The five great supernormal powers or superknowledges (abhijna) are 1) rddhi-saksatkriya: the ability to be anywhere or do anything at will including flying through the air and performing other miracles; 2) divyasrotra: the ability to hear sounds anywhere including those that normally cannot be heard, such as the sounds of ants walking or sounds emanating from a far away place, even in another realm of existence. This is also known as clairaudience or “the divine ear;” 3) paracittajnana: the ability to know the thoughts or read the minds of other beings; 4) purvanivasanu-smrtijnana: the ability to recollect previous existences or past-lives of oneself and others; and 5) divyacakus: instantaneous view of anything anywhere including the ability to see things that occur outside one’s presence, such as things happening at a far away place, even in another realm of existence. This is also known as clairvoyance or “the divine eye.” The sixth supernormal power (asavakkhaya) is unique to Buddhism and enhances the powers of the other five. Non-Buddhist can achieve the first five powers, but without the wisdom that comes from complete enlightenment they are not as great as those available to a Buddha. For example, a Hindu is still bound by the world of Brahma, a Buddhist is not. A Buddha’s powers are limitless. The sixth power is knowing that your defilements are extinguished and that you have attained liberation from the cycle of reincarnation. You have become enlightened. This is also sometimes referred to as anasrava–the cessation of outflows or asravas. These powers are also known as the six superknowledges (abhijna) or supernatural cognitions.

The Dharma Protectors guard the use of these powers very closely. They will block the chakras of those unworthy to obtain these powers. Likewise, they will untie the knots in the chakras of those cultivators who are worthy of such powers, causing the supernormal dharma powers of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas to suddenly turn into light and enter the chakras. At that time, the mandala in each practitioner’s body will respond and will accept the powers. When your three karmas of body, speech, and mind unite into one body and correspond with the teachings, supernormal dharma powers will come into being. When your state of realization and state of virtue have reached the level where it is appropriate to obtain supernormal dharma powers, then as soon as you practice according to the dharma, supernormal dharma powers will appear. You cannot attain supernormal powers without proper moral discipline, concentration and wisdom. You must first be able to master the Dharma.

In exoteric Buddhism, we talk of the three aspects of practice: Morality-Concentration-Wisdom, but in esoteric practice we recognize the role that supernormal powers play in the realization of greater wisdom and that it is a necessary component of reaching enlightenment in this lifetime. They are not sought per se, but they are the natural outcome of higher levels of attainment and part of gaining the wisdom of a Buddha.

Click for dharma discourse by H.H. Dorje Chang Buddha III on supernormal powers.