the pyramid, we can see the relationship and relevance of the Fifteen Physical & Mental Conducts and the way they give rise to the Eight Supernormal Powers where the capability to permanently eradicate defilement which eventually leads to enlightenment remains at the peak of the pyramid reflecting its topmost significance.

-  Pittaya Wong

1 September 2018